Fantasy Harvest Moon
Coming from a Harvest Moon background, I didn't know what to expect when I ordered this game. When I ordered it, it seemed to be just a different style of Harvest Moon game. I've actually never played the Rune Factory series before this one. My expectations were in the middle. I figured it would have a bit of some nostalgia to it and then be relieved out of the PlayStation 3 shortly after. Before I begin this review, I'd like you to know where I'm coming from on this game. I'm reviewing this for people who may be interested in it because they liked the Harvest Moon series before, or just wanted a general idea of what to expect.
Like Harvest Moon, the game is setup on a time limit per day with four basic seasons, all at 30 days. You start out by naming your character. The difference here is you star as two characters, male and female. You have to play as both throughout the entire game but mostly you'll play as a he guy until the end. There's more of a story in Tides of Destiny than in most of the Harvest Moon games I played. For example, the first 30 minutes of the game are spent with story and back story of your island and the "trip" afterward. Right after the intro, you'll encounter a similar feature from Harvest Moon: introductions to all the villagers and where different shops are located. That was always fun, right?
You have a house (which can be upgraded) where you'll save your game using a journal. You'll have a bed time and breaking that bed time will cause you to become sick and pass out after a certain time. They changed the formula up form Harvest Moon a bit after those basic features. Instead of the need to visit the blacksmith in the town for tool upgrades, you can do all of this at your house - after some minor upgrades to the basic structure you have. Crafting is one of the several skills that you'll skill up in the game. Skilling up doesn't really give you anything, but it does make it easier to do certain things. (We'll cover skills in a moment.). Other upgrades to the house is the ability for crafting gifts, creating potions, toys, and even baking full meals. Cooking actually matters a lot in this game, which is a bit different than the Harvest Moon series.
Sadly, there's no more television in your house. It was sort of pointless to have one anyway. Since the game does have anime segments throughout the story, it would be nice to have a few goofy things to watch or actually watch a weather forecast.
The town is setup just like Harvest Moon. There's a mayor, a drunkard, some children, a priest, merchants, and of course, the lovely brides-to-be and grooms-to-be. The only different I encountered between Harvest Moon and Tides of Destiny is the lack of sadness that can occur. For example, in Harvest Moon 64, Elli's grandmother can die after so long. Some girls, if not befriended by a certain date, will leave your village and never return. It's sort of sad to see them disappear when you could have done something to prevent it. No worries in Tides of Destiny! Everyone will stay on the island, no matter how many times you'll see Electra say she wants to leave. I think it would have been nice to see certain events happen within the story to bring an emotional end to a certain character if conditions were not met.
As I stated before, you have skills. Tons of skills. I haven't even uncovered all the skills (normally, they're ??? out until you discover the initial skill). There's a skill for walking, jumping, combat, cooking, crafting, planting, fishing, and that list doesn't cover hardly any of it. Not all the skills serve a true point. Jumping to skill level 99 (the max level) doesn't allow me to jump higher or further. Most of the skills that are important that do matter relate to combat, cooking, crafting and fishing. For example, leveling up your axe play will allow you to use different combat attacks. Cooking skill levels allow you to cook higher end items and have an easier time with cooking overall.
Combat is one thing I really wasn't expecting to do. I saw there was combat, but I thought maybe it was an optional thing. It breaks up the flow of just farming, and of course, is not found in Harvest Moon. The game is very combat heavy based. I actually think I spent more time fighting than just farming toward the end of the game. The combat isn't the best either. Once you figure out of a certain move that does enough splash damage, you'll basically spend 9/10ths of the time spamming that attack until things die. You'll literally only pressing one, rarely two, buttons to fight. Since there is combat, there's also boss battles you have to win to move on. The boss fights are tough, too. I normally only use melee weapons but it really felt like you're forced to fight bosses using magic and the help of creatures you catch.
Since this game is similar to Harvest Moon, it wouldn't be complete without mentioning the farming and animal husbandry. While you do have the ability to harvest several different types of vegetables, the way you do it is not much like Harvest Moon in any shape or form. You have different islands (Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter), all but Winter Island allowing you to plant crops. Winter Island is used for harvesting minerals. They all function the same though. You have a magic wand and you wave it over pieces of land on your islands to plant seeds. To unlock more land to plant in on each island, you have to You have unlimited seeds and you never have to worry about taking care of your plants. That's where catching monsters comes into play.
You catch monsters (by rubbing them with a brush during battle) and depending on the monster you catch, that determines the plants or minerals they'll grow for you. Since you'll be traveling from island to island harvesting whatever crops you've grown, it really helps that they've included a giant knapsack and storing bin on each island. Instead of having to hit a 6PM appointment each night to sell, you can just run over to a local shop and sell all the stuff you've collected. Money is never far off either. I had my entire house upgraded by the end of Summer of my first year.
There's also a good chunk of the game exploring the open sea. In Japan, this game is called Rune Factory: Oceans. That makes sense given all the ocean you'll be exploring. You explore the land using a giant golem you find. You'll have to do a bit of cheap fighting on it, but it's nothing too annoying. One good thing is that most of the exploring is linear once someone gives you a map to a hidden island. You'll follow a path and lift it on your giant beastly golem, throw it down for a new place to play around on or just for a temporary treasure hunt.
Really, there's only a couple of things I wish they'd change up. The way to story progresses is very confusing. There were several instances in which I had no idea how to continue due to not fulfilling certain requirements on my current quest. Side quest are usually no problem, but the main story progression is really difficult unless you are really paying attention. Aside from the story progression, the town needed a bit more emotion than just friendship in love. It needed a bit of pain with the characters. Maybe a few more characters would have been nice too.
Oh, and if you're playing on the PlayStation 3 and care about Trophies, be prepared to spend hours playing. I'm well past 100 hours and haven't caught the 2000 fish yet, just as an example. It would have really helped to include a tracking device in the game. I really have no idea how many monsters or fish I've caught but for the past 10 hours of my gameplay, I've done nothing but grind...
The graphics aren't too bad for this style of game (if played on the PlayStation 3, at least). They're anime and flat, but they're not really bad. They're just a little behind the times. However, there's hardly ever a load time so I can sacrifice a little bit of graphic for that. The voice acting, when it's presented, is surprisingly great. I wasn't expecting any voice acting but the people that did the voice overs did a really great job.
TL;DR: Great Harvest Moon-style game for fans of the series, just be prepared for some drastic changes.