For the first HM to be released on the DS, I wasn’t sure what to expect. How would they use the touch screen? What new characters would appear? What about the graphics? Unfortunately, what I got was, even keeping in mind the company behind this game, something substandard.
The story starts off with you, the lazy female farmer who can’t get motivated to do any work. The Harvest Goddess comes to you and pleads with you to work the farm, which results in her getting into an argument with the Harvest King. Being the mature deity she is, the Goddess calls the Harvest King a “Big baldy” which her loyal sprites echo. Getting upset, the Harvest King banishes her, along with her sprites, to another world. This is where you come in. Blaming yourself for this mishap, you must now work the farm and rescue the sprites, in hopes of bringing back the Goddess.
Instead of any new characters, the game uses the same characters and even the same world from Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life. But wait! It is set 100 years in the future, making it slightly different…right? Not really. Even if they are descendants from the original Another Wonderful Life characters, their stories are very much the same.
The graphics are also severely disappointing. If you compare the graphics of this game with the last handheld title, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, what would you see? The exact same thing. Meaning, this game appears as if it would belong on the Gameboy Advance console. It is quite disappointing that nobody bothered to improve the graphics to match the DS’ capabilities. Even though the game is set in the world from the Gamecube’s installment, it still feels like I’m replaying Friends of Mineral Town.
That’s not to say it has a few perks, making it more interesting than its Gamecube clone. You may now shop via phone at the Mineral Town stores, accessing shops such as Karen’s Supermarket, Saibara’s Blacksmith, and Yodel Ranch. This would be a welcome attraction for anyone who loved the Mineral Town games. Also, if you pop in your copy of either Mineral Town game, you may access the bachelors from Mineral Town, making them marriage candidates! The only downside is that they will only appear one day out of the week. If you look at it from a different perspective, it may seem as if it combines the best of both games.
To rescue the harvest sprites, which are essential to finishing the story of the game, you sort of have to do a little bit of everything. It can be as simple as filling your watering can, or as challenging as raising 20 chickens! There are 101 sprites in all, and saving 60 of them will bring back the Goddess. Each sprite belongs to a specific team, and they will be willing to help you once you save them. These teams can fish, water crops, brush animals, collect lumber, or even restore your stamina, giving any player more motivation to save these annoying little guys.
The game play is exactly like the original Harvest Moon DS, but this game has been “fixed up” as compared to its male counterpart. No longer can you glitch the game to earn 1 billion gold, or risk your save file freezing on the load screen, breaking the game. Lots of those bugs have been fixed, making this game recommended over the other. The only downside is you can be a female player only, and get to choose from the blonde Claire player from Mineral Town or the brunette Pony player from Another Wonderful Life. To do this, you must answer a series of questions. The male players get the short end of the stick here, either having to suffer through Harvest Moon: DS Glitch or play as a girl. If only they could fix the typos and text errors.
This is what you would expect of a Harvest Moon game. You may grow crops, raise animals, mine, fish, court a village boy, or do anything else you wish (within reason). These activities are not without their hindrances, though. You remember from any other game, the terror a summer storm or winter blizzard bring? They are far worse here. Such as, you can build an inexpensive barn out of straw. However, it can collapse, during a storm or on just a regular rainy day, burying your animals under 11 tons of grass, killing them all. Even if you build your barn out of sturdy wood (as I did) this can still occur. For an aspiring farmer, this is disheartening news. The game teaches you quickly the importance of watching the weather closely to keep your livestock safe.
There is also a fun little mini game you can play with something called a "pet glove". Using this item, you can spend some quality time with your animals, petting them and giving them lots of love. If you equip a milker, shears, or brush, you can also interact with your animals using the pet glove to manually milk, shear, or wash your animals.
As opposed to Another Wonderful Life, there is so much more for you to do. There are plenty of new festivals to attend, which mimic those found in Friends of Mineral Town. The game has also upgraded your choice of lovely men to court, including Rock, Gustafa and Marlin from Another Wonderful Life, adding in Carter and Griffin. They are a bit too old for my taste, but I know lots of girls who like them. Even better, they threw in a “secret” bachelor, named Skye. Everyone loves the sweet-talking thief, but he is of course, the hardest to win over.
I can’t say if this is a bad or a good Harvest Moon game. I enjoy the tiny DS world, even if the graphics and story are quite disappointing. It gives you more things to do than the past games, but at a greater cost (such as losing your barn to a storm). It all depends on what you like, as everyone’s feelings will be different. If you are a fan of great graphics and fantastic stories, this isn’t a game for you. However, if you want some inexpensive farming fun, go ahead and jump in, the water in Forget Me Not Valley is fine.