Review by h3ll0g00dfriend
Yet Another Success!
Being a die-hard Harvest Moon fan, I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that this new game was coming out. What, with the success of Harvest Moon 64, A Wonderful Life, etc.; I was expecting no less than flawless. And no less than flawless was exactly what I got. Harvest Moon: Magical Melody is a great concept, and yet another amazing video game to the Harvest Moon collection. I could sit down and play this game for hours and hours, and not even notice that any time had gone by. I have always loved HM games for the replayability, and this one doesn't disappoint. The cute characters, the large town, the many festivals... it's all so well done, that I find myself playing until the wee hours of the morning. But now I'll break it all down into the tiny bits and pieces which made the game so successful.
The graphics in this game aren't a huge contributor to the greatness. Us HM fanatics don't need amazing graphics to lure us in, the gameplay alone is what we love. But, rating on a strictly graphics policy, they aren't the best. Cute little anime characters now replace the AWL graphics (which were pretty good), but at least everything looks how it should be. Now, compared to Harvest Moon 64, the wonderfully yet horribly designed layout, these graphics are definitely a step up from pre-AWL Harvest Moon games. However, Natsume always gives us just enough to get by. The animals look like animals, the vegetables look like vegetables, the people look like people. And that's all I need for a game to be enjoyable! Now for the sound: not bad, not horrible. The tunes do get pretty old, but they do change. Each season has a different song, and some shops have different music in them as well. Also, cutscenes usually have different music as well as festivals (although the festival music is just awful). The effects are good, and for once your character makes sound when he/she works!
Finally, a fresh breath of air! No more 'your grandfather died and you must take over his farm' spiel. For once, this Harvest Moon game contains a new plot. Your character must collect musical notes to awaken the Harvest Goddess, who has turned to stone. To earn these notes, you have to do tasks ranging from very simple to semi-difficult. For example, you get a note when attending a certain festival (a simple task). You can also get a note by getting married, or befriending someone, etc. I feel that this new concept is fun, and gives you an actual objective to the game! Also, you have a bitter rival named Jamie who is always making rude comments or insulting you. He/she (always the opposite sex of your character) is new, and just wants to see you fail. Overall, I find this new plot line to be refreshing and enjoyable!
Amazing. Simply amazing! The gameplay in this Harvest Moon (in my opinion) is better than almost all of the rest. After AWL (which was quite a scare, with the absence of festivals and normal harvest life), and after Save the Homeland (no festivals AND no marriage) I was certainly afraid that Harvest Moon would never be the same. Thankfully, I was oh-so-wrong! The original Harvest Moon is back with a vengeance! The festivals are back, the normal married life is back, no more chapters, no more horribly long days, etc.! I was very pleased, if you can't already tell.
Generally, what I like about this HM expansion is the village life. Don't get me wrong, the harvesting, farming, livestock-raising, and foraging are better than ever, but what really got me hooked was the village! Now, you can choose where you live instead of being handed an old, rundown farm. The furniture is more 'chic', the houses can be painted different colors or textures, everything has upgraded from the old HM games! Not only are the house choices great, but the people in the village are great, too. Now, instead of having three or five spouses to choose to marry, you now have ten! For each gender! For us girls, we have a doctor, botanist, orchard worker, farmer, cafe owner, inventor, fisherman,... the list goes on! For the boys, there are florists, waitresses, barmaids, inventors, bakers, etc. And we even see some loving faces return, like Ann from previous HM games, Kurt and Joe, the carpenters from Save the Homeland, Dia, Gina, Ellen (formerly Elli), and much more! Not only are there old faces, but new ones, too. Like I explained before, Jamie is a whole new character who you can marry on either gender! Also, new, non-eligible for marriage faces appear too, like Henry the Artist, Tai the blacksmith, and others. The personalities to these people are endless, whereas now in the game you can gain ten hearts with everyone in the town. As opposed to old Harvest Moon games, where you could only check the heart rates of your loved ones and not the actual townspeople, and the heart ratings only went up to four or five. Another great feature: you can check your relationships with the villagers in your own start menu instead of having to search for their diaries. It will even rank them from who likes you most to who likes you least. You can even befriend animals! Yes, people in the game will come and leave as they please, but that's what makes it realistic, right?
Not only is the village life much better, but the crops and harvesting has gotten better as well! Endless seeds and trees! Oh, and now if you plant a tree on public property, your heart rating with everyone in the town raises by at least a little! How cool is that? Also, locking on with the R button has proved to work well, as opposed to having accidentally watered the ground instead of your vegetable, and then try to water the actual vegetable to find out that your can ran out of water. What a pain. Also, you can now have many animals, including more than one horse, and a cute pig :). But it's not all that easy! There are plenty of weeds that now grow in your yard as opposed to a spotless farm.
Another thing I like: the start menu. As weird as it is, it has been revamped to perfection. There are now numerous categories that will tell you things like how many of a certain item you have shipped, the items in your pack, the map of the village, your farm stats, your relationships with people and animals, etc. I love this new layout, because it makes it a lot easier to keep track of things. For example, for some people to move into the village you have to ship a certain amount of an item or two. So now, you can keep track of how many more of those certain items that you need to ship for that person to move in, instead of just guessing. I find it very convenient. Also, there is the new 'get home quick' button (Z), where if you are lost or you are fatigued/sleepy and might not make it home without passing out, you can go to the start menu and press Z, which will automatically put you in bed (without saving, though).
Overall, the gameplay is awesome. I could sit here and tell you all the reasons why, but you really have to see for yourself! The one thing I would have changed about it, though, is the annexing of rival marriages. In previous HM games, if you married a character, the others would soon enough get together and marry as well. However, when it was shipped from Japan to USA, they decided to take out that factor. There are rival pairings that belong together, and even rival scenes, but all the bachelors/bachelorettes will stay single forever. Bummer!
A great aspect about this game is its replayability. You could make zillions of new games with different house location, gender, spouse, objective, etc. For example, in one game, I married to the botanist and I spent most of my time on animals. In another, I married the cafe owner and I spent most of my time harvesting. Unlike other games, this one doesn't end (unless you marry Jamie, your rival) and you can play for years on end without having an objective (other than save the Harvest Goddess, but that isn't even a requirement!)
Rent or Buy: BUY. END OF STORY.
Overall rating: 10/10
Buy it, love it, play it forever. A great addition to the Harvest Moon collection.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (Player's Choice) (US, 12/31/06)
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