Review by And1Viper

"The Harvest Moon Magic is Back!"

Harvest Moon is one of the most unique and appealing game series of all time. Back from the SNES days, Harvest Moon caught on quickly around the world and soon became a craze in America. Now, its no Zelda or Final Fantasy, but Harvest Moon has entertained a few generations with its laid-back farming, its creative system, and its wonderful adventures, and now, after the long wait, the newest entry into the Harvest Moon trilogy has final arrived: Harvest Moon: Magical Melody!

Graphics: 8.5
After a surprising graphics twist of HM: A Wonderful Life, HM: MM doesn't seem to compare. HM: AWL had the single best graphics in the entire franchise history, but was not simply enough. This time around, MM returns to the classic “anime” styling, similar to that of Animal Crossing (but the similarities end there, as all die-hard HM fans know). Using more colours and animations to express the visuals, MM reminds us all of the good old days of Harvest Moon 64, where the graphics matched the game perfectly. It may seem kiddy to some, but this is the true style of Harvest Moon, and it definitely works.

Sound: 8
There's not much to complain about the sound. Sound effects are crisp and clean, from the mooing of your cows, to the fresh night breeze, to the clash of thunder during a hurricane, it's all there. You won't be disappointed with the sound, but nothing too impressive, something that Harvest Moon games don't really need to be excellent.

Control: 9.5
Many people have complained about the controls in Harvest Moon games, and although the truth of the matter is you eventually get used to it, it was not enough. HM: MM now has a precision control button, R, which puts you into strafe mode, where you can then select the tile you are working on. Otherwise, at first, you might have a tough time, but after a day or two, you will master it. You might begin accidentally trying to milk your cow when you just want to talk to it, or watering the ground instead of that juicy watermelon, but you WILL learn. Items now fade away when dropped, giving you time to pick them up if accidentally dropped, an improvement over previous attempts when they items are instantly gone.

Story: 7
Instead of the usual “Your father recently passed, and left you his farm” plot, we are presented with an interesting objective in this game. You are challenged with the revival of the Harvest Goddess, who was turned into stone. You do this by collecting musical notes, which are achieved by completing specific tasks, such as making your first recipe, or planting your first crop. I personally don't find this storyline very appealing, but Harvest Moon has never been about the story, so this is a nice addition. The story is vaster than the previous “clean up your father's farm and make it successful” stories, but the real meat is in the gameplay, not much so in the story.

Gameplay: 10
The real deal, the most important part of any game, the big money… you get the picture. The core of the Harvest Moon series and in MM of course, is the gameplay. In MM, the gameplay is vastly different from any before it. Natsume and Victor Interactive Software had taken a big risk to remove some key elements of the Harvest Moon series back in AWL, but have learned from their mistakes and returned them all to their fully glory.

Key items returning are tools, festivals, and the return of the classic farming style! No longer do you automatically get free upgrades at each chapter, but instead you are again responsible for cutting up the wood for your own upgrades. Alternatively, you can now just buy wood (and even sell!). To do this, of course, you need an axe, and thus the classic tools are back. The hammer, the axe, the sickle, it's all back! No longer is your field crystal clear with nothing to work on. You are again responsible for keeping your field clear by smashing rocks and cutting stumps! Tool upgrading is once again a key aspect, with the choice now to either buy the new tool or waiting for an event that allows you to UPGRADE your current tool for a cheaper amount. Fences are back as well that you may create with your (or even your neighbor's) wood!

Marriage is back with authority. You now not only have more than just 3 spouses to choose from like in AWL, not only is it back up to 5, it's now 10. TEN potential spouses are now available! Notice the word spouse, and not wife? That's right; you now have the option of being a BOY or GIRL. Either way you go, you have TEN spouses to choose with each (that's 10 guys and 10 gals total). On top of that, there is one character that goes either way depending on your gender, which is the bonus 11th choice. This is none other than your rival, who you will compete with all game long in both farming and fextival wise. Also, you are no longer forced to get married like in AWL, it's back to the way it should be: completely optional! Great news for the preferred bachelors out there!

Farming is back to HM64 styling, with 3x3 crops. You now have the option of planting ANYWHERE in the world, with fertility being the only issue. You'll have to learn where the best spots are and possibly fertilize them yourself. Trees make a comeback from AWL.

Animals have been simplified back to normal HM standards… no more complicated pregnancy procedures. There are just chickens, cows, sheep, horses (yes plural), and even a pet pig! The horses have been improved so that you can train multiple horses in order to enter multiple horsing races in one day. Champion horses are worth a LOT of money, so one could possibly make a living just raising horses.

Other things to take note of, the festivals are back in style, using the same 30-day season system everyone has come to love. Aside from musical notes that you can win, these are great things to look forward to during the UNLIMITED play time you have (no longer does the game end). You also have three choices of land at the start of the game, the town plot, the ocean plot, or the river plot, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. This also comes with the ability to own MULTIPLE houses, and the privilege of setting building locations (along with buyable furniture inside). Finally, there is a year-round mine and a better winter-only mine, revamped fishing system, and the ability to befriend wild animals!

There is so much gameplay to talk about that it'd be best for you to find out most of it on your own! Just know that Harvest Moon is back to the way everybody loves!

Play Time/Replayability: 10
Play time is unlimited, with no ending to the game (unless you choose to marry the bonus character, your rival). With TEN potential spouses (+1 for the bonus character) for each GENDER, there are a total of 21 possible outcomes for marriage, ones that many like to play around with. Of course, you'd probably be tempted to play as the other gender once you're done as well, just for the heck of it. Harvest Moon games are famous for the replayability, because each run through is completely free-style. You can choose to live any way you wish. You can complete the entire game without farming a single day, living off of fishing and mining if you so choose. You may opt to become a rancher and focus solely on animals, or stick to your roots with farming.

Final Recommendation: BUY!
I hope after all that, you make the right decision to buy this wonderful game. The fun factor is off the roof, and it's highly addictive. You need no previous knowledge of any Harvest Moon game, not one bit, and die-hard Harvest Moon fans will receive a refreshing experience. Renting this game only means you get this game 3 nights later with a few less bucks in your pockets.

Final: 10 (Not an average)
This truly is a magical game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/29/06

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