Review by joan2468

Reviewed: 10/29/08

If it weren't for the lag, it would be a better game

Harvest Moon : A Wonderful Life Special Edition is much the same as the normal version, but it's PS2 compatible with a few added features that really don't make very much of a difference to me. These features include one extra potential bride to marry, the option to choose what gender your child will be and more fish to catch. Like all Harvest Moon games, it's charming, entertaining and addicting in its own unique way, but honestly the game just lags too much to the point that it really will test your patience. If you can get past the horrible lagging, this Harvest Moon game is actually quite fun and enjoyable.

As always with Harvest Moon games, the story is pretty much the same. You play as a young man whose late father was friends with one of the inhabitants of Forget-Me-Not Valley - Takakura, who lives on your father's old farm. Takakura is getting pretty old and he needs more help running the farm. So he calls on you, his friend's son, to come over and live on the farm. In the beginning you'll meet up with Takakura on your father's farm, and after you agree to help him and raise the farm, Takakura will show you around the farm and take you on a tour of the town. Once that's all done, two dogs will come up to you and you'll get to choose one to keep as a pet. Takakura will also give you your first cow. The game is split up into six chapters, and what's interesting is that you really will see changes throughout the game. You'll play out your entire life, from the first time you set foot on the farm to the day you die. You will see your character and the people around you grow old. In this game, like traditional Harvest Moon games, you can (and must) marry. There are four bachelorettes available for you to marry. One of them is a barmaid at the town's bar, one is a farm girl who works on the farm across the bridge, one of them is a traveler who is secretive and quiet and sleeps at the Inn, and the other is a musician born into a rich family, living at the Villa at the top of a hill. You must woo the would-be bride, of course. Each of them has their own personality and their likes and dislikes. To woo the bride is simple really, all you have to do is visit them and give them a gift and talk to them every day. The traveler is the hardest one to woo as she spends a lot of her time wandering around (randomly it seems) and when she returns to the Inn it's normally to go to sleep, so you won't be able to visit her there, unless you chance upon her being in her room in the very very early mornings. The gifts she likes are harder to obtain than the other three girls who easily accept any kind of flower. The first chapter is mainly more focused on getting a bride. Each bride has a diary that she keeps in her room. You can check the diary to see how much she likes you. You should only propose to her after the diary shows four red hearts and you have seen some events involving the bachelorette, which means that she likes you a lot.The second chapter, you will have a child, a toddler. It's your job to raise him (or her) and influence the child to become what you want him (or her) to be. The third to sixth chapters, you will see your child grow and develop and you will see the town start to change and everyone around you grow older. The story is much the same as the other Harvest Moon games so it's nothing very special.

Now on to the core of a game - the gameplay. Before you even consider playing this game, check your patience metre and make sure it's high, or you won't be able to stand playing this game for longer than two or three in-game days. Why? You'll be seeing A LOT of the Loading Screen here, and most everything you do seems to take AGES - and because of this the days have been extended, although really they are longer than they need to be. You'll find yourself with quite a lot of free time on your hands even after you're done with your farm chores. If you finish your chores at, say 3pm and you decide to sleep, you'll wake up again seven hours later with nothing to do. You can't sleep any time and wake up at the exact same time everyday, it depends on what time you sleep. All your actions and movements seem to be very slow, as if you're in slow motion. Running feels like walking and walking feels like crawling. Heck, it'll take you several in-game minutes just to open a door! Every time you enter a building, you'll have to sit through a load screen. The load times aren't actually long, but seeing the load screen at least ten times every in-game day will really grate on your nerves if you're not patient.

