I started playing Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness a month or so ago and I noticed something strange. There was no Destructoid Review! So, let me give you a super quick review of a game that might possibly revive a dying series.
Hooray! Let's ride a cow and have the baby chickens ride the horse!
Now, I've progress about a year in the game. In previous games, this would me that I was about a third of the way through the game. No so this time around. After a season in HM:IoH, I soon realized that almost everything
takes longer to accomplish in this game--except earning money.
You start at the beginning of the game with almost literally nothing. There are only about 5 villagers on the island, you get no dog or horse to start with, the bridges to other areas of the island are completely broken, and each of you animal barns is so small they only have two feeders. Crops start out pretty similar to the other games: you buy them from the store, you have to sell 100 of each of the beginning crops to unlock more, etc. There are a few interesting differences that help you out at the beginning:
1. You can put ANYTHING in your shipping bin. Weeds, cans, rocks, whatever. This is actually pretty helpful as in this version when you hit rocks with your hammer, they turn into "Stone Material" which you can sell for a pretty good price.
2. You can see how much people like you; villagers OR marriage candidates. This is pretty useful since it takes much longer for people to become good friends with you in this game.
3. Your tools upgrade completely differently. They have a certain number of open slots for "Wonderful Stones." Each of the 7 stones has a different function (using less stamina, working on a larger area, having a stronger effect) and can really only be gained by winning festivals (lame).
4. You can see your stamina and fullness. This is super useful. Fullness is difficult to keep up at the beginning of the game, since you can't cook and neither of the two restaurants are open. Fullness determines how early in the morning you wake up, and stamina is the same as the other games (if you work too much you black out and go straight to bed).
I haven't really played a Harvest Moon game since More Friends of Mineral Town and A Wonderful Life, but I have to say I'm glad I picked this one up. Like MFoMT, the concentration isn't really on earning money--you can earn money pretty easily in either game. However, in IoH the concentration is really on what you do
with your money. You can improve the town roads, repair the bridges to other areas of the island, upgrade your house, chicken coop, animal band, stable, supply shed, build a maker shed, build a greenhouse, upgrade your household appliances, etc. Or you can concentrate on goals that aren't money related, like reaching the bottom of the mine, becoming friends with everyone, winning festivals, upgrading your tools, unlocking recipes, and more. There is just so much to do in this game it is insane
That said, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. With other Harvest Moon games, once you've played one jumping into a new installment of the series is pretty simple. It's almost too easy to become quickly successful in the game. IoH does not allow you to do this. It forces
you to play the game at a slower pace, especially at the beginning of the game when it is next to impossible to refill your stamina. I was barely able to manage growing three fields (3X3) of crops in my first season.
My sister says Pierre "is gay." He's the one that looks like Willy Wonka...I might have to agree
Another disappointment was the characters. It is still one of my biggest complaints in the game: all of the Harvest Moon characters have zero personality. They're pretty generic. Any given character could swap dialog with another and not really change the game much. There are only two character who seem to have real personality: Vaughn (who's kind of cold and distant....and reminds me of Zero from Vampire Knight ;_;) and Regis (who is rich and pompous). Even the "wild natives" of the island are boring as hell. The Witch Princess isn't really evil, mean, or even mischievous. Many of the characters are bad copies of older HM characters with newer (and sillier) names: Kai is Denny, Maria is Sabrina, Gotz is Gannon, Rick is Elliot, Lillia is Felicia, Gray is Vaughn, etc. That being said, one of the problems I have is that I don't want to marry any
of the candidates that the game gives you.
WAKKA CHIKKA BOW WOW!!!!
While I don't think the Island will ever compare to any iteration of Mineral Town (N64, PS1 or GBA), it's still a pretty good installment in the series. I appreciate the new pieces of gameplay that have been added, but I would still like to see a little more creativity when it comes to characters. A good chunk of the game is based on interacting with the people on the island, and it would be much more enjoyable if they all didn't seem to be the same person. New gameplay also makes the game more challenging, but it pretty much just pushes me to prove my HM fandom and mastery by doing everything.
Also, this game is awesome because the default female farmer name is Chelsea. THEY KNEW I AM THEIR BIGGEST FAN ZOMGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Do you think people would get it if I did a cosplay???
Bottom Line: If you are a fan of the series, you should by this. If you have never played a Harvest Moon game, keep searching for a copy on N64, PS1, or Gameboy Advance.