Harvest Moon: Magical Melody Review
Editor's Note: I wrote this review a long time ago. I think it needs some polish. I still agree with everything I said, however the review itself isn't that well written. I still think I bring out some good points though, so the review can still be helpful to those seeking advise.
Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, the latest entry in the long running farm simulator series from Natsume, follows in the same footsteps as its predecessors. However, the game is still as fun as ever even though it doesn’t change the formula all too much. This time around it adds a bunch of new things that makes the fun last a lot longer and makes it more satisfying than all of the previous Harvest Moon games.
Without any back story, the game lets you pick a gender (which barely effects the gameplay) and then sends you off to Flower Bud Village. There's an "Exciting Ranch Plan" there that draws you over. Once you're there the mayor lets you choose which plot of land you want to start off with, and then you start off your farming life.
When you get back home, some Harvest Sprites, creatures that look like a mix between Gnomes and Elves, come to your house asking for some help to revive the Harvest Goddess, who was turned stone. To bring her back to life, you have to collect Music Notes that are achieved by doing certain things. Some are easy, such as not touching the controller for a while, but then there are others require some more dedication, such as catching every fish in the game. It wouldn't be out of the question to compare them to Xbox 360 achievement points. You really don't have to get all of the notes, but it does add some incentive to play the game more.
After all of the introduction scenes are over you can begin your farming life. You start with basically nothing. You have your land, a set of tools, and that’s about it. You have to progress from there. You can eventually buy more land, barns, chicken coops and many other things to make your farm the best it can be. Making a good farm also helps out Flower Bud Village, new people move in and more businesses are established based on your contributions your farm has made.
The daily routine usually involves first taking care of your animals by feeding them and giving them affection. Giving them affection will usually make your animals give you better products. A cow, for example, will make better milk if you give it lots of love and care over time. Then, you usually have to go water your crops so they grow big and healthy so you can make some money. The rest of the day is up to you. You could go mining and obtain jewels to sell them for a profit, or you could go fishing. You could also go and friendships and relationships with the villagers by talking to them each day and presenting them with gifts, which will then help you get married or get certain gifts or benefits.
New to this Harvest Moon is a stamina gauge. Before, your character would just stop for a moment and take a breath if he or she was tired, but now there is a bar at the bottom of the screen that decreases as you work during the day. If it happens to go all the way done, you pass out and end if in the doctor’s building and then you have to rest for the rest of the day. The problem is that it’s way too limiting. The gauge can grow bigger if you get certain berries, but at the beginning of the game it’s too small and your bad quality tools drain it easily. If it gets really low you have two options: get some food to replenish it or end your day. Obviously, the latter might be a little inconvenient, but usually trying to fish will drop the gauge to 0% and at the beginning, you might not be able to afford the food at the stores. It becomes less of a problem later in the game, when the gauge is bigger, and your new tools don’t drain it so easily, but at the beginning it’s a real chore.
There are many festivals in the game. Most of these consist of you having you donate something so the festival can actually take place, such as an egg for the Egg Festival, but most of these are pretty uninteresting. Others involve you having your farm animals compete against your rival’s farm animals. Most of these can’t be won at the beginning of the game, so there is lot of incentive to play through many years during the game. Then there are other festivals that involve you and somebody else of the opposite sex on a romantic date. These are usually pretty boring as only a couple of lines are said and then it’s over. Also, if you decide to marry the person you went on this date with, you’ll have to hear the same lines every year of the game.
Compared to A Wonderful Life, the graphics feel like a serious downgrade. The once rich and lavish textures aren’t there anymore and the game just doesn’t feel as immersive. The game looks as cutesy as ever, but that works too its advantage. Frame rate problems often occur when there are lots of things on screen and that becomes pretty annoying because situations like that often occur. The game sounds a little dated, too. The sound effects are good, but some things just seem so unrealistic. Things like how baby chickens and adult chickens both sound the same stands out a little and considering things like this weren’t in the previous Harvest Moon game makes you wonder a little. The music for the most part is good. Some songs just don’t fit in, though.
Though it's not packing the biggest presentational punch, Harvest Moon: Magical Melody delivers the solid addictive gameplay that has been come to be expected from the series for a while now. Sure, it can get a little annoying at times, but it still has a load of things to do that will ensure that you will be playing it for countless amount of hours, and any Harvest Moon veteran or a newcomer with a lot of patience is sure to get a kick out of it.