Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley is an enhanced remake of Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. The game features new crops, new characters, a larger area to explore, and some new activities. But how is it compared to other harvest Moon games as well as the original game it's based on?
Design: Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley has a very simple design. It is basically the best that Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland had to offer, as well as adding other traits from the ohter Harvest Moon titles to it. The game has you start on empty farm, with no animals, a few bags of seeds, and some basic tools in which you must use to bring the farm to its former glory. As well as this, you must create relationships with the townsfolk so that hopefully you can keep the Funland Corporation from tearing down the town in two years.
Gameplay: You control your character using the analog nub, the L shoulder button is used to call either your dog or your horse, the R button is used to go through your rucksack. The camera controls are mapped to the left and right directional pad. It seems clunky at first but you will eventually be used to it. There are many activities to do in the valley you can go mining, fishing, do a part time job for bob on his ranch, cut down trees, attend various festivals and horse races, or just make up your own fun scavenging the land. Overall the game seems to play very nicely and loading screens while a bit on the seemingly lengthy side of around 5 seconds did not gain the way of this slow paced game.
Graphics: This game is easily not only one of the best looking PSP games, but also one of the best looking Harvest Moon games. Most of the textures are amazingly sharp and almost seem to have a sketch artistic style to them. The models are nice, the animations are decent, and the 2D character portraits have variety in their emotions and are high quality drawings. One of the better things about this title is, unlike a lot of its counterparts including some of the console variations, that the camera is a full 3D rotatable camera instead of a fixed, lightly moving camera. The only real flaw is occasionally you can see seams/tears in the land geometry. It’s nothing to really gripe about, but it is noteworthy.
Sound: The sound effects in the game do their job nicely, although some seem slightly out of place like the harvesting sound. It's nothing game breaking, just an odd choice that you get used to after a short while. The other odd choice is the lack of a sound effect for rain or any body of water, again this is nothing game breaking but it just seems odd that they're not there.
The music however, makes up for the few faults in the sound effect department. Based on this first impressions, the music is some of the best in the series history. Everything from the title screen, to the spring theme (which sounds similar to Zelda's lullaby, but is in fact its own song) has a nice relaxed tone and pace. I cannot wait to hear what other musical choices were made for the leader seasons.
Final thoughts: if the game stays as good as it has been, Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, could take the throne of best "Harvest Moon Title" from Harvest Moon: Back to Nature/Friends of Mineral Town. Everything from the setting, to the characters, to the activities, to the presentation are some of the best I've seen in my many years of being a fan of this series. And the fact you can take this wonderful game anywhere you go is a big bonus. For anyone on the fence for this title, do not hesitate to pick up Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley.
A full review will come in the future.
UPDATE: I have played farther, and have seen some new things I would like to share. The first is the horse races. They start at 2PM and run until 4PM, but you can show up early (to register your horse of course). There are three races you can bet on (I don't know about actual racing with your horse, I don't have one yet), the short race, the long race and the steeple chase. Also if if like your dog or chicken gets sick, the first time a friend will heal it for you, and yes you have to feed your dog every day, this is like save the homeland, so just use those very berries.
Also there is no shipping bin, you sell your goods to the shops, there a plethora of house upgrades (one in perticular you can't get apparently until AFTER the storyline is done, which will allow you to wear different colored clothes), you have an ocarina that you can use to train your dog, with 4 playable notes on the d-pad, you can catch bugs, though I've only found that you can give them to Tim. And the fishing is enhanced, and a lot better than in previous games, though I won't spoil all there is with fishing. ;)
I also forgot to mention the HUD, you have a stamina bar (although you won't collaspe and lose a day if it drains, you just can't work anymore) a "wellness" meter (if this circle around your portrait gets too red, you will be sick the next day, I found out the hard way) there's a clock and a minimap that shows what way you are facing and other characters in that area.
One important note to those of you who aren't used to the console series from.. around magical melody maybe? You can only save when you go to bed for the night, no mid day saves, however this isn't that much of a problem because of the system's sleep mode, as well as minutes pass at slightly faster than one minute a second, I'd say it's like 1.3 minutes in game equals 1 second real time. So you have all the time you need to get your work done for the day.
And saving is almost instant, It's been a while since I've seen a harvest moon game save as fast as this one.
The tv has 4 channels, and they are thus:
Channel 1 (Up on the D-pad): News - tells you of the upcoming festival/event
Channel 2 (Left on the D-pad): Weather - Shows what tomorrow's weather will be (no percentages this time)
Channel 3 (Right on the D-pad): Variety - A different show everyday, from a ninja story, to a cooking show... to ads of shows on channel 4...
Channel 4 (Down on the D-pad): ???? - I don't know, the tv you start with doesn't get this channel.
So there you go, some new updates on my experiences, this game continues to impress me, and I'll keep updating until I hit the end of the story and marriage, which I will then compile my impressions blog and write my final review.