Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for the year’s bountiful harvest, and what better way to celebrate than with a Harvest Moon game? This long-running series of farming simulations just added two new members to the family: Harvest Moon: Animal Parade on Wii and Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands on DS.
While the new Wii Harvest Moon game looks EXACTLY like the previous Wii faming outing: Tree of Tranquility, Animal Parade is VASTLY improved. Both start out the same way: choose a boy or girl character and start a farm on a run-down ranch. It’s your job to water your crops daily and later on take care of your livestock so you can earn more money. But in this newest game, controls feel a little easier, goals are a little clearer, and there’s always something for you to do besides farming. They do a better job here of easing you into the gameplay and letting you learn and progress at your own pace.
As the title suggests, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade has an emphasis on animals. You’ll be able to have chickens, cows, and other livestock much earlier on in this installment. And you can even befriend other animals in the wild, teach them tricks, and keep some as pets. Every in-game year, a circus comes to town and you’ll get the opportunity to interact with even more exotic critters.
And as in other Harvest Moon games, you do much more than farming. You can decorate and upgrade your house and barn, design your own clothes, fish, mine for ores in caves, chop down trees for lumber, cook from recipes, make friends in town (even get married), celebrate in-game festivals, have animal races, and much more! It’s a lot like Animal Crossing, except the clock ticks in game-time, not real time. If you’re really ambitious, you could even try ringing the five secret magic bells to revive the Harvest Goddess and save the land.
Of course, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade has similar problems as its predecessors do as well. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a game with such rudimentary graphics have such a choppy frame rate. And the slow pace of the game may turn off more impatient gamers. Luckily, the play control is easy to learn with lots of picture cues and tips. You can even use the Classic Controller if you’re feeling nostalgic. Plus, this installment in the series is MUCH better than Tree of Tranquility on the Wii before it.
For farming on the go, there’s also the new Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands for DS. As a boy or girl, you move to Sunshine Islands to start a farm. Work hard enough and you might discover the secret of the islands and even raise a few from under the sea, unlocking more lands and crops along with it. Even though it sports 2-D graphics, you can do most everything you can in the Wii game. The top screen has a handy map that lets you know where the other islanders are, so you know where to find them if you need them. If the characters look familiar, it’s also because they were in Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming: a DS puzzler released earlier this year. Sunshine Islands is still pretty slow-paced, but the format works well in handheld form.
And just released recently on WiiWare is Harvest Moon: My Little Shop. For 1200 Wii points, you can grow crops and sell them to customers in your very own store.
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade on Wii and Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands on DS are rated E for Everyone. ESRB descriptors include Alcohol Reference in the Wii game and Comic Mischief and Use of Alcohol in the DS title. Most of the alcohol in the games is used for cooking purposes, and anything else is just alluded to subtly in the text. Speaking of which, strong reading skills are a must, since everything is text based. Some impatient kids may get bored of the slower-paced gameplay and lack of rewarding tasks. With Internet games like Farmville on FaceBook gaining popularity, these Harvest Moon games make excellent (and better) alternatives if you don’t want your kids to be online all the time.