Overlooked 2.21.14: Harvest Moon - A Wonderful Life
Posted by Cara Alex Brown on 02.21.2014
411's Cara Alex Brown shines a light on one of the strongest entries in the Harvest Moon simulator/RPG series! Check out what she has to say about Harvest Moon - A Wonderful Life and why it's overlooked!
Howdy folks. I'm sure everyone had a great week given that it was Valentines. My Valentines was rather eventful as a blizzard with thunder and lightning struck randomly and so as we were driving to our dinner and movie reservations, we couldn't do the normally 5 minute drive to get out of town let alone get to them, so we had to turn back and shut ourselves in. We lost the money for our movie tickets but it's not like I'm annoyed about that or anything, pfft. Anyway, the snow didn't last long despite being so heavy so we managed to go out for dinner the following day, so all's well that ends well.
I was hoping to write about the classic game that struck with the Nintendo DS, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, but my copy didn't arrive in time. In the next few weeks you can expect to see an article on that game, and its prequel Rub Rabbits. So yeah, just a heads up.
Anyway, let's move on.
The Look Back
I'll pretend I'm not hurt by the fact that I was left only a single comment this week and chalk it up to it being Valentines week and you'll all have been loved up with your respective partners or something.
sdelfin - Leaving me for my best friend? I can handle that. Someone murdering my family? I'll get over it. Stealing my cake is crossing the line.
Interesting little diversion, this game. I like the Valentine's Day tie in. Well played, Cara. I tried it out a little bit. There were definitely some amusing ones. I wish I could unsee what transpired after choosing the fist.
Sorry to hear about the horrific flu you had. I've experienced similar things a couple of times. Not fun. I hear the Mega Drive helps treat such conditions. I'm relieved you are back for selfish reasons as I was without a column on which to comment.
My ever-loyal fan, it's good to see you again. Given the lack of comments this week, it was nice to see your comment there, dependable as always.
I figured given the holiday I'd do something light hearted. Glad it went down well. Although that was is disgusting, even if it is hilarious. Hopefully someone will have tried out a few of the others I listed at the bottom because some of them could amuse me for ages.
Thanks, I'm feeling better now. I missed college all of this week due to it as well but I've felt a lot better as of today. So, hopefully it won't come back! I didn't have my megadrive but I just zoned out on Guild Wars 2 (I'm a bit too loyal to that game ) so all was good.
I'm glad to be back too though, and selfishness is good to me in this situation. It keeps me motivated to write this column knowing that at least one person is enjoying it, since sometimes I worry they're not!
The Harvest Moon series is a set of simulation/rpg games in which you play out the life of a farmer. You grow crops, raise animals, extend your farm and other miscellaneous tasks all while trying to gain the affections of your chosen partner and likely other objectives around the game.
This particular article is about one of the significantly less recognised titles, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. AWL came out in 2003, and in 2004 in America, and was released for the GameCube. (See a running pattern yet? Poor GameCube).
The story differs a little from game to game. Although each title is very similar, given the overall concept of the game, there is a general story to each to lead you along that explains your situation and sometimes adds in additional feature. This game begins with you visiting a plot of farm land in a small town, in a place called Forget-Me-Not Valley. Your father has just passed away and among his mourners was a man called Takakura. You discover that this man used to be a close friend of your fathers and that they had shared a dream to find a small farm in the country and run it together. Before you ask, yes, there's been a lot of speculation about them being gay. Anyway, since your Dad has died it's decided that you'll inherit the farm, and so your game begins time to honour your Fathers dream.
What makes it Overlooked?
Let's say it together now IT IS FOR THE GAMECUBE. Why the majority of people completely disregarded that console I will never know. I know masses of people who agree that the GC is their favourite console, and I have to agree. The controller fits well to the hand and is greatly designed, it has some of the best and most memorable titles around, it was compact and efficient, and I've never had a single fault/glitch/bug problem with it. It's reliable, efficient and features a long list of notable titles. It deserves much more credit than it deserves.
A special edition of the game was later released for PS2 which was greatly dismissed due to there being a lack of additional features, and the features that were added then slowing the game performance.
Do I agree?
Surely my argument above gives a clear answer here, so I won't harp on about it further. However, when it comes to the PS2 edition I have to say I agree. But then again, that's likely a biased opinion due to my rule of playing games on the console they were originally intended unless there being a distinct reason not to for instance a full re-master. Not enough was done to AWL to make the PS2 version worth it and, in my opinion, it was naught but a poor attempt at trying to gain the title more publicity after the GC being slated far beyond it deserved.
Looking at the Overlooked
I've summarised the basic story above, so I'll just expand from here on.
Having had your father recently pass away, you're now at his plot of land that he never had the chance to develop. On this farm you'll find two sweet log cabins, one for you and one for Takakura a chicken coop, a barn, a tool and equipment shed, some land to plant on, a water pump for crops and a lodger and shipping building. Luckily you don't start off with just getting thrown in the deep end. Instead, you're given an already-matured cow to start you making money.
As you get shown around your farm two sweet little dogs then run up to you and you get to pick which you like, between a pointy eared and a floppy eared one. Once you've chosen your little pal lives on your farm and will be a companion to you throughout the games.
Overall the gameplay spans 30 years, split into 6 chapters which are roughly 1-3 years long. Honestly that doesn't play a huge part though and you can just play at your own leisure.
Now as mentioned before, in this game you can pick and choose which girl to offer your affections and pursue her until eventually you are married and have a son. Although there are versions of the game where you can play a female and pick a husband, and later games where you have free choice between the two, in this title you play only as a male. This is commonplace in many of the Harvest Moon titles.
