Wake up! Time to work!
Harvest Moon as a series isn’t for everyone. If you’re a gamer that’s addicted to non-stop action, a cut-throat atmosphere, online death-matches, and continual ‘flipping & dodging’- you probably have zero interest in the farm-life simulation that is Harvest Moon. On the other hand- if you have a far-reaching attention span, enjoy building friendships with video game characters, appreciate the subtle progress of building something up from scratch (in this case a farm and fortune), and you love animals- Harvest Moon is for you!
Last year Marvelous and Natsume released Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. Harvest Moon camps were split on the game. Half saw it as the brilliant culmination of everything they loved about the series in one very full package. The other half viewed it as more of a Harvest Moon title that did everything right- just nothing different or new to the series. The split is very similar to that of Zelda fans toward 06’s ‘Twilight Princess’. The game itself is extremely impressive- but it can’t escape the moniker of ‘definitive version’- as opposed to something new to marvel at and appreciate. 2009’s Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is going to have its predecessor’s problem. This Wii exclusive is a masterpiece in the series that you should not miss!
First tasks of the day!
Just looking around the latest HM entry gives you an idea of just how polished the game is. In much the same way that Rune Factory: Frontier received a heavy polish and attention to detail, HM: Animal Parade shines as a game that developers created as a labor of love. It may lack the abundant RPG elements and anime style that RF: Frontier had, but Animal Parade has something else to offer. Freedom.
At the start you are free to select either a male or female character. You’re also given the choice of playing as the Tree of Tranquility boy or girl, if you like. Furthermore you’ll find more customizable clothing and accessories for your characters before. Yet this is not where the freedom I mentioned exists.
That freedom has always existed in the series, but not to this extent. The game gives you a wealth of options early in the game that usually don’t become available until later. But, in order to take advantage of these possibilities, you’ll need two things… A cunning mind and money.
What to do with my hard earned money?
You could say that it is a common trait for the Harvest Moon series to offer that freedom to its players. However in no game before AP has it been so apparent. Your daily tasks are yours to fulfill at your discretion. Water the corn, plant some watermelons, or go see what the cows are doing- all while making the most of your limited time. All the while you’re juggling your stamina and keeping an eye on how much money you spend. The parameters are there, but their existence not only makes sense- but they only limit you where you want them to be. Don’t understand?
Let’s say your latest turnip harvest has netted you an extra chunk of cash. You can let it jingle around in your pocket while you save up for a nice upgrade or perhaps some better tools, but you could also spring for another chicken. But wait! Save for a few more days and you could have enough for a cow! Hold on- if you’re interested, now could be the time to purchase some food to keep you on your toes longer. What do you do?
Do you blow it on a chicken which is cheaper than the cow and will give you some steady egg-based income? Eggs aren’t worth as much as milk, so would you be better off waiting and investing in a cow? Maybe you have enough for two chickens- are those two eggs a day worth it? What if you put your money toward some better tools? That’ll save you some stamina and get things done faster- thus netting you a greater income. Then again, you could save up and buy an add-on for your farm- valuable in itself. Why not go the cheap way and just snatch up some stamina-recovering food? Maybe? Maybe not?
To succeed at Harvest Moon, you need a mind for multi-tasking and business. If you’re terrible at games that require subtle choices that impact you directly and indirectly in the future- you’ll fall pretty hard in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. Those of you that enjoy linear gaming experience that only require quick fingers instead of a quick wit- you’ll be disappointed too. Harvest Moon: AP is for the thinking and patient.
Middle of the day. Time to seek out admirers!
Marvelous went all out in family life for Animal Parade. Another favorite feature to the HM games is the ability to get married to a person of your choice and start a family. In AP, your number of potential brides/husbands is a whopping ten on both sides. The potential spouses are all varied and likeable.
If you’re a girl you might find yourself charmed by Jin the doctor’s maturity and know-how. Perhaps you prefer woodsman Luke’s spirited attitude and cocky nature. Then again love might be waiting for you with the dopy fisherman, Toby. The bachelors are all appealing in their own ways- though some have less interesting traits than others. Options like Calvin and Owen are going to be harder to sway female players considering their more understated personalities. It would have been nice to see a few less stereotypes for the male candidates. Flamboyant guy (Julius) and conceited guy (Gill) were a hard sell in Tree of Tranquility- that hasn’t changed in Animal Parade.
For you male HM: AP players, you’ve got quite the selection. You can choose from the ever-hungry Maya- if you don’t mind a potential weight gain once she’s wearing that wedding ring. Maybe you’ll fall for the allure of Selena the dancer. There’s always the shy, reclusive Candace. There are a few ‘duds’ in the mix- who the heck would want to marry that brat Luna?
As a bonus, males have the option of marrying the Witch or Harvest Goddess- girls have the potential to marry the Harvest King for the Wizard. On an interesting note, should you pass up marriage with one of the other options- you may soon be hearing wedding bells for your rival. That’s right! If you pass up Luke, he’ll be jumping the broom with Selena and eventually having a kid. Poor Gill- that leaves him Luna. Don’t want your rival to succeed? Marry the lover of his/her eyes! Take Phoebe away from Calvin! She’ll be your little archeologist!
Speaking of weddings, for the first time you have the ability to have two children now! No longer are you forced to decide between a boy and girl. Awesome, no?
Time to hit the hay…
I could go on and on about the addictive features of Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. In terms of additions to the game, there’s a Wifi element I haven’t gotten the chance to try, a photo feature, a greater range of dialogue, more festivals, new plants to grow, a longer main game, more potential spouses, more refined controls, a greater variety of pets, and so much more! Don’t miss out on Animal Parade- this is the Harvest Moon fans have been hoping for. Be careful though- this game has that ‘maybe one more hour, then I’ll sleep’ effect on people! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go feed my chickens and give Anissa some flowers.