Are you ready to farm? Natsume’s Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is a visual departure from the previous entries in the series, but largely sticks to the basics that have cultivated an intense following— and that means lots of crops, lots of animals, lots of romance…and lots of patience.
The new visuals are slightly more realistic and rural-looking, and feel natural for the series. In previous installments, the anime feel was just a bit over-the-top, and took some time to get over. Unfortunately, the upgrade didn’t extend to the sound effects. Some animals sound like other animals, and the human voices are beyond obnoxious. Players will find themselves rushing through the start screen to avoid hearing “Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility!” one more time.
The core gameplay, however, largely remains the same as Magical Melody, the last release. Players start out in a mostly-deserted town and, through improving the area and growing crops, you revitalize the area and get new people to move there. Different farm locations in the area still add variety, and attracting villagers and wooing suitors is still as important as farming, mining and fishing. The motion controls certainly aren’t revolutionary, and are really sort of a pain, but most can be avoided. In a game that is already tedious, load times make tasks take even longer.
No, Tree of Tranquility isn’t the Harvest Moon for people who didn’t like the previous game. Most people don’t have the patience, and most people don’t aspire to be a farmer. It does, however, add features that series fans have been wanting. Crop spacing is no longer a headache, caring for animals has been streamlined, and festivals are easier to get to and enjoy. Also, though it has its share of glitches, the number has been decreased from the higher number in previous HM games. One thing to watch out for: Calvin, one character, triggers a game-breaking glitch, and Natsume has yet to fix this.
Natsume tacked on some minigames to this title, but they are not worth playing. On a system with so many quick, gimmicky multiplayer options, it just seems like overkill.
Tree of Tranquility requires patience, and lots of it. For those with a healthy supply, it can certainly be a rewarding game. Just don’t come in expecting instant gratification.
Plays like: Your standard Harvest Moon game.
ESRB: E– Don’t worry about a thing content-wise.
Pros: Updated graphical style, relatively glitch-free.
Cons: Voice acting is horrendous.