Although in later titles there are a wide selection of available partners, in this title there are only 3 and as with each Harvest Moon game, each girl comes with a rival. As you progress you'll have to discover which gifts your chosen girl likes the best to increase her heart level. Her heart level can be checked in her diary and is read differently in this title than most games. In most games, heart level is represented on the screen by the girl and you can tell what level you're at due to which colour the heart currently is (black being the lowest, red being the highest). However in this title the amount of hearts written in her diary simply increases and once you've reached 4 you can propose with the blue feather. The blue feather is iconic to the Harvest Moon franchise and is how proposals are always done, as opposed to the diamond ring in our culture. It comes from a rare blue bird and therefore is very sought after and treasured, hence its use. Sadly you don't get to chase down one of these birds and steal a feather, instead you merely buy it from your local shop, or in this case from the harvest sprites.
Harvest Sprites are featured in every HM game and are basically little elf men who worship the Harvest Goddess, a beautiful Deity who preserves the Earth (and who you can marry in many of the later titles). Although in many titles the Harvest Sprites play a key role and can often be hired to help you do your work, in this title they aren't much more than quirky characters. They are cute though.
Now, back to the wives. In this title there are 3 girls to choose from, and each of these girls features in other titles as well. These three girls are Muffy, Cecilia and Nami. Each of these girls has a different personality, story, rival and difficulty level to obtain. On top of this they also effect what your son looks like and have different "heart events", or cut scenes, which will occur to show the story of your relationship developing with said girl.
Muffy is a bubbly blonde girl who's lonely and dreams of dating and love who works in the towns bar but is absolutely useless at is. Her rival is a rough-but-charming type called Griffin who owns and runs said bar. Despite him being your rival, if you befriend Muffy you will also befriend him due to his care for her. She is the easiest girl to obtain.
The middle difficulty girl is a sweet brunette named Celia who works on the other farm in the Valley, the one from which you can purchase seeds. She's weak and not hugely well but works as hard as she can around the farm. If you befriend her you'll also befriend Vesta, the farm owner, but will make Martin jealous. Martin is Vesta's brother who works on the farm and gets stupidly jealous of your relationship with both Vesta and Celia.
Lastly is the tom boy, rough living girl called Nami. She's easily the hardest girl to obtain. She has short, messy red hair and an edgier attitude. She's a traveller and unless you marry her in the game she will have no reason to stay and will move out and leave town in later chapters. The biggest reason she's hard to obtain is her random and bizarre pattern, as opposed to Celia and Muffy's repeated one. She doesn't have a real rival, however there is a character in the game that wishes their son had been "more like yours" should you have a son with Nami, and so said son will end up disliking your son for quite a while. Nami is staying at the Inn and gets up at strange times, is often hard to track down and on top of this she likes more peculiar gifts than the common flowers, gems and produce that the other girls like. Most of Nami's favourite gifts are ones that can be found at the dig site.
The dig site is a feature in this game that is somewhat different than most titles. In most games there is a mine that you can explore, reach deeper levels in, unlock more rooms and expansions of and so on and so forth. Instead in AWL there is an archaeological dig site ran by a couple named Carter and Flora. Flora is a cutie who can be married in other games but sadly not here, so let's move on. In this dig site, instead of the usual tilling and smashing rocks that's used in the other games, here you use a scoop like tool that carter gives to you to dig around in a grid that's laid out in a covered site. Here you can uncover gems, statues, and various other old relics that can be sold or given away. You may uncover rare objects that Carter wants every now and then and as the chapters go on, the dig site will increase in size significantly.
This gives you another pass time to raise money with. The other ways include the obvious raising livestock cows, sheep, goats, a horse, ducks and chickens and growing crops. Crops are seasonal and need to be thought out to be grown efficiently. Livestock can be bought or bred, except from your horse which is gifted to you later in the game, and you can get various types of produce from them to sell on. On top of this you can also gather miscellaneous items from around the Valley such as flowers and herbs, and you can fish. Fishing is another feature that is common in HM games and is often incredibly profitable.
Unlike most HM games you don't just sell things through shipping bins. Instead you can sell produce through shipping bins but can also set up a stall outside a big tree in town. From here you can beckon to villagers that are passing by, have them check out your wares and barter prices. This adds in a realistic feel to the game and is quite a lovely little feature.
Lastly, I'll speak about the festivals. This game features significantly less festivals and events than other titles. The biggest disappointment about this is that these festivals aren't interactive like they are in later titles. In late games you take place in competitions with your animals and dog, can have horse racing and betting, cooking festivals to test yourself at and more. However in this title, festivals are merely a story plot. There's a festival for each season, during which endearing cut scenes with other villagers will conspire and add a heart-warming charm to the game, creating a sentimental attachment to the title and its characters. There are many other random events throughout the game but they are often humorous scenes with NPC's, ways to obtain items such as the fishing rod, heart events or character development for the villagers as each has their own story.
The graphics of this title are different from most. Where many are used to cartoon drawings in HM titles, this has a much more cel-shaded 3D cartoon feel think "The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker" style. The RPG play is also beneficial and adds to your overall appreciation of the gentle atmosphere and detailed graphics.
The sound track is gorgeous, relaxing and memorable although it can become monotonous with continued gameplay. The songs change with the seasons and there is a record player in your house that you and obtain disks for and change the music with.
And that's it for this title. At a later date I hope to write about another HM game. It will likely the later DS title, although I may do its previous GBA title which was much more involved and is another personal favourite. Both are very different in many ways and are some of the most remarkable editions to the series.
Until then, you have the Rub Rabbits games to look forward to.
See you again next week and hope you've enjoyed the read!