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Platform: GameCube Publisher: Natsume
Genre: Farming/Dating Sim RPG Developer: Natsume
Format: Mini DVD-ROM Expected Release: Summer 2003

Preview First-Look
05/23/03
Mark P. Tjan
Mark P. Tjan

Harvest Moon began its life on the Super Famicom in 1996 and came to North America for the SNES in 1997. A simple farming game, it was an unexpected hit with all ages and spawned a number of sequels on a variety of platforms. The series has thus far appeared on the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and is now headed for the GameCube. Welcome to Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

Although the series has always been targeted at children, Harvest Moon attracts players from all ages. The game features a diverse set of mechanics aside from farming, which include dating, marriage, raising animals, shopping and so forth. Players can chose to be a farmer, a social animal, a family man or a hermit. In the end, everything you've accomplished effects the outcome of your game - which is usually to make the farm (and your life) as profitable as possible. A Wonderful Life doesn't look to deviate from this concept whatsoever. Instead, Natsume has added to the basic premise in heaps.

A Wonderful Life will feature 40 new characters, a brand new world, the ability to raise a child and an in-depth event system that spans 6 chapters over 30 years of your in-game life! There's also a new animal-raising system, more flora and fauna to manage and what Natsume calls a "revived marriage system." There's also a connectivity feature with the upcoming Game Boy Advance Harvest Moon title, Friends of Mineral Town. With the two games linked, characters can travel between Forget-Me-Not Valley and Mineral Town, triggering events that would be otherwise inaccessible.

Visually, Harvest Moon carries on another tradition: simplicity. The vibrant, yet natural, color palette gives one the sense of a storybook setting without being gaudy or plain. To further enhance the rural fantasy appearance, characters appear child-like, animals resemble oversized plush toys and most items appear super-deformed. Fans of the SNES and GB installments should also know that A Wonderful Life is also in full 3D via a third-person perspective like most modern RPGs. Unfortunately, no viable information on sound or music is available at this time.

Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life begins with a simple narrative of the main character, a fellow who has been lying around, unmotivated, most of his life. He wants to do something new, but never thought about working on a farm. Then one day, an old friend of his late father comes to visit him with an offer he canít refuse. Thus is the player taken to the valley of "Forget-Me-Not", where life as a farmer, and the game itself, begins. With that said, Harvest Moon is poised to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, as a heartfelt and down-to-earth tale that the child (and agrarian) in all of us might appreciate. With thirty years of life in the main character, the tale players weave is sure to be an involved one.

Players who own both a GameCube and a Game Boy Advance can look forward to the aforementioned connectivity feature. By linking the two games of A Wonderful Life and Friends of Mineral Town together, players can transfer items and characters between towns, and open new events. This is of course, a completely optional feature, but promises to provide many additional hour of gameplay.

Another addition that's sure to be of interest is the number of new items available. Goats and ducks are among those listed, as are hybrid vegetables. While how this is accomplished is unknown, apparently players can combine two kinds of vegetables to make a new one. Of course, the regular features the series has always sported will also make an appearance. The main character can date, marry and have children; interacting with any of the 40 new characters. Players can also raise animals, grow crops, improve their homes, etc. Gamers can even watch as their own children grow up from babies to adulthood. Of course, depending on whom you marry, your child will be slightly different.

Harvest Moon, as a series, has always been a delightful combination of a farming game and dating sim wrapped up in an RPG shell since its conception on the SNES. A Wonderful Life for the GameCube looks to continue this tradition; adding to, and refining the formula with a plethora of new features as well as a reworked relationship system. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life will be released in North America late this summer.



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©2003 Natsume Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Strolling down the street.

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A potential bride perhaps?

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Brushing the goat.

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A field ripe for picking.

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