Review by mantastorm
A great game, but only for the patient-minded gamer.
No, I'm not a fan-boy, or a basher of this game in any shape or form. I'm merely telling you what I thought of this game, and what in my opinion, what this game deserves. If you disagree, then that's okay. Though keep in mind that this is my view of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, and again in my opinion, quite a neutral and fair reviewing.
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is a farming simulation game where you are left a plot of land to cultivate into a farm by your father. Your job is to gain produce and raise your farm with a wide variety of animals, crops, trees, and various foodstuffs. In the start, you have a cow, and dog. Whilst the dog isn't much but a friendly face, the cow is the main source of income at the start. This small start is what will plunge you into a whole world which has kept this particular series strong for years. Unlike previous Harvest Moons, this particular game whilst long, does not have an open-ended mode, which greatly disappointed me. Oh well.
Whilst the graphics aren't the brightest I've seen, they're definitively crisp and clear, giving much detail to the environment around you. The character's facial expressions are very well done, and so are the models of the other characters, which will leave you to remember them vividly for long after you finished the game. The buildings are also excellent, showing off the GameCube's full potential. The lighting effects show off well, giving you a great idea what it's like to farm.
The sounds in this game aren't necessarily the best you'll hear, but are satisfactory. The character makes sounds when he needs to, the animals have nice sound effects, and so do the townspeople, but like the game, the sounds seems rushed. The music soundtracks are while good, never really anything to remember, and as far as things go, the sounds in this game are quite limited. But it isn't necessarily bad. The sound effects definitely kick in when you need it to. You can hear the rain falling, the cows mooing, and most stuff you'd expect in a farming sim. But while the sound effects are okay, there's nothing really mindblowing.
The gameplay of this has some very good points, and some very bad ones. You basically as said in the overview, raise a living with the resources given to you.
A main quality, obvious of a farming game, is the animals. You can milk cows, shear sheep, ride horses around town, get eggs from chickens, the basic stuff you'd expect on a farm. But you need to watch out that your animals don't die by feeding them, stroking them, and loving them. You can also breed certain animals to make a child. In the cow's case, the calf has to be fed on his mother's milk, adding to the realism of this game.
Another quality which has lived strong throughout the series is the ability to plant crops and grow them. You can grow tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and 50 other unique plants. Though as with all farms, certain plants only grow in certain seasons, and you must water them if they will survive. You can use your produce to cook recipes, or fuse them with a certain kooky character later on in the game to make hybrid crops. Aside from crops, you can also plant trees, such as apple trees, orange trees, and more.
One of the greatest features that makes Harvest Moon what it is, is the interaction. You can choose between a selection of three possible wives, each with different personalities. In time, you marry, and give birth to a child, in which the game suddenly becomes more complex. On top of the farm work, you must play and nurture your child too. How you treat him in this early stage will influence what he becomes in the future. You need to make sure that you keep a balance of how much time you give to each aspect of the game, to stop one either getting over-attended, or the other getting under-attended. This alone, is a key feature to the game. Though of course, it has it's downside, which of course is why I didn't give this section of the game a straight 10.
If I could rate this game on longevity, I'd give it a 10/10. No, 11/10. This game lasts 30 ingame-years in 6 chapters, you playing 10 of them. The game itself lasts about 200 hours for a first playthrough, which is incredibly long, even for Harvest Moon. On one hand, I saw the incredibly long game time as an opportunity to watch the world grow around me, more time to experiment on different aspects, more time to 'relax'. On the other hand this game at times, got so mind-numbingly boring, that at one point, I felt like banging my head repeatedly against a brick wall. It's the same tedious milking, feeding, interaction, and it's over, and over, and over again. If you can stand anything like that for 200 hours without skipping like crazy or wincing, then you're obviously a more patient mind than most I know.
A great game for the patient-minded gamer, but if you're like me, you're unfortunately going to have to force yourself every day to play this game just to get to the end. Of course, past the incredible boredom, if instead of playing this game just to finish it, you actually take the time to enjoy Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, then this will be a very profound gaming experience, something to take your mind away from the usual fast-paced shooting games of today. This game's originality comes from its calmness, and that you can almost feel what it's like to be a farmer. It'll truly be, a wonderful life.
Yes, you heard me. I'm giving this area of the game a 4. While some areas of the game such as the childraising is definitely something to experience again, it is honestly not worth the 200 hour price tag of drivelling tedium that comes with it. Unless you're either a hardcore game junkie, inhumanly patient, or someone who constantly skips to get to the end, good bits, you're going to blow your own brains out from having to do the same soul-destroying chores over and over again. Of course, a good area to this game is the experimenting. If you missed a hybrid that you might want to see, or you want to experience the game's child behaviour, end of game careers, perhaps to see other possible children with other wives, or just to see your child growing up again, then by all means play the game again after you're done with the last one.
Rent or Buy? Rent. While this game definitely appeals to some, it's obvious that Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life isn't everyone's cup of tea. I'd suggest you rent the game first, and if it's too boring for you, return it. If you're happy, keep it, and prepare for a world of cows, sheep, turnips, and more.
Bottom Line: In all honesty, this game is pretty much a rollercoaster ride with only some senses of the word. It has it's ups, downs, but unfortunately isn't that exciting at all. If farming's your thing, or you would like to try something new, then go ahead and purchase this game. But if it's action and thrills you want, then unfortunately, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is not for you.
Final Rating: 7/10
This review was made by mantastorm/Eli Assayag, ©opyright 2005, and is protected by GameFAQs and law. Please do not distribute and submit this review to other sites without my permission, and do not claim this as your own work. Thank you.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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