Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life was the second game in the massive Harvest Moon series that I ended up playing. The premise is that you’re kind of not doing too much with your life when you inherit your dad’s little farm, complete with farm hand, and you move to a cute little town full of odd people. During the first year you farm, build onto your house, and court one of the three eligible girls in town. Your choices are Celia, the girl next door, quite literally and figuratively, Nami, the tomboy drifter who doesn’t want to be tied down, and Muffy the barmaid, whose name really says it all. You farm, raise animals, fish, and network as much as you can in a place called Forget-Me-Not Valley. This is the premise of the game, pretty simple, eh?
When I started my first game I had some huge gender issues to begin with. First off, I was a man, which is irritating for perhaps obvious reasons, and second, I had to marry a girl who would have my baby and never leave the house. This upset me to no small degree and I really struggled to choose my potential bride. In fact, I wasn’t going to even buy the game until my friend told me you could grow strawberries in it, and since I’m very quirky I was drawn in by that. Now apparently later on they made A Wonderful Life for Girl, but I was all ready five (game) years into two games by then. Whatever! First I chose Celia since she seemed to not have a problem with being home all the time, but soon I became irritated by her massive subservience. At the five year mark I started the game over and married Nami who is adorable and who actually leaves the house at bizarre hours. The baby, as it turns out, watches himself and yes, it is always a boy. Once I clawed my way to the five year mark (on Herland farm) I was tired of playing and just kind of stopped, but then found myself with a renewed desire to power through the tediously long game in order to finish the review.
Yes, you heard me right, it’s tediously long. In fact when you’re growing a half field of fruits and veggies (70 crops) you will spend the entire game day watering them, tending to the animals, watering the plants again, putting the animals inside, and then it’s midnight. Then, there’s the freakishly elaborate hybrid plant system, which at first seems fun, and then makes you want to cry. In a feature that calls up images of Little Shop of Horrors and little else your farm hand is apparently concealing a giant, attention starved, two headed plant that can talk. He is named Tartan and he wants some attention. More importantly he can hybridize seeds, making them stronger, and producing dozens upon dozens of hybrid crop and tree varieties. You will spend literally hours (and not just a few) of your life dealing with the plant, and each little seed making scene is very long. It’s enough to drive a farmer to tears! If you are a completist this will be the longest part of the game for you, and the game is thirty years long (with ten playable years). The hybrids and double hybrids are worth it in a way, since they can look pretty cool, like the light bulb ones and the cat bell ones, plus you can name the double hybrids, making faqs hard but the game rather fun.
Here’s the catch though, if you’ve played your cards right by year two you are very rich and have absolutely nothing to buy at all, aside from fertilizer, so where’s the motivation to keep going? Everyone in town knows you, you have unlocked all the secret items, you have a large and successful farm, and eight years of nothing ahead of you. Crisis! I think it’s a major flaw in the game, that you only need money for year one, and there’s not even much to buy in town in the way of food. I love my animals, but they are a very tricky thing indeed, since a cow will only produce milk for so long. Additionally if you fill up your barn there’s a nasty glitch that can erase your game, so you need to keep one spot open at all times. You have a horse, but my horse, Hades, doesn’t like me that much, and I can’t figure out why. There’s a way to make your dog love you but that hasn’t happened either, you would think by year six the darn thing would be crazy about me, but no. I looked into training it because I heard that it can do some cool stuff, but all the faqs I’ve found basically read, “Dog: How do you get to train it?” and then on to the next section. You can get a goat, but once it stops producing milk there’s nothing you can do with it, and you can’t sell it, either, so the only way to get rid of it is to kill it, which I can’t bring myself to do. There are cute ducks, but I could only get them in my first game, despite doing the exact same steps towards getting them in my second game. There are cats but I can’t seem to bribe the person who has them enough to get one, and there’s a tiny dog that you have to spend your life digging up fossils to get, and even then you only get it near the end. Frustrating! Alas! The sheep in my first game was crazy about me though, it would follow me around and everything, which rocked.
Eventually in the game your kid grows up and you get old, this is something I have yet to witness, since I only got slightly more than halfway through the game. Why am I writing the review then? Because my game broke, and then I fixed it, and then I just couldn’t play anymore. Remember, I started playing again mostly to finish this review, but then I found the third major glitch of the game … my kitchen breaks. A major part of the game is cooking and my kitchen suddenly goes from fully operational to only able to handle soup and salad with no provocation. Since it’s comparable to the townspeople disappearing, I was rather upset, though I eventually figured out how to fix it. If it happens to you just start cooking, after 30 recipes everything will be fine again. After this glitch, however, I lost my will to play, so I won’t be finishing the game. I’m sure at some point down the line your kid will disappear entirely and you will only be able to talk to the creepy bear that’s in his room. The second glitch (the first being the barn one I all ready talked about) is if your Milking Room is built while there is a calf in the calf hutch the calf will “disappear.” You can’t see it at all but when you bring all the animals inside there’s suddenly a baby calf in the barn, the very place it is not supposed to be. You have to sell the calf to fix the glitch which is lame and a little sad. Another tiny glitch is that, if you marry Celia, the rug in your son’s room is missing, but it still makes the “rug noise” when you run over it.
I love farming games, which makes me a rare breed to begin with, but between the gender issues and the game glitching horribly hundreds of hours in, I’m not going to recommend this to anyone. Natsume is coming out with a new Harvest Moon soon and I’ll probably play it, but it will have to be bug free, and way better in general, because if it’s not I’m done with this series even though I really think it’s a great concept. Oh, and where’s the Harvest Goddess in this game? She was only about the best part of Save the Homeland. Whatever!
Reviewed on 07/16/05