Another Monday, another backlogged game. This week, we’ll be playing Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition on the PS2. Now, it’s true I haven’t really played this game, but me and it do have some history. Back when it first came out on Gamecube, I was a big Harvest Moon fan, and I talked my friend into buying it. He enjoyed it a lot, and I saw him playing it a few times. After a time, they rereleased it on PS2 as the Special Edition, and I snatched it up faster than a… fast… thing. And it was terrible. The game was fine, whatever, but it ran so badly. The framerate was miserable, and I suppose it was technically playable, but I couldn’t stand it. I gave up inside of five minutes.
The years went by, and I kind of forgot about the game, sitting on my shelf. But then, one day, there was an update to the PSN Store on PS3. A new PS2 Classic release– Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition. I grabbed it immediately. If the PS2 couldn’t handle the game, if it wasn’t fast enough, well, the PS3 certainly could. I mean, there’s no way it would be outperformed by a Gamecube. Right?
So, let’s start the game up. Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the PS1 had some jammin’ tunes, and I seem to recall the SNES Harvest Moon kicking some musical ass as well, so hopefully Wonderful Life will continue that proud tradition. …Hmmm. This… no. This music is not awful, but it’s pretty boring. Ah well. New Game!
The story is pretty typical Harvest Moon. Your father ran a farm, he died, now his friend who ran the farm with him has brought you to resurrect the place. Dude has some serious eyebrows.
So anyway, he asks me “So, what do you say? Will you try it?” Yes or No. Well, come on. This is obvious. NO.
He gives me his best Eeyore impression- “Oh, okay….” My character wanders off, and the camera follows the old man as he walks back to his house, and turns on the TV. And then the game kicks me to the title screen.
You know what? I respect that shit. Most games would just ask the question again, but Wonderful Life says “Tell you what. Play ball, or fuck off.” We’ll start again, and this time we’ll say yes.
Alright, now we name a whole bunch of stuff. Dog. This creature looks like a corgi, and I’m a Cowboy Bebop fan, so we’ll go with Ein. Cow. Bessie. Every cow must be named Bessie, it is a law. My farm. Jeez, did this old man not name anything before I came along? I guess the farm’s name would be my main character’s last name, so Winston. And finally, my name. Jack.
Alright! All that naming settled, now I get to meet everyone in town, in one big tour. This seems a little weird? I mean, this is a small ass town, but still, I’m being led around like a horse, smiling and nodding at all these strangers. Makin’ me kinda uncomfortable. Alright, tour over. Except there are more people that I didn’t meet. Wait. You introduced me one by one to 90% of the town, but just left out a few guys? …You got some history with them, or something?
Alright! Intro finally over, and we are in control. Hey, check out that music! That’s the kind of chill shit I was looking for. Here, listen to this stuff.
Alright, now let’s just explore our house, and– !!! Time passes while you’re indoors! It never did that in the older Harvest Moons, it only passed when you were outside! Shit, I gotta book! Milk my cow Bessie, let her out to pasture, grab some tools and seeds, plow the earth, plant some tomatoes, water the tomatoes, and… huh. It’s 9 am. And I have done everything I need to do for the day. I guess I’ll just… chill? Explore a little.
Worth noting how strange the control is for farming, too. When you get close to some farmable land, the camera switches to a straight overhead view, and the movement… changes. Before, it was classic third person- push a direction, your character walks in that direction. And I mean, that’s still kind of true now? But it fights ya.
Let me explain. When you push forward, your character doesn’t immediately move forward. There’s like a half second of absolutely no motion before he starts to walk. It isn’t input lag, because the second you let go of the stick, he stops dead, on a dime. It’s just this weird minimum time holding forward before he’ll actually start walking. Combine that with the fact that though the ground is grid-based, you have completely free movement, and you end up controlling very clumsily. You tap forward to advance just a hair, and he doesn’t move, so you hold it a little bit longer, and he doesn’t move, so you hold it a bit longer still and then he completely overshoots the target. Very obnoxious.
Alright, let’s head into town. Hmm, this movement speed… the animation makes it look like you’re really beating feet, but your actual speed is pretty darn slow. What an odd disconnect. Hey, a bar! Let’s go on in. …The bar is closed?! It’s nine thirty in the morning! COME ONNNNNNN!
Fine. Let’s look around town some more. This house, as I recall, belongs to the village exercise nut. Time to investigate. This house… he has a treadmill, a bench press, a collection of hand weights, an exercise bike… no toilet. I do not want to think about what that implies. Let’s get the hell out of here.
Wander around a bit more, it’s noon now. Come on, bar, you’ve got to be– WHOOO! It’s open! Bartender, I got three thousand Gs (Gold? Guineas? The game doesn’t really indicate what this “G” currency is) and a mad thirst. Whaddya got?
Let’s see here. “Red Punch, Blue Punch, Moon Trip, Moo-moo Milk, Cherry Pink, Stone Oil.” Well, Moon Trip is the only one of those that sounds like it might actually involve alcohol, so Moon Trip it is! Served in a cocktail glass, this is promising. Down the hatch. Another! Bam. Anoth- no? Hang on, I had two drinks, and now he’s telling me to “take it easy.” And he won’t say anything else! What a jerk. I’m outta here.
Holy fuck a cave man. I don’t… nyeeeeeuh, let’s just get out of here.
Hang on. This is weird. I’m walking out in the middle of nowhere, and the movement speed seems just fine. I wonder if I turn the camera so that the village is in view, does it– oh, jesus. Slowdown for days. The movement speed isn’t the problem, it’s slowing the game down to keep from dropping frames. God. Whatever, we’re already doing this. Let’s go back to our farm.
Alright, time to go water my plants again. Splash a little water on my tomatoes, and… wait, really? Really? I am out of stamina. I milked one cow, tilled earth for two tomato plants and watered them twice, and now my character is exhausted. And in case you didn’t know, your stamina in this game resets at the start of a new day. So the fact that I’m out now, means this day is done. I could eat something, I guess, to get more stamina, but fuck that. This is ridiculous. I’m going to bed.
Save before I go to bed? Sure. I guess so. On the off chance that I ever come back to this game. Not especially likely. Good night, Harvest Moon. I can’t say it was all that Wonderful, but shit man, that’s Life.