Review by OutOfRange
Lots Of New Features, Unfortunately The Most Prominent Being : Lag
Originally created for the Gamecube, this game was ported over to the PS2 with a few extra features, such as an extra girl to marry and the ability to choose whether your wife gives birth to a boy or girl. Unfortunately, even with the few extra editions, a few things really ruin the game, and make what could be an enjoyable past-time, as other Harvest Moon games have been, pretty much unplayable.
Ive gone straight into the gameplay with this one, because the storyline to Harvest Moon is pretty much always the same; youre a guy (or in some cases a girl) who inherits a run down farm and it would do the previous owner proud if you rebuild it into its former glory. Why they dont just sell the land off to a business park Ill never know. The basic gameplay is practically the same as any other HM game; you plant and water crops, take care of livestock and interact with the villagers. If you dont want to talk to the people after taking care of your farm, you can spend the rest of the day either fishing, mining, or just go back to bed. Eventually, whichever means you choose to rely on, you should start making some money, and its at this point the game actually starts to pick up since you can start buying more expensive items and equipment which make your life easier. The crops available to buy also change to reflect the current season.
Thats enough generic Harvest Moon information, so now Ill talk about what this game does differently to previous titles. Firstly, its a new town, which therefore means entirely new people to converse with. Some are alright, but unfortunately, the majority of the people are extremely irritating, either because of what they say or because of the way theyre drawn. Also, the world is pretty large and not split into separate screens, which is nice, but it can make trying to find people a real nightmare when youre starting out. The fishing system is pretty similar to its previous incarnations on the GBA and PSX, except with more fish to catch, however, I found it was pretty much random whether you caught a fish or not, which means you can waste a whole day and come away with nothing to show for it. Needless to say, its a pretty infuriating experience. However, that said, fishing can be the best way of making money in the game, since crops are practically worthless in this game. The profits are extremely small this time round, and due to the time taken per day per crop lifespan, you can actually make more money using that time in other ways. The only real use of crops is that you can eat them, and with there being little to forage in some seasons, they do become useful then. Fortunately, in this game, you get a much larger rucksack and things dont go rotten in there, which is a welcome change from being limited to ten items.
The main problem with this game however stems from the terrible lag it suffers from. Moving around your farm and the town takes an extremely long amount of time, because your character slows to a crawl. Also, despite not having loading times for moving around the town, since its all one area, going into a building or menu takes absolutely ages. This is a pretty major problem, because it stops you even bothering entering places to converse with people, it also saps you of any will to play the game because everything takes so long to accomplish, and after a while I just stopped leaving the farm. It seems they were well aware of this, and thus the length of the seasons has been decreased to just fifteen days. However, this doesnt mean that the game doesnt last as long, as with the previous system, I could have a day finished in about ten minutes and get a season done in one sitting if I had things to do. With this game, I could barely bring myself to play a few days at a time, and this was at a time when I had very little else to do.
The game isnt inheritably boring or void of things to do, but it takes so long to do everything that nothing stays fun for very long. You can have your farm work finished in a couple of game hours, leaving you with so much time on your hands, that even if you do decide to go fishing, it cant keep you occupied for every day of the game. The game is also split up into chapters, to try and put some story into the game, and the first chapter finishes after the first year, which requires you to marry someone. However, I just didnt want to go and talk to the villagers let alone find someone to marry, which is bad, since this is a mainstay of HM and something I enjoyed in previous games. Theyre incredibly easy to please, except Nami who I never liked anyway, and now there are very few festivals theres not even any real dating involved. Also, while they do have their own personalities, the girls available arent the most interesting of people, you get a harlot, a tomboy, a worker girl and a school girl - she wears the sailor uniform top. Other than these basic characteristics, theyre pretty bland and just not interesting to talk to.
The bad thing is, there are other things that make this game different to previous incarnations, such as the hybrid crops system, but I just never got a chance to use it as I just couldnt bring myself to play the game enough. Without the lag issues, the gameplay probably could have received an 8, however, the length of the days simply is far too long. Splitting it up into chapters is a nice idea, but its a shame I wont ever find out what happens in later chapters, although Ive heard its just basically about your kid growing up.
Everything has that traditional HM, almost cartoon like feel to it, and the graphics here arent that bad. The only problems really are the NPCs; everyone is tiny and while the world isnt split up into screens, and is fairly large, the textures used are fairly lacking in detail. This wouldnt be too noticeable, but the camera system has a habit of zooming in on the wrong things, almost highlighting them.
The background music you start with is horrible. Fortunately, you can change it by finding vinyl records from various places and playing those. You can also turn the background music off, which unfortunately is what I did. Maybe it was personal taste, but I just couldnt find a song I could stomach let alone like. Theres no voice acting, which is probably a good thing, and the various sound effects are pretty generic. Overall, Id say the sounds are extremely average, and as I said, Im not sure if the music used is outright bad or just didnt match with me.
It depends on whether you can play the game for a while even with the lag, I tried and after a while it just became too much for me. There are quite a few things to do, and there are plenty of people around the town, but I just never wanted to talk to them because of how long it would take to get to them, not in game time, but real time. There are a lot of changes between this and previous games, which obviously not everyone will like, but I feel most are justified pretty well, although removing the festivals kills a lot of the fun, since they really broke up the otherwise repetitive days.
HM games are as repetitive as games can get, however, its the satisifcation of watching something grow from nothing; not just the crops, but the farm as well. Going around wooing the girls and befriending the villagers is far more fun in this game than real life for the most part at least Im not going to get knifed by a chav in this game if they didnt appreciate me trying to offer them a flower. But unfortunately, its sad to keep bringing it up, but the lag problems ruin the game and highlight the repetitiveness nature of the game even more. I have been told that this isnt so much of a problem on the Gamecube version, so if you really want to play this and have access to the GC, that one would probably be a better bet.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
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