If you remember correctly, last time I played a Harvest Moon game I said the series would have one more chance to redeem itself before I swore it off entirely. Harvest Moon: DS was that chance – it failed miserably. We’re back in Forget-Me-Not Valley with all of the exact same characters from A Wonderful Life, with the notable exception (praise Jesus) of Tartan. In this game you can marry Flora and Lumina in addition to the three girls from AWL, plus there are four “secret” potential brides: a mermaid, a lovely cave dweller, a witch princess, and the Harvest Goddess. As in all the previous games, you are a man, since I guess the idea of making a town with at least one male character who isn’t unacceptably aged or hideous (usually both) is beyond Natsume. Ahem.
Let’s start with the good things, because I’m forced to admit that there are some serious improvements over the Gamecube version (because honestly, this is just an expanded version of AWL). One example would be that each bag of seeds contains nine seeds instead of just one, and that vining plants will keep producing fruit if you keep watering them. Another vast improvement is the ability to view recipes for unlocked dishes, though this is kind of counteracted by the fact that it takes forever to cook one dish in the game, even after you’ve unlocked it. You select it from the menu, you hit cook, you cook it, then it says the stats which of course are identical to the recipe you used, then a new screen wherein you have to keep the “new” recipe or the “old” one (note they’re identical still), you select keep old recipe or new since it doesn’t matter, now you’re holding the dish, finally. Another good thing is that you can hire the Harvest Sprites to work for you, which is very helpful, and the easy/fun casino games (matching, poker, blackjack) make it easy to earn the metals they require for payment. Of course until you’re nice to them they’re pretty lazy, so bribe them early and in person (you can leave them gifts but it doesn’t seem to do much). The dual screens are great for the huge amount of menus that a Harvest Moon game inevitably has, so that’s a colossal improvement thanks to the beauty of the DS system alone. What else? Oh, the mermaid is pretty, I like her, and there’s a new mine area in the archaelogical site that’s potentially enjoyable, though I don’t enjoy it myself. That’s about it.
Things that are wrong with the game range from the rather sad character art (through the sprites on screen are cute), to the ease with which you can throw an item to the ground instead of handing it to the person you’re standing in front of, to the fact that the little accident I just mentioned causes everyone in the whole town to like you just a tiny bit less, to the superfluous and irritating horse, to the massive freezing glitch that they didn’t bother fixing when they ported it. Yeah, the freezing glitch, because a game about farming is the kind of thing you’re likely to save every five minutes. Well you know what? You have to, because every time you enter or leave an area there’s a good chance the game will freeze, my personal record is six times in a half an hour, and it’s a universal problem effecting all the games. You can pet animals with the touch screen, which is pretty clever, but the animals are fairly goofy looking and petting animals is amazingly boring after the first 100 or so times. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a way to easily seperate one item in your inventory from a stack of, oh say, 20, which is really aggravating because the default is to hand the entire stack to who ever you’re probably just trying to give one to. Another problem is that the game, and this is something, isn’t easy, and sandbox games are supposed to be pretty simple, the beauty of them is in their execution. The “books” that you use as tutorials really aren’t helpful and it’s easy to go the whole game without figuring out some pretty important things. I’m under the impression that Natsume really has quality control issues and, frankly, I’m shocked the game is getting good reviews from Harvest Moon fans. I mean, I adored Save the Homeland and I made my way through A Wonderful Life, but this game is just wretched! There’s endless repetition, lots of inefficient use of menus, no versatility with the touch screen (you must use both the stylus and traditional controls), and still not enough to “do” in the game to make it fun for the amount of time you simply have to put into it to get anything close to what you’d call an “ending” out of it.
There you have it, I’m sad I had to pan the game and I’m sure people will disagree with me, but regardless Natsume isn’t getting another dime from me. Below are some tips that I’ve come up with for people new to the game, things that almost certainly should have been in the instruction booklet. If you decide to play, good luck, my advice would be to wait a few months and get a copy of it used for $5, because that’s about all it’s going to cost soon.
Early tips …
– The game freezes a lot, especially when walking into/out of buildings, so save often.
– No one will like you if you litter at all, this includes weeds and the items you accidentally drop trying to give them to someone.
– I inexplicably got 33 million G in the game o__O the only thing I can figure is that selling the photos that the Witch Princess gives you (for littering, none the less) are very valuable. I would love for someone to confirm this, maybe it’s a glitch?
– To get the kitchen, upgrade the house once and buy every item you can on Sprite Channel 2, the kitchen and the accessories you need to cook will show up (eventually).
– To get the fishing pole visit Galen (the old man) without any tools equipped.
– To unlock mines go to the dig site (the actual cave) between 9 and 11 PM, when you reach the bottom of the mine you will be able to unlock the next. Mine 1 is 10 floors, mine 2 is 255 (I believe).
– You can build fences by dropping processed building materials (ie: chopped wood) on the ground (soil part of your farm).
– The “Maker Shed” stores machines like the cheese maker (maybe I’m just slow but when I first saw this I was like, “What the hell is a Maker Shed?!”).
– To plant mushrooms in the mushroom shed you need to buy the seeds from Vesta, then put a piece of chopped wood on the crate, then sow the mushroom seeds, and water. To get bigger mushrooms keep watering them after you could potentially harvest them.