Since the first game for the Super Nintendo, the [i]Harvest Moon[/i] series has grown in popularity. You either know it as a classic favorite or as that one game where you plant vegetables. The series is back for another go with [i]Harvest Moon: Magical Melody[/i]. [i]Magical Melody[/i] hopes to take the series back to its roots after [i]A Wonderful Life[/i] bored fans to tears, while adding in a few new things along the way. Fans will appreciate a lot of the things added into the old formula and still have fun the same way that they did with previous titles in the series. The repetitive nature of the series will continue to drive away most gamers, but fans can expect one of the best games in the series yet.
[i]Magical Melody[/i] begins with your character moving into town to take part in a farming program. After purchasing a plot of land, you are greeted by three little elf creatures, who take you to a petrified statue of the Harvest Goddess, turned to stone because people no longer believe in her. It’s up to you, as well as your rival, to collect as many Happiness Notes in order to revive her. While this is the overall main goal of the game, you are still charged with building up a successful farm, marrying one of the many men or women in the town, and generally leading a successful life. Notes are gathered by doing general tasks within the game, so collecting almost comes naturally (or sometimes by accident) and doesn’t really hinder the main focus the series is known for.
All of [i]Magical Melody[/i] is sort of a tribute to the entire [i]Harvest Moon[/i] series as a whole. You could probably look at the game as being fan service to those faithful enough who have played since the first game on the Super Nintendo. All of the characters within the game are composed directly from previous games in the series, although there are a few completely new characters and some seem like re-tooled versions. You are given a choice to play as a boy or a girl, but those who choose to play as a male will be able to choose from ten different guys, all of which are drawn directly from [i]Harvest Moon[/i] for the SNES or [i]Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland[/i]. Female players also have ten choices, and although some of them are technically new to the series, they all are obviously crafted after characters from [i]Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town[/i].
Some new things have been added that are drastically different from previous games. The most evident addition is the ability to build your farm in a number of different locations around town, each having different advantages and disadvantages. This leads the series into a kind of free-form feel, and takes away a bit of the linear game play the series is known for. Once you get enough money, you can essentially purchase much of the town’s land and build as many different farms as your feel, designating one area to animals, another to growing crops, or just setting up a vacation home up in the mountains. It is certainly one of the better updates the series has seen over the years, and actually adds in a bit more strategy into the game.
Of course, all of the staples of [i]Harvest Moon[/i] have made a return in [i]Magical Melody[/i]. The game returns to the traditional formula of days lasting a few real-time minutes, as opposed to [i]A Wonderful Life[/i]’s twenty-four real-time minutes to every day. Crops, animals, and just about everything else have reverted back to the traditional game play, and really, [i]Magical Melody[/i] seems like a completely different game from its predecessor, [i]A Wonderful Life[/i]. Fans will no doubt have few issues with what’s to be had in [i]Magical Melody[/i], but those who haven’t been turned on by the series so far will have little reason to try again with this game.
Another contributing factor to the fact that only fans will be attracted by this game is the graphics and art style, which, quite honestly, look to be straight out of a child’s picture book. To put it bluntly, the look of the game may very well turn off many people. Things look reminiscent of a more refined Animal Crossing, and characters take on the, what’s called in anime circles, chibi look (that is, they look like children with huge heads and very separated legs). Fans will probably not be phased by the looks of the game, or if they are, they probably will not think much of it. The game still remains the same as always, even with the quirky graphics style. Just don’t expect to get your friends hooked on the series when they take a look at [i]Magical Melody[/i]. It will probably only end in pain.
Overall, this is a perfect game for fans of the series. It takes everything from past games in the series and reinvents the formula to give us something new. Again, [i]Magical Melody[/i], combined with the graphical presentation of the game, will probably not convert those who look at the game with eyes rolling upward. Even so, if Natsume hasn’t gotten those people hooked on the series yet, they probably will never do so, and know that appeasing the fans will be enough. In the end, [i]Harvest Moon: Magical Melody[/i] is a game for the fans, and acts as a tribute for those fans. And those fans will no doubt find a lot to love in this new installment.