I think it goes without saying that farming sims are one of two primary focuses of mine on TGON. One of the criticisms that the newer Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons series gets is that they are nothing like their older counterparts. Which is a fair point; these two entities used to be one force but parted ways some time ago. However, I think it is high time we, as virtual farmers, look back at some of the classics and see if they are any good or if nostalgia is clouding our judgments. So, today, we set aside our overalls and shovels and don lab coats and clipboards! To start this series off, we will be looking at Harvest Moon: Magical Melody.
The story begins with the player seeing an advertisement for the Flower Bud Village’s “Exciting Ranch Plan.” After settling on the idea of leaving the big city behind to forge their own path in this rural landscape, players meet Mayor Theodore. He gives them the lay of the land and helps them pick their new home. After a whirlwind of a first day, the player falls asleep, dreaming of a woman turned to stone.
Upon awaking, our hero is greeted by the Harvest Sprites, who are happy to find a kind human that can see them. These Sprites then ask the player to help them awaken the Harvest Goddess. She turned to stone some time ago due to the actions of the townsfolk. To wake her up, the player must collect music notes, 100 in total. A musical instrument will be created for every five notes to serenade our goddess awake. The player, the Harvest Sprites, and rival farmer Jamie are the only beings that can make this land whole once more.
Here is a list of the major issues I have noted concerning newer farming sims.
|Character depth||Characters in recent titles have been cookie-cutter without much thought put into backstories. As a result, some virtual farmers have difficulty connecting to newer NPCs.|
|Makers||Story of Seasons games especially has far too many makers used to refine products harvested on the farm.|
|Farming components||Farming was said to be overly complicated in some newer Harvest Moon titles.|
|Story length||This goes without explanation; newer games feel shorter.|
I played Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for a week on the GameCube for this short bit of research. First, I would like to examine character depth. Most of the NPCs in the game have rich backstories and flutter about Flower Bud Village as they please. Most NPCs have two to four places they can be each day’s segment, allowing for variability. Next is the makers’ category. While there is not an abundance of makers for dairy or egg products, there are for cooking. If I wanted to make a recipe, I must go to the pause menu and search through my book of recipes to tell me which appliance I needed to make a dish.
The third is the farming components. I would not say farming in this title is overly complicated. Sure, some patches of land are not as fertile as others, but that added a nice element of realism. I want to take a moment to complain about the inability to walk through crops. This means one cannot plant a three-by-three plot of crops because a third of the row cannot be watered. This is not an issue in the late game, but when money counts, it sure is! Finally, story length. To finish the game, players need to get 100 music notes. In one week, I earned 35, which I attributed to remembering weird notes that were easy to get. Otherwise, I think the game would take longer had I not spent hours on it as a kid.
In conclusion, I think Harvest Moon Magical Melody is a great game based on the rating system. However, more research would need to be conducted to create an unbiased rating system. If any of you have some ideas on what I could change or add, I would love to hear them in the comments!