Review by awesomephatman

"Like fine wine, Animal Parade is an acquired taste"

Much like fine wine, Animal Parade is an acquired taste, and if Friends of Mineral Town is the series' highly sought after red wine from Bordeaux, Animal Parade is the less desirable knockoff from your local grocery. Alcoholic references aside, it's still a Harvest Moon game, so it retains enough addictive properties to make it worth drinking...err, playing.

Harvest Moon: Animal Parade begins with you meeting all the inhabitants of the land of Castinet, who will give you their old tools so you can begin farming, fishing, and mining. You'll learn of the dwindling fortunes of the land through tales of woe from the villagers. Fire isn't burning, the water isn't running, the wind isn't blowing...and it's up to you to restore the land to its former glory by ringing bells to rejuvenate a divine tree.

You can follow the story if you choose (and it is beneficial to do so) or ignore it and stick to the farming. Ringing the first bell will allow you to upgrade your tools, so you can till more squares of land in one swing, water more tiles of crops and cast your fishing rod farther (respective to each tool, of course). Along with upgrading them with ores you find in the mines, the more you use a tool, you'll level it up, resulting in less stamina used for the item.

However, following the story results in many painful fetch quests. Just when you think you're done, the game throws one more reason at you to collect 1 animal whistle, 10 good cabbages, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. After I finally retrieved the red bell (the game found a way to make me collect four different types of ores to do so), journeyed to the bottom of the mine, and met the harvest sprite in charge of it, he informed me it had to be sunny outside in order to complete the quest.

It was raining cats and dogs. It would be bad enough if the traveling distance between locations weren't so bloated. And the music! It was nauseating, leading me to mute the game and dig up old Harvest Moon 64 tunes as a makeshift replacement. Anyway, after making the long trek home, I went to sleep after saving in my diary. I returned the next day, my eye wary of a note in the top left corner of the HUD ominously labeled: Flower Festival.

Like any other Harvest Moon game, Animal Parade contains numerous festivals throughout the year that provide excuses for mini-games, romantic outings with your favorite bachelorette (or bachelor), and opportunities to show off your prized livestock. As I approached the bottom of the mine, I joked to myself, Watch, you won't be able to ring the bell since it's a holiday. The game wiped the uneasy grin off my face when it slammed its cruel reality in my face. You can't ring the bell, because it's a holiday.

It's not all bad, however. After you slog through the first bell quest (the others aren't as significant as the first), the game opens up considerably, and you can get into a rhythm growing lettuce and tomatoes, tending to adorable ducklings (I named mine Cluny based on the villainous rat from Redwall), and brushing your brown cow. You can upgrade your house to accommodate a wife and kids, your coop and barn to fit more animals and item enhancers (like a mayonnaise maker for eggs or butter maker for milk) to increase profit, and even purchase more land.

There's always a way to make more money, which involves spending money. Which, in addition to wooing a wife, collecting all the fish, finding all the recipes, and grueling through the bell quests, will be more than enough incentive to keep you hooked. I'm already looking forward to raising children of my own, who will be able to help me with my farm chores. Even with the negatives (and there are many), the core gameplay is simply too addictive to ignore.

The Good
+ Building your farm from scratch still addictive as ever
+ Ability to play as boy or girl with 10 bachelorettes/bachelors to choose from for each
+ Expanded family interactions allow you to raise two children

The Bad
- Laggy, outdated graphics
- Town is spaced too far apart
- Uncontrollable camera
- Tedious fetch quests
- Obnoxious, looping soundtrack

Overall Score: 7.5 - Good

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/11/11

Game Release: Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (US, 11/12/09)

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