By Jenni . December 16, 2009 . 4:18pm
The latest Harvest Moon adventure for the Wii, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade should look familiar. While the setting and story are different, it uses the same characters and art style from Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility, the previous Wii game. Don’t think it’s a rehash of Tree of Tranquility though! Animal Parade contains plenty of new content. In Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, you are an amateur farmer and rancher who’s been chosen by the Harvest Goddess and her assistant sprite/fairy Finn to come to Harmonica Town and save the Goddess Tree. The Goddess Tree is looking sickly, and the land is suffering as a result. Your task is to establish a farm and life for yourself, while also searching the land for the five bells so you can summon the Harvest God to save the Goddess Tree.
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade fixes many of the annoyances and downfalls of the previous Wii game, Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility. It helps justify the purchase, if you already own the previous game. Animal Parade is also sets in a whole new, larger location and adds in new elements, like a circus, extra minds and milling.
Personalities have also been slightly tweaked, and for the most part improved, in Animal Parade. For example, Selena is more approachable and less haughty. Chase isn’t as bitter. Candace seems more shy and less like a hermit. And Owen isn’t as brainless. However, Owen’s personality now matches his "older brother, heavy drinker" character description, as he now often mentions drinking.
The game also starts with different set of characters that moved in the town. There are actually more people living in Harmonica Town when the game starts, then there were on Waffle Island. Starting bachelors and bachelorettes include: Chase, Maya, Julius, Candace, Owen, Kathy, Toby and Renee. All of the shops are already available and open, and Simon now runs a Camera Shop where you can turn pictures you’ve taken in the game into decorations for your virtual home. There are also a few new characters, like Finn the Harvest Sprite/Fairy, the Harvest God, the Wizard and a new Witch Princess. Also, Kathy and Selena are true rivals now and will actually marry Owen and Luke if you give them the chance.
Marriage is also easier. Tree of Tranquility had you running around, trying to achieve certain tasks for bachelors and bachelorettes so they would marry you. Animal Parade does away with the tasks. You just have to get someone up to nine hearts to make them accept a marriage proposal.
Then, there’s the family aspect. Your husband can help you out on the farm, and so can your children. Yes, I said children. You can have two kids in Animal Parade, and you get to choose their genders and personalities. Depending on their personality types, they’ll be better at certain kinds of chores on the farm. When it comes to appearance, the kids tend to look the same no matter which bachelor or bachelorette you marry – the only difference is their hair color and eye color will be the same as your husband or wifes’. Personally, I’m considering marrying the Wizard, Luke or Julius on one save file just so I can have kids with white, blue or purple hair.
One of the best changes is animals become friendly quicker. I don’t know about other Tree of Tranquility players, but I had my character married off before I adopted my first pet. Petting and giving gifts to animals is much quicker in Animal Parade, and if you visit an animal daily, you should have your first pet by the end of the first in-game year. By the end of summer in my game, I had gotten the orange tabby to three hearts and was able to start picking it up and holding it. The same goes for animals you own. You get a free cow in the beginning of the game, and with proper care you can raise its affection to four hearts before the end of spring.
Animal Parade also offers a first in the Harvest Moon series, second player involvement. If someone is watching you play, he or she can pick up a second remote and help you with your socializing. When a second remote is pointed at the screen, a heart icon appears. Waving it over on screen NPCs and animals will make musical notes appear around them, and eventually hearts. Wave it over the NPCs and animals until you hear a chime twice, for best effects.
There is also a circus side-quest in Animal Parade, where you can help rescue three missing animals and help them find their way home to the zoo. It’s a cute extra feature, but I honestly haven’t spent too much time focusing on it yet. After all, collecting all three missing animals only rewards you with a special circus performance, and not exotic animals on your farm.
Animal Parade is also incredibly easy and accessible. While the area to explore is huge, days are longer and you are given a great start. You do need to pay 5,000 for your home and initial land, but that’s easy to raise and there’s no due date. You start with 9 turnip and 9 cabbage seeds, there are five cherry tries already planted on your plot and a number of crops, like tulips, potatoes, turnips and cabbages are already planted on your land, waiting to be watered and harvested. You also get a free calf from Cain. Plus, the items and requirements for restoring the land to its former glory and saving the Goddess Tree are incredibly easy to meet. I’d even go so far as to say Animal Parade is ridiculously easy.
In a way, that’s a good thing. Many Wii owners aren’t experienced gamers, and Animal Parade could be a good introduction to the Harvest Moon series for them. Especially if the new players started getting into farming sims because of Facebook applications like FarmVille or Farm Town. It’s good for experienced gamers as well, because it lets you get into the fun parts quicker – working on building a family, exploring the mine, creating a menagerie of animals and so on.
But, fans of the series who devotedly buy every new rendition may be disappointed. Let me use my case as an example. I’m in the second week of summer in my first year of the game. Out of the five bells, I’ve already completed four. I earned my first bell within the first four days in-game, and the second one before the tenth. The third bell was acquired by the thirteenth day. The only reason I took so long to get the fourth bell was because it required good cornmeal and you can’t grow corn until summer. So all I have to do now to finish the game is get 10 NPCs to three hearts so I can hear their wish, and then ship 100,000g worth of crops in a single season to summon the Harvest God and save the Harvest Goddess. There is no challenge to it.
As wonderful, deep and accessible as Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is, the lag hurts it. Your character has trouble moving at a constant, consistent pace. My avatar either jogged at a leisurely pace or moved like she was running through quicksand. And many times, there was no discernable reason for the lag! It could be a somewhat barren area, where there was only a plain, dirt path and perhaps a mountainside or green field, and she’d be trudging along as though it were an effort for her to even more. There weren’t even any unusual decorations, animals or other people around!
It makes Harvest Moon: Animal Parade frustrating. Especially early on when you’re performing bell fetch quests to try and make life in Harmonica Town better. The region you’re exploring is massive, which makes the lag when traveling even more noticeable. Admittedly, it isn’t so bad if you just stick to your daily routine on the farm of tending to animals and crops, but that’s probably because you’re moving in such a small area and not traveling to the ends of your environment. It makes you long for the occasional, festival lag in Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility.
Surprisingly, the longer you play Animal Parade, the less you notice the lag. If you play for, say, one hour intervals every couple days, you’ll definitely notice it. If you play every day for about an hour to perhaps two hours, you don’t even notice it.
The other issue is the camera. I’d hoped they would have fixed the occasional camera issues Tree of Tranquility had, but somehow the camera seems worse in Animal Parade. I recall being able to find ways to make the Tree of Tranquility camera work for me, such as walking along certain paths, keeping to certain areas of the screen and so on. But in Animal Parade it just seems to be a hopeless battle. The camera typically has one or two set viewpoints for areas, and you have to deal with it. Its quite annoying.
While the camera issues and lag still remain, and the game is incredibly easy, I still think that Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is the best entry in the series. It’s easy to get into and create a strong foundation, there are lot of events, tons of marriage choices, many animals and, frankly, it looks beautiful. Even though most Harvest Moon games have the same basic foundation, each one feels different because of the choices you make.
Also, while Animal Parade is essentially an upgraded version of Tree of Tranquility, I still recommend checking out, and perhaps owning both games. The differing storylines and difficulty levels help differentiate the titles, and the slight changes in NPC personalities make the townsfolk seem different as well.
Food for Thought: