Review by Kusanagizele

"The Piggy Cows are back and ready to Moo in 3-D!"

Who can resist a plushie cow promotion? It was the Piggy Cow (so-called, because the cows in Harvest Moon look something like a piggy bank in cow clothing) that first attracted me to Harvest Moon. Those cute little funny looking cows have kept me coming back for more–from when I started with the Game Boy Color Harvest Moon and then I got Harvest Moon: Back to Nature for PS1 and when one reserved a copy of Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland you got a plush cow with the game. The game certainly has improved in areas. It's fun. I admit, I like my little cheap plush harvest moon cows more than the game. I’m attached to them. I've got two of them and I want more and know other people that want some. Natsume needs to sell these things, they'd fly away and spread the Harvest Moon craze. However, plush cows don’t do much, the game is a more effective form of entertainment. Now down to just what makes this game an 8.

Graphics(10/10): The game delivers. The character designs are definitely improvements over the others. I’d like to see them offer some more options in the character design of what you look like, give a person some options. I mean, the main character should be the kewlest character in a game. I’ve always found myself wishing I could trade my character design for one of the other characters in the game and this version is no different. The characters are dressed snazzier and with attitude and look kewler overall, including the main character. The 3-D cell shading effect is nice and carries over to the animals as well. The character does have that tendency at times to not seem quite part of his surroundings because of the way the black lines seem to shimmer making him appear placed in front of it the backdrop, but that happens in animation. 3-D piggy cows, awwwwww, aren’t they cute. Speaking of cute, just about everybody is cute. Unlike Back to Nature, everyone seems more conscious of their looks, even the less desirables.

Story(9/10): How are you going to save the homeland? You’ll figure it out with the story and get one of nine happy endings. Since this Harvest Moon ends up being the most RPG styled venture in farming yet, there’s definitely more story to go around. Saving the farming country from a bunch of theme park builders is satisfying enough and the character interaction gives nice depth to it. The story also makes up for some of the other disappointments. However unlike most RPGs, this is a non-linear kind of story and that is what gives the game replay value and adds to the story’s appeal.

Control(7/10): The controls are awkward at times, but passable. It was awkward in the PS1 version, but it seems more difficult here. However, hitting the triangle button to realign the camera behind the character is a good solution to being sure you pick up, hoe or sickle the right thing. Maybe it’s just the change from the directional bad to truer analog control in a 3-D world. I did like being able to face more than just 4 directions, although this seems to make it harder to face just one particular direction. Perhaps if the sensitivity of the analog could be a adjusted these problems wouldn’t have been there? I miss being able to stop the villagers in their tracks with a whistle, though. I’ve thrown stuff on the ground twice trying to give gifts.

Music(9/10): Harvest Moon manages to keep it’s music simple, pleasant and unobtrusive without being obnoxious again, kudos. I’d prefer to be able to not have the music on when I’m playing the flute for the chickens, though, because I don’t want to have to make my tune match the background music. One thing that’s lacking would be giving the player more control over when music is played. I don’t want music in my animal stalls, I like to hear the animals. I don’t want to go down to my local import dealer and get myself a copy of this video game’s soundtrack, though. That’s why I give the music a 9/10.

Game play(7/10): Less in some areas, more in others, why can’t a player just get more of everything? I was really hoping for this game to expand on it’s predecessors in every way and it didn’t. While all the non-flower foraging items are new, there’s only one new vegetable and they’ve lost all but three of the old ones. I’m hoping, maybe as I complete more scenarios maybe more will become available. However, variety is a big part of my gaming spice and this Harvest Moon has less animals and vegetables. How one interacts with the dog has obtained more depth, because there’s now an option between two different types and you have to court your dog from the stray dogs. You can also train you dog to sit and lay down. People interaction hasn’t really changed, you still give gifts and talk to them. The people interaction has truly increased in the sense of they have a wider variety of things to say to you and you work together with them on various things. Also, you can’t be a recluse on your farm, to save the homeland, you need to make friends. You can’t recruit a wife, but how many people on this planet are ready for monogamy and children at sixteen years of age, anyways? There are still some slight dating sim aspects to the game, in that you can be sweet on a girl and she’ll be sweet on you back. The changes from the original farming sim emphasis that I miss aside, in and of itself, the game play is rewarding and interesting. It just takes some getting used to. The game seems to be more E for everyone than it was before, although its citizens still drink alcohol. Before I really had a feeling the raters didn’t play the Back to Nature game through very much, although I liked the boozing, gambling, imperfect people of the last game. Save the Homeland’s town has a much calmer crowd. These people are dressed more like rabble rousers than the last bunch, but all the pizzazz in their outfits released them rowdiness of their hearts. I suppose Natsume was trying to make up for all the complaints about repetitiveness of game play by altering the emphasis away from farming simulation to life simulation, but the game started as a farming sim and that’s where it’s heart belongs.

Overall (8/10): I like Harvest Moon: Back to Nature better, but I’m happy I got Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. Piggy Cows in 3-D in the game and in true 3-D as plushies were worth it. Now if Natsume mixes the strengths of this game and the strengths of Back to Nature and toss in the ability to have either a boy or girl hero that the gamer has some more options about how he looks and cats as well as dogs, I’d say they’d have a 10/10 on their hands. As it stands, if one is looking for some more Harvest Moon action and they’ve mastered Back to Nature or just ready to give a niche farming, human interaction game a chance then PS2, then Save the Homeland is the ticket. It won’t leave newcomers disappointed and even those who’ve got Back to Nature will appreciate it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/25/01, Updated 11/25/01

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