There’s a narrow alley tucked into a corner of the industrial castle town, hidden behind the bustling Arena Square. Armorsmiths and swordcrafts crowd the path, talking shop and hawking wares to passersby in a gaunt corridor of tiny workrooms. In the alley’s only empty corner, a lean brute presses an elderly shopkeep against the grimy concrete and slyly demands a cut of profit.
It’s a place foul with sweat and industry. It swelters with forge and struggle. A stroll from end to end offers a glimpse of the desperation that is life for these lower class tradesman. They fight for survival, crammed into a corner of the last thriving city on the last prospering island in a rotting world.
The locals call this slum strip Artisan’s Way. It has an effortless narrative density that's so refreshing to see in a JRPG. The Last Story could have been about this place. It’s not. The Last Story is about a vampiric meteor that shoots giant lasers.
Like many, I was first introduced to the concept of farming simulation via an obscure Facebook title called Farmville. Not sure if that game flopped or not, but I didn't stick around too long to find out as the idea of caring for crops day in, day out did little to excite me. Sure, I like managing and being organized and earning faux money, but in the end, there wasn't really much to do with Farmville other than pester friends with countless requests and click on the same things over and over. After some time passed, I got the hankering again to water some crops and decided to give Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon a try; unfortunately, despite being a farming simulator with bonus RPG dungeon-crawling elements, I still wasn't entertained.
Scanning the shelves of my local GameStop recently, I noticed a bunch of other Harvest Moon games on the DS. Like, a ton. There were at least three sitting eye-level, staring me in the face, begging to be watered. And I got that itch again. I decided to give the most newest title a chance. Let's see if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is different enough to grow into something fun, something edible.
Harvest Moon has been one of my favorite video games series, but with as many Harvest Moon titles that have been released, there are bound to be a few that just don't click with me. This has been happening more often than I would like of late with my favorite farming simulator, and I blame that on essentially the two different series Harvest Moon has become. Ignoring all the spinoffs such as Rune Factory, Frantic Farming, and Innocent Life, the series essentially split at the Back To Nature/Friends of Mineral Town point about ten years ago.
Back to Nature for the PS1 was the first non-Nintendo Harvest Moon game and expanded on the previous console release, Harvest Moon 64. An enhanced remake/port was released for the GBA titled Friends of Mineral Town which I consider to be the quintessential Harvest Moon title. But at this point, the PS2 and GameCube were out, and the developers started going down the road of fancier 3D graphics on the conoles while basically every portable iteration has been based on the Friends of Mineral Town structure.
So what I call the portable Harvest Moon series is built on a very solid set of gameplay elements: farming, foraging, mining, and relationships. All aspects of the game are well-tuned and are balanced decently. On the consoles, it's a completely different story: we get a mish-mash of unbalanced, poorly tuned gameplay elements planted in a boring looking 3D world. The console "series" has suffered like this since Save the Homeland on the PS2, but I mostly blame A Wonderful Life, the first Harvest Moon game I ever played that I really, truly hated.
Magical Melody, of course, falls into the console series. Released on the GameCube in 2006 and then re-released on the Wii in 2008, Magical Melody continues the sorry Harvest Moon console tradition of not being very much fun. Whoops, did I spoil the first hour for you?
I've actually been sitting on this first hour review for an entire year, I had it completely written except for this introduction. I'm not really sure what I was waiting for; I think through a combination of Magical Melody being an older, quite unexciting game combined with the fact that it's a sorry game from one of my favorite series made me hold off. But I really need to get it off my to-do list, so here you go, the first hour of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for the GameCube.
I began playing Rune Factory 2 almost 14 months ago, I enjoyed the original Rune Factory but thought there were quite a few flaws that needed to be dealt with. With the inevitable Harvest Moon sequel, I knew that I would have a chance to play their next iterations of the "fantasy Harvest Moon" series.
Rune Factory 2 was released in late 2008 but I didn't bother picking it up until a year later, the Nintendo DS is probably my most played platform so there are a lot of games to get to. I played pretty hardcore for a month, which ultimately, probably is what did me in. I was making cash hand over fist and it wasn't even the end of the first Spring; my farming was so profitable but time-consuming that I burned myself out.
I picked up the game again a few months later and managed pretty successfully to continue where I left off: making lots of money and not actually having a lot of fun. I hate to blame myself for this though as the game readily enabled me every step of the way, but my extensive Harvest Moon knowledge and wealth of strategies certainly didn't help either.
My notes on the game have been languishing for months though, so I'd like to get my thoughts on the game out there in the wild. I'm horribly late to the party as Rune Factory 3 was released in November, but to not comment on a game I played for tens of hours seems like a travesty when I write a thousand words on games I beat in eight hours. So please note that this is not a review, but merely an observation of my experiences, there will be no score awarded for obvious reasons.