IGN Review of Harvest Moon: Animal Parade
I am not a stranger to the Harvest Moon experience. Although I haven't kept up with every version of Natsume's farming simulation franchise, I can still remember enjoying the unique appeal of the original Super Nintendo game while growing up. Furthermore, one of the first games I reviewed here at IGN was a Harvest Moon title. How fitting, then, that another of the super cute Harvest Moon games comes to me in the form of Harvest Moon: Animal Parade for the Wii. Following in the footsteps of Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility, Animal Parade reintroduces players to the delights -- and occasional downsides -- of farm simulation. Players tend to crops, raise animals, court the locals and develop their humble little ranch, just as they have done in the Harvest Moons of yore.
Animal Parade allows players to select either a boy or girl farmer and then start a long journey towards building up a successful country ranch. Nestled near the quaint seaside buildings of Harmonica Town, your ranch is your home and also base of operations for your various farming activities.
At the start of the game your character arrives at the ranch he or she just recently purchased with a small harvest sprite named Finn in tow. Finn, as he darts about nervously, insists that the player needs to find and assist the Harvest Goddess, who is suffering from some sort of illness or lack of power. As you'll find out shortly into the game, it's the player's job to not only successfully build a life for him or herself, but also ring the five elemental bells of the land and restore power to the Harvest Goddess.
At its core, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is a fixed camera role-playing game and farming simulation, all rolled into one. Like previous Harvest Moon titles, time passes as you perform chores outside (it's usually paused when you're indoors) and you'll work each day to accomplish whatever tasks you set out to do. One second of real time is -- roughly -- one minute of game time, so players have more than enough time to work around the ranch before retiring to bed.
Playing Animal Parade is very, very different than playing other videogames. There are no real goals or requirements to meet, and there's no set way to play. Players are dropped into the world of Harvest Moon and can go about their work at their leisure. This freedom can be intimidating at first, but Harvest Moon veterans will feel right at home.
Your main source of income in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is generally going to be crops. By purchasing seeds at the neighboring farm, players can till their plot of land, scatter some seeds and then water the crops every day until they're ready to be picked. Some crops will produce multiple fruits (like strawberries) while others only produce one fruit/vegetable and then disappear.
Players can also raise animals, go fishing, mine for ore, forage for herbs and mushrooms, cook a variety of dishes, or even just wander around town talking to the locals. Players can also pursue the town's eligible bachelors or bachelorettes and start a family. There is a tremendous amount of stuff to do in Harvest Moon and a good chunk of it is available right from the start -- assuming you have the resources to purchase the needed equipment.
The appeal of Animal Parade -- and the Harvest Moon experience as a whole -- is difficult to put into words. It involves the satisfaction of building up a life for your character through simple chores and a slow but steady source of income. Animal Parade belongs to the unique Japanese sim genre that certainly remains an acquired taste, but the amount of time players can spend in the world of Animal Parade is really astounding.
There's not much motion control support to speak of, besides being able to shake the Wii remote while charging up your tools to speed up the charge. There are a few other trivial instances of motion control and IR support, but most of Animal Parade is controlled through traditional button presses.
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, despite its charm, still suffers from a number of frustrating issues, the most obvious of which are the game's visuals. There are constant framerate problems when running outdoors and the environments and character models aren't the most detailed things around. Fortunately, the art style is still simple and cute, but the Wii is capable of doing much more than what the developers have put together here.
The other notable issue will only be an issue for certain gamers. Animal Parade -- like its predecessors -- can get very repetitive. This is, in a way, part of the charm of the game, because the repetitious chores culminate into profit and a better life for your character. But a good number of gamers today might just get tired of the same routine being executed over and over again.
Players that invested a lot of time in Tree of Tranquility might not feel the need to return for Animal Parade, as a good amount of the gameplay is just more of the same. However, if you still feel the need to enjoy the simple life or you haven't yet tried a Harvest Moon game, Animal Parade is a good place to start.
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