Review by Seagaia

"After a serious drought of classic 3-D Harvest Moon Games, Magical Melody delivers."

At last, we've found an oasis from the drought that was the “A Wonderful Life” series. Harvest Moon fans and casual gamers alike can enjoy the newest “classic-style” Harvest Moon for the Nintendo Gamecube in full 3-D. Classic meaning the gameplay and style of the game is very similar to the older Harvest Moon games for the SNES and Game Boy (Bird's eye view being a main part).

For the most part, central themes of the Harvest Moon series are found in this game. Festivals, animals, villagers, fishing, crops, spouses, expansions and the like. However, Natsume added in a few unique features for this game – advanced villager interaction, a larger rival system and musical notes (more on that). The game has 100 musical notes in all and you can gain them by achieving certain tasks in the game (Walk 10,000 steps, catch 100 fish). The notes also tie into the storyline, which varies from the norm because you aren't here to save the farm.

The story of Magical Melody is you came to the town on a “Super House Plan” (or something around the name). The mayor gives you one of three plots of land (beach, river, and town). You soon discover the Harvest Goddess has turned into stone because people have neglected nature…you get the jist of things. The overlying point of the game is to collect notes and make magical musical instruments to revive the goddess. While 100 notes are in the game, the collection of only 50 is necessary. In fact, you don't even have to collect the notes if you don't want to, but you'll miss out on a few additions.

Gameplay tends to be the same. Easy controls make life…well…easy. Animals (sheep, cow, horse, chickens) can be raised (to a limit, 8 of the first, and 5 of the latter). Crops can be planted, with “soil quality” systems (three quality levels) which change the value of your crop. The largest system in Magical Melody is the expansion system, which is completely necessary to get anywhere in the game. Instead of the farm coming with barns already, all you get is a messy plot of land (one of three with pros and cons) and a small house with some furniture. You must purchase and upgrade your house (to a max level/size of 5, with different colors) to make it larger. Furniture can also be purchased for your house. The furniture tends to be different sizes/colors of main items (kitchens, beds, TVs, chests). Expansions such as watering holes and barns must be bought. To fit these, you need to buy extra land. Once owned, you can use the land as you wish. In fact, you can even build multiple houses which utilize the same furniture.

Another main aspect is mining, where you can break rocks and till soil for ores to upgrade your tools (from level 1-5). Tools have an experience bar (like GBA's Friends of Mineral Town), and when the appropriate experience is earned, you can upgrade your tool at a shop. Higher levels are more stamina efficient (more work done, less stamina used). While we're on the subject of stamina, a new aspect of Magical Melody is the visible stamina bar. Seasoned veterans will notice their stamina depletes extremely fast at first. The game contains five power berries which in all double your primary stamina. To replenish stamina, you can also cook food in your kitchen to restore stamina. The food can be given as gifts and even shipped (cooked food can increase the value of the food).

Villagers also play a huge role in the game. In order to gain certain items, expansions, land or even new villagers, you must befriend the villagers. To make your life easier, the game has a friendship meter for every interactive person/animal in the game. From 0-10 hearts, you can see how much of a friend they are. At certain levels, events will be triggered and new people will move in, opportunities arise or items are gained. Each animal/person has certain items they love, like, dislike or don't care for. As usual, you can marry girls or boys depending on your gender. However, you have many more choices for who you want to marry, over 8 of each gender. One missing part of Magical Melody is the removal of rival marriages. Therefore, you could theoretically wait forever to marry a person.

Festivals play an even more important role than usual. To gain certain villagers or shops, you must visit festivals and meet new people. Sometimes you can even get a little out of the festivals (increased heart level with who you're wooing, items). The downfall to festivals is you cannot meet anyone in the town on the days, and no one works.

There is far too much to cover on the game – most of what you do is tracked in the pause menu, such as profits, all items shipped (and how many of them), friendship meters, a map and more. The rival system is also here – showing if you're beating your rival (Jamie) or not. Unfortunately there really doesn't seem to be a point to it – nothing happens if you beat him/her. Since the gameplay is covered (that was a lot!), we'll get down to the nitty-gritty.

Graphics are pretty nice in Magical Melody. Not as detailed as A Wonderful Life, but still worthy of the Gamecube. Everything in the game is bright, vivid and detailed (each fish has a different look!). Characters are not chunky in terms of how they look anymore, and the town looks great. There isn't much to complain about in this section, or praise. Basically, if you're buying this game on graphics…forget it.

I do believe the music and sounds are very annoying. Music comes somewhat limited – season themes, cave, house, etc. Here's the kicker – the sounds. Each character has their greeting noise, and such. All of which are absurd. Imagine your best friend screaming his name in an awkward tone every time you approached him. You get the idea. Now, your character makes strange grunts every time they use an item. This gets pretty darn annoying after a while. Think Dragonball Z fights.

As expected, replay value in Magical Melody is through the roof. You've got way too much to do at once, which is a great thing. Get all your villagers to be friends, all expansions, all notes…etc. Trust me; the game will not bore you (as much as a farming simulator sounds).

Basically, buy the game. Renting it won't give you enough time to play. I'm sure you'd find it used somewhere for 30-40 bucks…if not just go to your local store and buy one for 50. You won't regret it. This is farming at its best.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/24/06

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