Harvest Moon Animal Parade

This was written by Rachel– age 13, my oldest and a girl gamer for an essay contest on Gaming Angels.  I asked her if I could post it here, to which she said yes.  This is the first essay she has ever written.  The original question was what is your favorite video game and how would you make it better.

One of the  game’s many qualities is that it has a great tutorial. The tutorial is so good because it starts you out with no walls. The other Harvest Moon games had long, boring tutorials and even after the tutorial was over it never really let you go. You would have to go meet everyone in town, then you couldn’t leave one area until you mastered farming, then it would move you to another area and not let you leave THAT area till you learn another skill.  Harvest Moon Animal Parade is different.  Instead it will tell you how to do things, give you some plants, and let you go, which is nice.

Pets are another big change in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. In the old games you would have two pets: a dog and a pig.  You couldn’t choose between them or refuse them, they were just there. In this Harvest Moon you don’t start out with a pet.  You can choose which animal you want but you have to put a lot of time into making it to love you .  There is so much more variety now that you can choose from multiple breeds of dogs and cats, plus many other species.

But there are problems with this game.  For instance, the world is huge and filled with empty space.  This leads to a lot of needless walking, especially at the beginning of the game.  Later in the game this isn’t such a problem but when you first start out it is cut scene heavy and you are walking a lot as you try to further the plot.

To fix this I would shorten the distance between areas.  I would fill the paths with more collectible items.  That way it wouldn’t feel like such a waste of time to be doing all that walking.

Another bad thing is that the days are long.  Every hour is three minutes which means that a full day is 72 minutes.  This is fine if you want to fill the day with gathering.  However most of the time you have a little bit of work to do in the morning and the rest is in the evening.  If you don’t have anything to do until latter, the best thing to do is put down the controller and leave the game running for a while.

I would make it so you could trigger a event by entering the event grounds, with a pop up message that asks if you are ready to enter the event.

Another problem is that when you get closer to the end of the game it slows down noticeably.  The cut scenes slow to about one a month (in game) instead of one a day like at the beginning of the game.  At this point you are spending all your time trying to get the villagers to love you, so you can actually beat the game.  This means you have to talk to and give them each gifts daily, which is tedious.  Then suddenly, when you finish making everyone like you the cut scenes go back to once a day until they just stop.   In other words, this game has serious pacing issues.

I would spread the plot and cut scenes out over the whole game instead of just at the beginning and the end. that way I wouldn’t get bored or quit the game before finishing.

All in all, the game is good but it does have some big issues that I think could have been easily addressed.

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Sim vs. Sim

The girls and I have fallen into the Sim trap.  I’ve  been there before (way back in the early 90’s) but this is their first real foray into the mind numbing riptide of Simmese.  That said this has prompted much discussion about the Sims and what the makers could have done better.

The Sims 3 Screenshot

In the past we have loved several Sim-like games including all of the Animal Crossings, all of the My Sims games, and several Harvest Moons  and while we are enjoying The Sims 3 it is missing something that those games have.  In fact recently I was playing Walk It Out and realized what it was that was missing.

style.

The Sims is lovely in the same way school pictures are lovely.  It is missing  panache, character, that extra something.  Sure the Simmese language and their little mannerisms are cute but artistically speaking the game is boring.  The characters could easily fit in the stands of one of EA’s sports games without a hitch (how dull is that, really?)

This:
The Sims 3 Screenshot
Or this:
MySims Screenshot

While I enjoy playing The Sims I LOVED playing My Sims.  The adorableness of the characters drew me in (plus building things was fun.)  If they made The Sims using the My Sims characeters I would spend most of my free time playing.  Maybe that would be a bad thing.  No, EA definitely shouldn’t do that.

Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility Screenshot
The same is true of  Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon.   I have never deliberately deleted a character in any of those games and I have already deleted several Sims because they were getting on my nerves.  (I have however deleted several by mistake due to Harvest Moon’s sometimes stupid saving interface.  In fact I mistakenly saved over my 50 note, pregnant character with my daughter’s 15 music note character in Magical melody. ARRGGGHHH )  Both of those series have gotten tons of play by all of us and are ones we go back to again and again.  We go back because they are fun to play and interesting with tons of variety in game play,  and are fun to look at.  The Sims brings us back because we are obsessing, not because it is necessarily “fun” and definitely not because of the style.
Walk it Out Screenshot
If you remember, back at the beginning, I mentioned that Walk It Out was what drove the point home for me.  I realized while walking my 3rd mile (because there was this one section that I HAD. TO. FILL. IN. that I would LOVE to play a Sims like game using the Walk It Out world and characters.  I adore the blue haired chick that does my walking for me.  The island itself is cute and interesting even though the styling is much more realistic than the characters.  There is plenty of variety to keep me coming back.  If The Sims were more like that, more adorable and more stylized I would certainly enjoy it more.  Frankly, even if they just made the same basic game but using the My Sims world I would lose a lot more of my day to the game (and the kids would get a lot less turns– go play outside, it’s Mom’s turn at the computer).