Whatís that sound? It sounds like a parade is coming! Cows, chickens and horses galore, and even some new faces like zebras and lions make an appearance in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. The game is aptly named, because of all these animals, it really is a parade!
Animal Parade at first glance closely resembles Tree of Tranquility. It was built on the same engine as its predecessor; however, it is in no way the same game. Lots of new features have been added, and I would even go as far to say that it looks and feels better than ToT, even though I have not played it. ToT just didnít seem like a Harvest Moon I would like, although Animal Parade did!
Animal Parade is by far one of the best Harvest Moon games I have ever played. The storyline is much deeper and involved than in past games. In many of the other titles, you can do whatever you want and bypass the storyline until you felt like competing it. However, on Animal Parade, the storyline is necessary to obtain certain characters, items, and services you canít obtain any other way! For example, you will not be able to upgrade your tools unless you ring the Red bell, allowing fire to burn again.
As for the story, I really enjoyed the concept. It begins as any other HM game; you are riding on a horse-drawn wagon to a new town to begin a life of farming. However, this time you have a companion for your journey, a little harvest sprite named Finn! He is the equivalent of Navi in Zelda, and just as annoying. You can ask him for help, but he really offers no good advice. Finn was created by the Harvest Goddess to find someone to help her, because the Goddess Tree is dying. As a consequence, the life has been sucked from Castanet IslandÖthe wind wonít blow, crops wonít grow, fire wonít burn, the boats arenít running, and even the people, animals, and fish are upset. Many have left the island due to the bad shape itís in. This is where you come in! Itís up to you to bring life back to the land! How, you ask? You must ring the five elemental bells that correspond to each element. They are: Green for wind, Blue for water, Yellow for Earth, Red for fire, and Purple for heart! After this feat, the Harvest Goddess will then be able to summon the Harvest King to bring life back to the land!
The graphics in this game are really pretty and cute. Crops and grasses actually sway in the wind, and the characters are really detailed and nicely done. The scenery is pretty, although not incredibly impressive. One interesting fact I found is that characters change their outfits depending on season. They will wear one outfit in Spring and Summer, then change to warmer clothes in Fall and Winter! You can also change your clothes, a feature borrowed from ToT. The possibilities for your wardrobe are virtually endless, as there are an overwhelming number of outfits, hats, scarves, and jewelry to mix and match!
The choices for marriage candidates are impressive as well. There are 10 for each a male and female player. This may lead to some tough decisions! I personally struggled with whom I would choose for my first gameís mate. I had a tough time deciding between the artist, Julius, the carpenter, Luke, and the chef, Chase! I tried courting all three, but as I got more hearts, this became impossible as they got jealous of each other! I will offer a tip: Do NOT go on a date with two or three different characters. They will hate you and hate each other if you do. If you are at all interested, I chose Julius. I like his hair. And heís an artist. <3
There is also the option to have not one, but two children! The best part is you can choose their personality and gender! I really like this, as daughters are a rare implement in any harvest moon game. For the longest time, you could only have a son, so this is a big plus for me! Another neat thing is that your child and spouse no longer sit around and look pretty; you can now assign them farm work and get them to help out!
Another thing I liked is that animals come in different colors, and they threw in some new animals! Now you may have a brown cow, a black cow, or a black goat or grey horse! And instead of the classic chickens, cows, and sheep, you can now raise silkworms, ostriches, ducks and goats. Plus, you can ride any animal besides the chickens, ducks and silkworms, since they are obviously too small and you would probably end up squishing them. Each animal has a different speed and any can compete in races!
You may also have pets, and not just a dog or cat. Any wild animal you meet can become your pet if you get enough hearts. This means you can have a bear, penguin, even a snake or panda for pets if you so wish! There are at least 24 different animals to choose from!
Crops are also abundant in Animal Parade. You can grow coffee beans (I love this since Iím a little caffeine addict in real life!), several types of flowers, and virtually any veggie or fruit you can imagine! Do you want pumpkins? Cherries? Honeydew? How about rice or buckwheat? No problem! This game has pretty much everything.
The music is typical of any HM game, although I really enjoy the sound track in this game. However, there are a few tracks that I cannot stand. For example, the Lower Garmon Mine song is so annoying; I refuse to go to that part of the mine. I do my mining elsewhere to avoid it.
An exciting feature of the game is Theodoreís Circus of Wonder! If you played any past games, you may remember Theodore as the Mayor of Flower Bud Village. Well, he now runs a circus on the side. Apparently, his animals have gone missing, and he leaves the task to locate them in your gentle, animal loving, and capable hands. If you help him out, he will help you out. Not to mention you get to meet some pretty cool animalsÖlike zebras, lions, and even hippos and elephants! His circus comes around every season, and plays a big part in the game. Plus, everyone loves the circus. At least there are no clowns.
One drag about the game is the loading times. Any time you go in a building, or enter a different area, the screen goes black, loads, the name of the building or district appears, then loads some more, then the name vanishes, and a few seconds later you may move again. This is really annoying as you must wait any time you go anywhere for the place to load. There are also lag problems in some areas and frame issues throughout the game. These problems are not severe enough to prohibit you from playing, although they can be mildly annoying.
The camera angels are also really annoying. As you walk around, the camera angle will change, sometimes in front of your character, sometimes behind, and sometimes right over head! I tried in vain when I firsts picked it up to change the angle, but itís impossible. The camera will angle where it wants, and you canít do anything about it. I hated this at first, but you will soon become used to it.
I have not had this happen, but there are increasing cases of the Missing Child Glitch, where your children are said to simply vanish. Nobody knows what causes it; it does not appear to be your gender, choice of spouse, or gender of child. I am afraid of this glitch, and really wish Natsume would listen up and fix it. I really hope it does not happen on my game, as there are few ways to prevent it and none of them foolproof. This is the single worst thing about this game, although it wouldnít be Harvest Moon without some annoying glitches!
They have also added an annoying inconvenience in this installment. No longer can you dig up ores and simply refine your tools. You must dig up the ore; refine the ore into usable material, HOPE is does not turn out to be useless, and then refine your tool. For example, if you refine a gold ore, it MIGHT become gold, but more often than not it will be useless scrap metal. I really donít like this, it is very inconvenient and unnecessary, as finding the ore and paying to upgrade a tool is a challenge itself.
Despite a few kinks and the occasional frame glitch and missing children, this is one of the best Harvest Moon games I have ever played. I love the ability to change clothes and your home interior, love the character designs, and most of all love the wide range of animals the game offers. I would say that Animal Parade combines some of the best features from all past Harvest Moon games, and is definitely worth a try from any HM fan!