Saturday, 5 January 2013

'Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands' DS Game Review

My last association with Harvest Moon was on the Game Boy Advance when I got hooked to 'Friends of Mineral Town'. Recalling my love for the game I decided to return to the series. After reading reviews of the five DS games released since, I settled on 'Sunshine Islands' as it had the highest rating and to be fair, they're all pretty similar.

Arriving into town with little other than the clothes on your back, you are given a ranch and some tools with which to farm. Just like all other Harvest Moon games, the aim is to build up your ranch by growing crops, owning animals, making friends and discovering the secrets, in this case, of Sunshine Islands.

What was once a flourishing series of islands has now been reduced to small cluster; the rest have been sunken and it is your task to find 'sunstones' which can be used to raise them and return the land to its former glory.

The first thing to notice about the game is how similar it is to its predecessors. Graphically, there are some improvements to the three dimensionality of the buildings, and brighter colours, but despite missing out four games, I was able to jump right back in without much difficulty.

The controls on the DS are rather easy to use, although a few shortcuts originally on the GBA are not available on the DS, making things slightly more tiresome. The touch screen is rather redundant as everything can be done with buttons, apart from a few forced minigames with your animals.

The idea of having islands 'locked' prolongs the game and gives you something to strive towards which is often missing in these open RPGs, something I immediately like. My tasks were focused to begin with and then slowly branching out to other areas as I unlock them.

From just a dog, horse and a few animals, Sunshine Islands offers an array of new species, including a new pet cat and pet pig (which can sniff out mushrooms and truffles) to sexy black Silkie hens. A whole new island is also available with rabbits and badgers which can help you find items too!

Other islands include mushroom island, mystic islands, fruit island, volcano island (for mining) and rice island, with more to be unlocked as you go.

One thing I rather dislike but might grow to like is the new 'wonderful stone' system of upgrading tools instead of the former ore upgrade system. Here, different wonderful stones can improve your tools by increasing their usage vertically/horizontally, by power and so on... Obtaining these is also quite difficult and not always in your control.

The townspeople are full of personality in this game but the first thing I noticed were the lack of pretty girls. It was a tough decision who to marry in 'Friends of Mineral Town', but here it took a while for some of these girls to appeal: at the moment Lanna and Natalie jump out... but fear not! New characters can be unlocked by raising islands and completing certain tasks- and boy, those unlockable characters contain some pretty pretty girls! There are also some returning characters which might visit the town, including Karen and Popouri from Friends of Mineral Town which brings back such memories (Karen being my wife in that game). All in all there are 8 potential bachelorettes and 7 bachelors to choose from. 

Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands is sure to promise hours and hours of fun as you build up your ranch, explore the island and raise it back to its former glory, all the while making friends, getting married and starting a family. The openness of the game means that you can do whatever you want to do and focus on tasks which you like- how will you build your ranch?

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