Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness (DS)


Is it really a happy island or is it an island of of tedium and doom? Read on.

Story: You play either a boy or a girl (your choice) who has decided to leave the big city and settle on a less populated island. Not much is said about this, I'm wondering if overpopulation has just gotten that bad. Anyway, while at sea, you hit a bad storm and the boat sinks, leaving you and a family on a deserted island that once used to be a bustling town. (No one seems to question why the old man in charge is perfectly happy with this arrangement, nor does anyone ask how people find this island immediately after you've landed....They just know you're there and so is business...anyway). So you end up somewhere unexpected but decide to set up shop. The old man with a family gives you the ranch because 20 year olds can obviously run a ranch by themselves with no obvious hint of skills. But then again, this is a Harvest Moon game, and you're probably not playing it for a deeply engrossing story. So we'll accept these little plotholes and accept that there is some form of reasoning for being on this farm and trying to get people to move into your town. 3/5

The harvest moon games aren't known for great audio. There are 4 or 5 basic songs that get recycled. You probably will tune them out within minutes of hearing them. 2/5

Like audio, harvest moon does not invest heavily into graphics. In this game you get individualized main characters with anime faces and different expressions, and recolored subcharacters. The environments are pretty decent. But nothing amazing. 3/5

I'm not a huge fan of games that make use of the stylus, mostly because I find that they screw it up somehow. Harvest moon does a very unique blend of stylus and button control. In actuality you might never touch the buttons, but they do seem to speed things up. movement is handled completely with the stylus. You can set your tools or items to one of four directional buttons and the corresponding buttons on both the directional pad and the ABXY to use these. It takes some getting used to, but it somehow works. The traditional staples of harvest moon remain. You are to farm to earn money and woo someone into marriage. However, island of happiness adds some new elements. First off, you start off on the island with only a handful of people. In order to get more you have to fulfill certain often, mine, develop blocked off areas of the map, etc. This will brings in both main characters (those you really want to interact with) and subcharacters (those you don't care about except for the two that will teach you how to cook but you still need to have a good score). With the huge cast of townspeople, there is a lot more villager schmoozing that needs to be done to keep them all happy. For each gender there are 7 marriagable options, 5 with rivals and 2 without. Get them to love you and you can get cutscenes to learn more about them. Some new features are the wonderfuls, which are stones you can attach to your tool to make them stronger and cost less stamina. These, however, are incredibly hard to come by. My biggest gripe about the gameplay from past harvest moon games is the mine. You now lose stamina for dropping down pitfalls, and it is insanely difficult to make it down the floors. There are a total of 255 by the way. Until you can cook some really elite meals there is no way to make it down a decent length, although if you reach a certain point you can mine ore used to make accessories to boost your stats. Also, there is a new light/balance system for your crops. Each phase of crop growth needs a certain amount of water and light to continue. It is entirely possible to never successfully grow a crop in a season because you do not receive enough light. Other than that, and the constant needing to talk to people so they won't leave, the game play is really well done. 4/5

I think the game has some good replay possibilities. You can be the opposite gender, or go for a different marriage partner. Maybe not destroy all your crops in a season because of this new light/water balance system. 4/5

The game is worth picking up if you're a harvest moon fan. It's cute, and fun, and challenging. Of course if you don't like farming, fishing, and wooing, then you're better off with another game. 4/5