Review by Stirky!
Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, Released in March 2008, is a construction and Management simulation game for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS suitable and enjoyable for ages 3 and up.
Developed by Marvelous Interactive and published by Rising Star Games (No More Heroes, Super Swing Golf), There was no question that the game would be enjoyable to play but make sure you have plenty of time to play it.. Over to you Kirsty!
When my game reviewer boyfriend bought home Harvest Moon I instantly whisked it out of his hands, gave it a once over and declared that I would be playing it…quite a lot. I then decided that I may as well do the review for it-under the pretence that he probably wouldn’t enjoy playing it. So here it is! A review of an uber-cute girly game (let’s not deny it) reviewed by a girl who quite likes cute things. Well…it’s only fair isn’t it…
I’d never heard of the Harvest Moon games but was instantly charmed by the idea of raising crops and cattle in a Final Fantasy 7 style, way-too-cute 3d cartoon world. Yep, this was going to be fun I thought to myself. So off I went into a story that centres around the Harvest Goddess who is so upset by mankind that she turns to stone leaving 3 very upset Harvest Sprites who say ‘yeah’ a lot and an angsty young man called Jamie (your rival).
The Sprites ask your character (it’s not a girl by the way…could have fooled me!) to try and free the Harvest Goddess by collecting 50 musical notes which are obtained by doing some pretty obscure things like running around in the rain and staying up all night.
Of course there are more obvious way to get notes such as shipping your first gem, cooking your first meal and catching a certain amount of fish. Once you have 5 notes you can visit the sprites at the Harvest Goddess Spring and have them transformed into various musical instruments.
I have to say, the note thing was not very well thought up. I got the impression that this was a way of ensuring that the game lasted for a long enough time, couldn’t be completed too quickly and that the player has explored every aspect of the game before it ends. And by everything-I mean EVERYTHING. After all…some of the things that you have to do to gain notes are things that are so ridiculously obscure you would never guess that they would earn you a note. They are mostly accidentally gained (as mentioned earlier).
Hook, Line, Sinker, Rod and copy of Angling Times!
This really compromises the integrity of the game and I could see myself getting annoyed after reaching 48 notes and it a fit of rage doing lots of seemingly strange things to get the last two. For all I know the last one could have only been won by running in circles around a campfire wearing only a red polka-dot mankini, a cape and a rubber ducky. It wouldn’t surprise me. So the notes are the basic aim and the more you do, the more you earn.
As soon as the first bit of the story is out of the way you then buy a property in the village to start your farm. At this point you’re quite thankful for the almost-not-there tutorial. However later you realise that after you’ve planted all your seeds on un-tilled land (nobody told me it had to be tilled), you’ve become dangerously angry with the amount of time that you’ve pressed the wrong button and eaten the food that you meant to put in your rucksack, and your instruction booklet is already looking a bit dog-eared-you could have done with a better tutorial.
Once you’ve learnt the controls a bit better and figured out where to buy seeds and how to till the land you can start your farm, and get into the game. It can only really be a small farm to begin with as the tilling and watering depletes your energy levels way too quickly. Now is a good time to learn to be patient as some of the crops take a long time to grow to the point where they are ready to harvest.
When you do start harvesting and popping the crops into your shipping box (in front of your house) you wonder if all that hard work was really worth it. It seemed to me that you could make more money foraging as this definitely used up much less energy and, depending on what you found could fetch much more money than that tomato you’ve painstakingly watered for the last 8 days.
So, there are other options when it comes to making money (which you need to progress in the game), which does mix things up a little bit and offer some variety. You can forage, mine and fish as well as farm. However you will find that if you do have a farm most of your day will be taken up by that as, unless it rains, you need to water your crops every day.
Nope…he makes no sense to me either!
After you’ve made enough money you can spend it on a variety of things such as food, seeds, land, animals, upgrading your house, tools, furniture and various farm buildings. I invested most of mine in stuff that would make me more money, and being as impatient as I am I got bored of the crops quite quickly and wanted to move onto the animal bit. It’s a bit more exciting than growing crops and if you’ve upgraded your tools enough you’ll be able to do both. However the excitement is short lived and over shadowed by the fact that you have to wait a century for your animals to be born/grow/have enough wool to shear etc. Ok it’s not a century…but it bloody feels like it!
The final aspect to the game is the village community that grows as you progress in the game. Depending on what actions you take new villagers arrive with new businesses which enable you to do more, and some leave. And when they leave you know all about it. Expect lots of early morning heavy door knocking and random villagers like Basil the Botanist telling you that he’s going away for a bit and asking you to ‘be kind’ to him when he returns. Wha?! Huh?!
There are always objectives in the game…whether you are saving for a chicken coop, making wild animals love you or wooing a suitor (although I still didn’t work that one out). Anyways the point is that there is always something to aim for. My only real complaint is that it is a bit dull and repetitive doing the same thing every day, which is what you are tied into if you have crops to water or animals to feed/move/milk/shear/steal eggs from.
Once you’ve done it for a while you begin to wish you didn’t have a farm and that you could merrily do mining one day, fishing another and forage the next. But having a farm is the whole point of the game and I suspect a great proportion of your 50 notes come from farming related actions. I say ‘suspect’ because I actually became so bored by the slow pace and repetitiveness that I stopped playing it.
It also became obvious that this is a game you need to invest a LOT of your life in. And that’s a big shame because I was really enchanted by it to begin with…it seemed like it was going to be a great game-and it probably could have been. It really just needs to be a bit faster paced and slightly easier to achieve things. After all, if I wanted to struggle…I’d stick to the real world.
This brings me to the last bit. Overall…despite Harvest Moon: Magical Melody’s charm, it is difficult to shake that feeling that you really are wasting your time playing it. And that even if you spent 48 straight hours on it (if that is even possible) you still wouldn’t get very far in achieving anything. After all, isn’t it that lovely sense of achievement the thing that we ultimately want out of a game?
Harvest Moon: Magical Melody hits a bum note but still rakes in a 3 stars out of 5