The first Harvest Moon title to be released on the Playstation 2 was Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. This game seems to have set the stage for A Wonderful Life, as much of it is very similar. However, this installment of the game leaves something to be desired.
The game opens with the hero, which is you, coming to the homeland (the town has no other name, apparently) to collect your grandfatherís things from his old farm. That was your plan, anyway. Upon arrival, you meet three Harvest Sprites, Nik, Nak, and Flak. Once you notice them, they begin to discuss how the land will be leveled and turned into a theme park, the construction due in the coming year. The three little guys plead with you to save the homeland, and the Goddess appears to also request your help with this mission. Itís going to take lots of investigating and quite a few friendships to salvage the town. Can you save the homeland?
The sound in the game is very nice; I like the themes for each season. They are different from usual tunes you expect in Harvest Moon, and donít sound quite as monotonous as some. The graphics are also bright and colorful, with the characters standing out from the background. This kind of pop-art style might seem old due to the system it is on, but I like the style, and it suits a Harvest Moon game incredibly well, despite its age.
The point of any Harvest Moon game is farming, obviously. The farming in this game is a little half-baked. As far as crops go, you have potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and breadfruit. These four crop types can grow in any season, with potatoes producing one harvest and the other three giving many before withering. At least you donít have to worry about your crops dying due to seasonal changes, but the limited number of crops can get rather boring after a while of planting the same things. Whatís more, there is no way to upgrade your farmland or your watering can, so watering crops during the dry season can be very time-consuming and boring. Another annoying fact is that if you plant during the rainy season, the seeds may wash away!
For animals, you have only 3 choices here. In your coop, you may keep up to six chickens. In the barn, you have room for one horse and five cows. No sheep, no goats, no anything. Cows and chickens are all youíve got. You may also obtain a horse and a dog through game play, but getting either is not easy.
To fill the time you have between watering your four crops and taking care of your meager amount of animals, you may do several activities. One of my favorites is working part-time at Brownie Ranch. Here, you are given a milker and a brush, and the rancher, Bob, puts you outside in the pasture to brush and feed his animals. You get paid an hourly rate, which is not bad at the beginning. You also get to keep the milk you get from his cow! This isnít a bad way to waste time if thereís nothing else to do. If you obtain a fishing rod, you can also fish, but the first rod you are able to get takes some work to obtain, and even then you can only catch junk. To get a better rod, you have to work on completing one of the endings.
Speaking of endings, there are 9 you can complete. It is true that the game lasts for only one year, but you may reset and play back through to get each ending, while keeping your animals and items. The only thing that ďresetsĒ is your relationships. Unfortunately, they thought it would be too easy if you kept friendships...since they are the core of activating ending sequences. The endings can include anything from finding a blue bird, to going on a treasure hunt. Some would say the farming is lacking to leave time to work on these endings. Each has very specific criteria to follow in order to complete the sequence to get the ending. You must complete each sequence of the specific ending by the yearsí end to successfully complete the game!
This game has interesting weather patterns not seen in any other game. During each season, you will see days on the calendar marked in colors, red, blue, or yellow. The colors mean something, and they are essential to your success. Red indicates the dry season, where you can expect little to no rain. The blue obviously indicates the rainy season, with rain and storms likely. Yellow is mild, and can have any mix of rain or sun. Although it raining for a week straight is annoying when you have things to do that need sun, the new weather pattern makes the game feel different. It also can assure you get an even distribution of rain and sunshine each season.
Any Harvest Moon fan knows that there are extensions available for your house and often, your barn or chicken coop. Only two extensions exist in this game, being the kitchen (that slightly enlarges you house and adds a bathroom) and the dog house. Obviously, the kitchen comes with an oven, pot, and pan that you can use to cook meals to restore your stamina. The bathroom that comes with it can be used for the same purpose; either taking a bath or using the toilet will give you an energy boost. The dog house is obviously where you dog will sleep, if you have one. If you donít have a dog house, you must bring your dog inside at night or when it rains.
In a lot of ways, this game is similar to A Wonderful Life. The characterís clothing style, the farm and town layout, even the art style is a bit similar. What are not similar are the things to do. A Wonderful Life is packed full of activities, and full of complexity with seed hybrids and breeding animals to occupy yourself with. Save the Homeland is quite less, and I think this one was a miss. Although I can find the charm in it, this title obviously has a few faults that some people just canít deal with. Be the limited animals, crops, or time to do everything you want to do in a day, this game lacks the potential it could have had.