Lag aside, the game is played much the same way as its predecessors. You have to take care of your farm animals, grow crops, make profits, and build relationships. Money is not very easily earned in A Wonderful Life. Crop seeds can be bought from Vesta, who works at the farm across the river. A Wonderful Life has a good variety of crops, not to mention hybrid crops that you can create after a certain part of the game you can unlock. But there's a problem - growing crops only earns you quite a small amount profit, not to mention the fact that they take a long time to grow. So selling crops isn't the best way to earn money. Fishing isn't really a good way either, because how many fish you catch is random. You could spend an entire day by the river and not catch a single fish if you're really unlucky. Fish is especially hard to catch in the beginning when your fishing rod isn't a good one. Your profits will mainly come from selling your livestock produces. You can turn milk into cheese or butter for better profit, but this isn't possible until you save up to buy a Milk Processing Room, which is costly and will take you a while considering the pace that money is earned in the game.

Perhaps the best way to earn money early game is to go to work at the Digging Site by the waterfall. Just go there every morning (Except for days when Van comes to town) and speak to Carter. He'll give you a shovel and you can start digging. Whatever you find at the Site, you can keep and sell to Van (he comes to town on the 3rd and 8th of each season). But this is slow too because you must wait for him to come, unless you open up your own shop when Van isn't there and sell it to the townspeople. The best time to do this is in the evening, when the sun is starting to set, because many people will pass by your shop on their way back home from their daily activities. There are also a number of wild edible plants and flowers every season. You can pick as many as you want and sell them, although early game you'll likely just eat the wild plants. You must eat, or your stomach will rumble and you will lack energy to do work. This is perhaps the only thing crops are useful for. Fish, wild plants and crops can all be used to cook meals. Takakura and some of the other townspeople will suggest recipes to you when you talk to them, and sometimes recipes can be found wedged between books in people's houses, so look around when you're in a building.

If you want to make profit from your livestock produces, cows will be the best option. Their milk sells for a good price if the quality is good. The best quality is S, which can be obtained if your cow is very healthy and happy. You can milk your cows twice a day. But after a year, your cow MUST mate and be pregnant and give birth before it can give milk again. To do this you either acquire a male cow as well as a female, or you can simply use a male cow just to mate with your female - you don't have to buy the male cow. This can be done via the order form in the Storage Room. For a while after the calf is born, the female cow will only give special Mother's Milk which must be fed to the calf every day. The calf and mother will require special attention. The calf will be placed in the Cow Hutch. You must talk to it and fill its feedbox with fodder everyday. The grass in your pasture must be grown by yourself. You need to buy Fertiliser and use them on the grass, and wait for a long time before it's long enough for your animals to eat. You can also get sheep and a goat, but the goat will give you milk for ONLY one year. After that, it's pretty much useless. So I don't recommend getting a goat, but if you do want one you can get one from Van.

The gameplay is enjoyable but some may find it monotonous and boring after a while. If you're looking to try a Harvest Moon game I suggest you don't start with this one.

You will see the weather and environment change as the seasons change. It will snow in Winter and the place will be covered in snow. The leaves will change color when Fall arrives. There are also festivals, but you don't do much, you just watch a scene. Takakura will automatically give you a horse in Summer at the earliest, and you'll automatically be able to ride it - which is a blessing since it really cuts the time taken to travel.

A Wonderful Life's graphics are okay, they do the job but a little more color would be nicer. The music is okay too, but some of the tunes are quite nice. Controls are easy but because of the slow action execution it may take you a full in-game day to learn them.

Considering the fact that one thorough gameplay (six chapters) will take you quite some time (with those excrutiating load screens and lag, it's not really worth it to replay the game just to marry a different bachelorette and see another child grow. I haven't got through a second game yet, I've only finished the game once. But I think you should Buy this game because after the sixth chapter you'll enter "Heaven" which is basically - well - an endless chapter where you can do whatever you want and everything will be the same as it was in the sixth or fifth chapter.

If you can get past all the flaws that Harvest Moon : A Wonderful Life Special Edition has, you'll find a fun and enjoyable game. Somehow it gives pleasure to see your child, family and farm develop. Not everyone will like Harvest Moon, but if you're one of the ones that like the series, you'll likely find this game enjoyable as well.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition (US, 10/28/05)

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