Review by Alva

"A new formula for the series..."

Harvest Moon, probably the most relaxing game out there. Milking cows, interesting festivals, monotonous music, mingling with the town's women, or simply sitting back and casting out a fishing line. All trademarks of the Harvest Moon series. But now, Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland is starting off with a new formula and taking the series towards a new direction.

The story this time around is just that an amusement park company is planning on taking over the land to build a new attraction. It's up to you to keep them at bay and turn the town (well, more like your farm) into a prosperous little metropolitan or find some reason for them to keep the land untouched. Though deep story lines have never been a big part of the series, Harvest Moon has always really been about its charm.

First off, Save the Homeland (STH) has many differences compared to other HM games. Sorry guys, marriage is no longer an option. This may or may not be a plus in your book. Remember back in the other HM games how you just ignored your wife after marriage? Well, no more of that; continuous courtship is a new concept in STH. Of course, the creators could have just made it so that your wife would interact with your more after marriage. Oh well. Next, the festivals are gone. Though I see no good reason as to why they where left out, I can live with it. No more mini-games galore though. Lastly, STH has endings, something not seen in the series since its introduction on the SNES. By playing the game each time around choosing different tasks, you alter the ending outcome. Here's how the system works: you have one year to save the homeland, after you complete an ending though a series of sequences, you get the ending, you then start off a new year with all your relationships with people reset, and animals and money intact (like a new game plus mode) to work for another ending. The system, though at first, sounds great, but for me, it's not really worth it to go through the whole game again. Yea, you see some different outcomes and events each time around, but in the end, your just working for the same goal. Also, a lot of times, you'll get mixed up in all of these events and become completely clueless as what to do if you don't get the help of a guide. The feeling of ''life'' and realism seem to be lost. This is the biggest criticism I hold with Save the Homeland.

Now, onto everything else. Don't get me wrong, Save the Homeland is a good game overall. The introduction of PS2 level graphics is beautiful, perfectly matching the Harvest Moon world we've come to expect. Though there's nothing real flashy about it, it works out. Also, you now have to earn your horse and dog by building relationships with them. In every other HM game, you always started off with a dog. Now, you must gradually earn the trust of a stray to get a pet. Also, a lot of people complain about the option of four crops only. I find this to be a heavy burden lifted off my shoulders. It's a lot less tedious with work, it's more heavy on character interaction. Speaking of which, the villagers this time around are completely new (though a few look oddly familiar) and seem to be have a bit more to them personality wise. Plus, they don't repeat the same thing everyday like the Back to Nature (a previous Harvest Moon installment on the PSX) installment, they change text more frequently. In the end though, you'll get bored with them. About your livestock, chickens and cows are still here, though the sheep are gone (remember those little clouds with eyes in BTN?). No biggie though. The livestock are still handled almost the same with some changes that you can easily adjust to.

The sound, as usual, is just a monotonous midi-esque theme that changes from season to season or during special events. Though the game has what I believe to be the best music in the series, it's still a setback to have the hear the same melody over and over. You could always press mute and pop in your own cd if you wanted to.

Some more changes for those familiar with the series:
- Weather forecast is not always accurate, like real life
- Seeds are always automatically guaranteed to grow. There will be a few duds here and there.
- No more Winter Wonderland, snow is gone in winter
- Not as many house upgrades
- Recipes for cooking work differently this time around, check some of the FAQs to elaborate on the cooking.
Most of the changes were just to make the game more lifelike.

Just some ending notes:
If your going to rent the game to try it out, you might have to rent it for 2 weeks instead. You really won't get the feel for the game in a 5 day rental, unless you play it a majority of your time. And if your into action heavy games, stay away; Harvest Moon is a light-hearted title.

Overall, though it's lost some of its charm, Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland is a great game for newcomers to the series, but veterans will more than likely be disappointed. Hopefully, the next installment will bring together what people love from the old-school and new-school Harvest Moons.

Numeric Review Breakdown:
Gameplay - 5.5
Graphics - 8
Sound - 5
Replay Value - 6.5
Originality/Innovation - 9
Overall - 5

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 04/14/02, Updated 04/14/02

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