Seriously, did you ever think a farming simulator would be a fun game to play? Of course it would be, how silly of me. Finally appearing on the DS, Harvest Moon DS brings the enjoyable horticulturalist gameplay to the dual-screened handheld, but not without its fair share of problems.
In Harvest Moon, you play as a young man in charge of his family’s farm. In all previous HM games, there has not been any back-story, so don’t be surprised that you don’t find one here, either. Just know it’s up to you to restore your family’s farm to its once graceful status.
The only thing that could be remotely called a storyline in HM is the argument between the Harvest Goddess and the Witch. The Witch is fed up with the Goddess for some reason and puts a spell on her, but it turned out to be the wrong spell. The Harvest Goddess and 100 of her Harvest Sprites are then accidentally transported to another dimension.
How do you get them back? By farming, of course. Every little thing you do, from watering your crops to playing with your dog will bring the Harvest Sprites back. They’ll even reward you for doing so by performing some of the farm work themselves (for a price, of course). This is merely a tool to tell the player that they’re doing the right thing in the game. The whole storyline is very weak, but the rest of the game is thankfully a little more entertaining.
Each month in the game is a different season: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, and only certain crops can grow in each season. Eggplants grow in the summer, and turnips grow in the Spring, etc. You get the idea. Certain crops grow more quickly than others and some crops bear food for the entire month without having to reseed the land. Clear the land, hoe the land, plant your crops, water your crops, and harvest your crops. This is the gist of the gameplay. It might not sound like a lot of fun, but it actually is. The more proficient you get at the game, the more you push yourself to get more things done in a day. Harvest more crops and you get more money.
The other section of the game is the animal care taking portion. You can own cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, and horses. Cows give milk, chickens lay eggs, and sheep grow fur. Petting, brushing, and grazing these animals are part of your daily chores. The petting and brushing are done with a fairly translucent touch screen mini-game where you rub the animal until a timer runs out. Rub him in his “special place” and he feels happy, but rub him the wrong way and he’ll get uncomfortable. This will then determine how often your animal bestows its gift to you.
You can also court young ladies from town into becoming your wife. Get her pregnant and she even bears your son, who helps you in your daily chores.
The farming aspect of Harvest Moon is where you’ll have the most fun. Everything else in the game is a bit too shallow, especially the presentation. NPC’s don’t say very much, and the town is somewhat uneventful. Although there are probably a few people that prefer the 2D style, I actually found it to be very flat and boring. A 3D presentation would have been better for this game.
Also, there are a slew of bugs in the game, mostly in its menu system. If you go into a few of the menus, you will see a pink flash on the screen. It doesn’t kill the game, but it shows that the game needed a week more in development. I’ve seen this type of bug in some of the games I’ve tested, but we make sure to fix them at some point.
Most of the touch screen enhancements are just afterthoughts, with no real improvement for the game. The touch screen is primarily used for viewing your inventory, the status screen, and letting you save/load. It also houses a Harvest Sprite TV menu, where you can view channels with Harvest Sprites giving you useful information. It’s all presented in a horribly bland way, and should have been designed better.
To me, this game seemed to be half-assed in the initial design phase. They took what made Harvest Moon good, but slapped a shitty universe on top of it. I will not recommend this game for this reason, but I do suggest looking at either one of the Harvest Moon titles on the GameCube, or the GBA’s Mineral Town version. These other games will give you a better indication on how good a Harvest Moon game can be. The DS version, on the other hand, is destined for the bargain bins. Thumbs down.