Why You Should Play Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
Harvest Moon is one of the most long-standing simulation franchises in gaming. The series has seen several popular entries released across the years and even some spin offs. The thing about this series is that it has an extremely addictive formula made out of a simple idea of running a farm. While we haven’t had any home console releases for the series in a few years Sony has decided to put two of the games on the PlayStation Store. These two are A Wonderful Life and Back to Nature. A Wonderful Life is argued by fans to be the best game in the series. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at why you should pick up this gaming classic.
The story of this Harvest Moon games starts out when your father dies and you inherit a farm. Here you are taken in and guided by your father’s old friend Takakura who lives in your farm. He will give you some of your first animals and take your shipments over to the city to be sold for money. He also gives you advice on how to successfully run your business. While your farm may not be the greatest when you first arrive you are given a lot of land to work with and some seeds to start you off.
Next, Takakura takes you into town to introduce you to all the villages. The main character receives a warm welcome and even meets some available bachelorettes in the area. The town isn’t fully grown to start with, but that will change as your farm grows bigger and bigger. The brunt of your first year spent farming will be trying to woo a marriage partner to spend your life with and save up enough money to get a good herd of animals or a nice garden going to make money off of. Your house will be expanded naturally in this entree each year to accommodate your growing family.
After you make it through the first few years you will have a child that you can raise. You can make friends with the villagers around you and give your kid certain items to influence what they will grow up to be like. A Wonderful Life takes you all the way into old age and lets you watch as the village around you grows as well. It’s a really interesting game in the fact that not many titles let you live out a full life as your character outside of things like the Sims.
This game is all about the connections you make and the story you decide to tell with your main character’s life. You aren’t restricted to playing any certain way and are encouraged to live out the life you most wish too. While there are story elements you aren’t really forced to go after any path other than the fact you have to get married and will age as time goes on. If a path seems interesting to you then follow it, if it doesn’t then you can just ignore it.
The mechanics of this game are mostly simple. You will be given a few crops to start with and a cow. You can use these items to make money to buy even more seeds and more animals to increase your profits. If you don’t like the aspect of farming to much you can do other things to make money like mining or fishing. This title in the series is way more focused on relationships then giving you a lot of ways to make money. The core farm mechanics, on the other hand, have a lot of work put into them and are quite amazing.
In this game, you can do things such as get farm equipment to make hybrid plants to grow. Hybrid plants will net you a larger income but can be tricky to learn to make at first. Animals can also grow sick randomly so you will always need to keep extra food and medicine on hand just in case anything goes wrong at the barn. You can also buy machines to make wool and other items out of the things you harvest from your animals.
There are also days when you can sell items in a flea market type setting to passing villagers. You can even choose if you want to be kind and give items for a discount to people you like. Special shops open up on certain days as well. Each season brings different festivals into town that you can enjoy with your lover. While these aren’t as prominent as in other Harvest Moon game they are very well integrated with the overall themes of the game.
As for relationship building you can give villagers one gift a day and talk to them to increase their affection towards you. In a Wonderful Life, the villagers have a three heart system and it takes quite a bit to get each rank. The closer you get with everyone the more options will be opened up to you and the more cutscenes you can trigger throughout town. The only way to get certain items or recipes is by getting close to the villagers in the game to expand the main character’s knowledge.
The characters are my favorite part of the Harvest Moon games. Each town has it’s very own unique character with their own personality traits. It’s very easy to get attached to some of these NPC’s or even see yourself being actual friends with them. They all are given the same amount of detail and story presence making them all worth getting to know. A lot of times you can even end up hating a Harvest Moon character at the beginning, but their character growth will bring you to like them by the end of your friendship.
A Wonderful Life features many characters that you can grow to love or hate like Moe the homeless man. Moe is a guy who wanders around begging for money and at times will even try to steal food from you. If you get to know him you will learn he has a pretty sad backstory and honestly just wants to make it back home. It’s these little details that help really put life into this world.
When it comes to the Bachelorette each one has a different personality for you to pick from. Each girl has different hopes and dreams for you to explore. Their personalities go from sweet to extremely outgoing. You do have to watch out though as some other villagers might just try to get close to the girl you are going for. Make sure to pay extra special attention to who you want to marry during the first year. If you don’t then you will default into whoever you talked to the most and nobody wants to default.
Remember that the characters around you will age throughout the years meaning they will grow older and change. With each passing year, the villager’s lives will change as well as their appearance and dialogue. Make sure you are friendly with everyone to get the full effect of growing up with them in your game. Some characters will move into town or out as the years go by making you miss or gain a change to make a new friend and gains special items.
A Wonderful Life had one of the first worlds as a kid that I felt was alive. This meaning that all the NPC’S acted like actual people on their way to do actual things. When playing Harvest Moon you find out that all of the different villagers have different schedules that they follow depending on the day and what exactly is going on in town. A rainy day can alter their whole plan and make them stay indoors while a sunny day may bring them out for shopping.
Everyone moves around you doing their own thing whether you feel like going out or not. The seasons change villagers grow closer or more apart from each other. Everyone has a story in the village that you can experience just by walking around doing your everyday tasks. Takes notes and memorize where you favorite villagers like to spend there time. No two days will be completely the same in the world of Harvest Moon.
A Wonderful Lifes world really feels like it’s moving around you instead of for you. This takes the game to an extra level of depth that wasn’t common in the days of the PS2. This is brought to light once again with the remaster. While you can use a guide to figure out everyone’s patterns it’s much more fun to just learn as you go. Playing A Wonderful Life like it was originally intended to be played adds an extra layer of life to the game’s world.
Art and Music
The village in a Wonderful life has a very European overtone that is beautifully designed. Everything about the games art makes it feel even more inviting. The season changes all look very attractive especially in the winter when the snow appears on the ground. The music in the game is top notch as well and always fits the mood. This game may have aged some since it’s release, but it has kept its charm after all this time.
The characters in the game are chibi models, but the main artwork for them is all very detailed. Nothing in the game looks out of place or feels like it doesn’t belong. The animals are drawn to be more cute than realistic, but they match the looks of the characters well. The buildings are probably the most realistic looking things in the game. If you are looking for something realistic then the world of Harvest Moon probably isn’t for you.
This game is still a masterpiece in its own right and will only cost you a grand total of $14.99 on the PlayStation 4 store. It worth a pickup if you’ve never played an entree in the Harvest Moon series or are a fan of Stardew Valley. While it may not have some of the most up to date features it’s a very touching experience that most gamers should enjoy. The gameplay is still just as addicting as the day it came out and none of the characters have even started to lose their charm.
If you are looking for something close to the core series remember that Back to Nature is available for the same price. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are looking for a Farming Simulator type game though. If you haven’t played Stardew Valley then I highly recommend checking out that title as well thanks to its deep story aspects. Either way you are bound to fall in love with farming in at least one of these great titles!