Review by MeoTwister5
"The homestead needsa fixin'"
Harvest moon in 3D? Hah? I honestly never thought of the day I'd see it make the jump from 2D to 3D. Many other games before lost a lot in the transition and got pulled down in the saturated graveyard of failed movers. Did this next game in an excellent simulation series of good o'l farming and making money fall into an early grave? Heck no!! Natsume did a wonderful (and very colorful I might add) job of bringing this game into its full 3D glory.
One of the first games I've ever seen use the Cel-shading technique (like Wild Arms 3). The characters and animals themselves look like animated sprites, but they are fully 3D and move at a fluid 60 fps. They look exceptionally well animated with great use of color and facial animation like japanese anime characters. They look slightly but obviously SD (super-deformed) with a slightly larger head, hands and eyes, but that's to give it the classic cutesy look of the series. The field graphics are in full 3D and can be rotated 360 degrees. The field comes in a rather impressive high resolution that you really don't see other games try to maximize. Plus, there's a few nice effects around like falling leaves, flying butterflies and wavy grass.
However, there are times when the camera does get stuck when you get a building between the camera and the character, but that can be mended by simply moving out of the way. Also, the anti-aliasing needed a very wee bit tweaking as the black outline of the characters, probably to ease out the same problem, does show some jaggedness when you get up close though you rarely see it since the camera never really zooms in enough to notice it.
If you've played the previous games, then playing this game will be a piece of cake. If you haven't, then you may need to get the hang of it. First off, this game goes through a sort of real-time day system. Here each few seconds of real earth time runs as a few minutes of game time. This will need a lot of good time management. Since you only have a year of 4 seasons with 30 days each to get a good ending, you'll need to plan you days properly since each single game day can be easily over in less than 15 minutes.
The farming aspect of this game is fairly easy. Till the soil, plant seeds, water them daily, pick them up when they ripen then go sell them. It sounds fairly easy, but once you start handling large patches of land it gets steadily hard. The watering can can only water one tile, so it may take a while to water them all. Then, I guarantee you it'll be around lunch time (in the game , not real life!) by the time you water and gather everything. I can't stress enough how time management is the key factor.
Unlike the first few games, this one lacks the dating sim and marriage elements found in previous games. You can still make friends with the townsfolk through talking, gift-giving and the right response during scenes. You can still get the eligible girls to like you in the same way, but you can't marry them. Some people tend to take this feature for granted in previous games, but here it's the difference between saving the homeland or getting it flattened for some amusement park!
Okay, to be honest some flaws of the first game still do appear here. There is still a slight difficulty in aligning with objects when you use, take or give items. If you're not aligned properly you may end up hitting nothing or throwing away what you wanted to give. Also, the game time here goes nearly twice as fast than Back to Nature, so it'll be a lot harder to handle time.
Is it just me or does the music sound like something out of the Lunar series? I'm not sure, but the music is great and catchy nonetheless. The sound effects are still cutesy of nature, but are never out of place. Excellent work on the audio. The simplicity of the sound effects make it shine, not like those who aspire to do so much that they never achieve anything.
Ah yes, you don't see a lot of great simulation on consoles that truly shine above the rest. If there is one big flaw in this game, it would be that the game removes some classic parts to emphasize on existing ones. It may scare of previous fans, but I strongly encourage them to give it a try. For those of you who are new and want to try good o'l life at the farm, then this game's for you. GET IT NOW!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/22/02, Updated 10/22/02
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