In 1996 Natsume brought the first Harvest Moon game to the SNES. Since then, almost every generation of Nintendo consoles has known a Harvest Moon game. If you never heard of the series, get out from under that rock you have been hiding under and check out our review today: Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.
As declared, Harvest Moon saw the light of day on the SNES in 1996; an unusual RPG where swords have made room for sickles and gremlins have made room for cows and chickens. Harvest Moon was also the first game ever which brought out the sub-genre “dating-sim” to the gaming world. Next to running a farm, you had to find an appropriate wife who you would spend the rest of your life together with on the farm. You would end up building up a family with this woman and live happily ever after.
Life on the farm isn’t easy; you have to grow crops, deal with your live-stock and make money selling your harvests. Being a mix of both RPG and Simulation genres, Harvest Moon was a big hit ever since the first title.
Sony’s Playstation also had the pleasure of having two Harvest Moon games made for both their consoles, which were almost equally successful as the Nintendo titles.
A Wonderful Life
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life begins with the narrator talking to the father of the main character, Jack. Jack’s father has recently passed away and the narrator is telling Jack’s father how he has met Jack and they are going to realize their dream: running a small farm out in the country. The narrator, your father’s close friend, introduces himself as Takakura. After finding a farm in the small town of Forget-Me-Not Valley, Jack and Takakura set out to realize Jack’s father’s dream.
AWL is the first Harvest Moon title on the GameCube and the first game that deviates from the rest of the series. In AWL the emphasis isn’t so much on the farming, but on the interaction. In previous Harvest Moon games, you had to take care of the farm most of the day and had little time left to do anything else.
AWL is divided into six chapters and the game covers a time span of 30 years. The six chapters are one to three years long each, and evidently some years are omitted between the chapters.
Before the end of the first year you will have to find a suitable wife and build a close enough relationship with her so she will marry you. There are three wives to choose from: Celia, Muffy and Nami. Celia is the girl who works at the farm next to yours together with her boss Vesta and Vesta’s brother Marlin. Muffy works at the local pub with her boss Griffin. Nami is a real loner and lives in the Inn with the owners of the Inn: Tim and Ruby. Celia is the easiest to marry, Nami the hardest and Muffy is somewhere in between.
Besides the women you can marry, you can interact with about 35 other people in the town of Forget-Me-Not. You can do this by giving them gifts just like you would with the bachelorettes. Each inhabitant of Forget-Me-Not Valley has their own personality and thus their own likes and dislikes. Finding out what the favorites are of the different inhabitants can be a lot of fun, also finding out what they don’t like and watching their reactions.
When you are befriended with certain inhabitants, you can trigger special cut-scenes and special events. I won’t go into this too deep, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Making money has always been an important aspect of Harvest Moon. You have to make money to buy new livestock, expand your farm and buy supplies. In AWL money is made pretty easily. You can grow trees which are, in combination with a special item, very good money makers. You can easily buy all expansions, fill your barn and coop and get all the supplies. If you don’t want to spoil the game too much and make it a bit more enjoyable, don’t plant too many trees. You will get bored fast and lose interest in the game easily.
Together with AWL, Natsume released another Harvest Moon for the GameBoy Advance: Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. Predictably you can link the GBA version with the GameCube version to get neat extras. I won’t spoil these for you, since they are fun to discover, but I can tell you that they are quite nice to have.
After you have made yourself familiar with the town and life on the farm, you will start to notice the controls. When you try to water your plants, feed your animals or cut down grass, you will notice the sensitivity of the action buttons. Every action is bound to little squares in the game, if you aren’t facing the right square you will most likely end up watering empty squares, milking your cow when you don’t want to or accessing help menu’s when you want to cut down grass. This can get very annoying after a while and I’m really sad to say that you probably won’t get used to this phenomenon.
Another minor annoyance is the translation. There aren’t many translation errors, but there are a lot of re-occurring ones. You won’t be harmed with these little errors, but it would have been nice and more professional to see no translation errors at all.
Graphics and details
The graphics of this game are really getting all they can of the GameCube. The developers have done a really good job converting the sprites of the SNES version and other versions to 3D. It has the familiar look and feel of the old Harvest Moon games, yet it is new and exciting because it’s in 3D with beautiful detail.
As you progress, the seasons change and the detail that the developers put into this is brilliant. The trees, the grass, the type of crops and trees you can grow, the weather, they thought of everything. The ocean changes when the weather changes, the environment changes when the seasons change and the overall details are just superb.
Music and sounds
In your house is a record player where you can change the tune that will play on your farm. You start out with two discs, but you can get six of them. The tunes are all really nice to listen to and are cheerful and up-tempo. It’s a shame that there is no music when you are walking around town, because you will most likely spend quite a bit of time here. Luckily the different buildings you can enter have their own music and you hear this when you are near to them.
Sound effects in this game are subtle and blend in very well with the game’s ambiance. You won’t get disturbed by the sound effects in this game and we all know this can happen fairly easy in Simulation games.
If you like Simulation games like Animal Crossing, you will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. If you have never played a Harvest Moon game before, I suggest you try some of the other games before you try this one, because it has a whole different style than the rest of the games. If your wallet permits you, acquire both AWL and Friends of Mineral Town, because they cover both the old style Harvest Moon game and the new style, plus you get some great extras from linking them.