Harvest Moon: Magical Melody • Page 2

About time too.

On top of all that, things are just generally more streamlined. The menu systems hold comprehensive information, everything from instructions on plants and animal husbandry to how much every single person in the town likes you. Your stamina bar, too, is now visible, so you know when to grab a snack to avoid collapsing from exhaustion.

The game itself, then, is a perfect example of the Harvest Moon series, encompassing everything good about these wonderful games and enveloping it all in an adorable (if basic) visual style. Unfortunately, in addition to chopping off the option to be a girl farmer, the conversion makes plenty of other mistakes. Rising Star has implemented Wii controls for the game's simplest tasks - swinging a hoe, axe or hammer, and using a fishing rod - but they're unsubtle and physically repetitive, meaning there's little point in using them when buttons work just as well. Annoyingly, the button layout isn't perfect either, as it's clearly cut-and-pasted from the GameCube version without concern for comfort. The in-game text even refers to the GameCube controller's buttons from time to time. It also runs at 50Hz, which is a bit infuriating if you're bothered by such things, and the complete lack of any visual improvements makes a game that looked cute but simplistic two years ago look positively dated today.

But after that initial bad impression has worn off and you're engrossed in planting cabbages so that you can save up for a new barn, making a few new friends in the village and eyeing up a potential spouse, it's just so difficult to care. None of this unfortunate laziness is game-breaking. None of it stops you from stroking your cows every morning before watering the plants, or leaping into bed knowing that each day brings you closer to a coveted item. It doesn't take away from the profound sense of calm and happiness that this gentle, rewarding, deceptively complex game is capable of eliciting in all but the most hard-hearted of players. It's an escape to a place where life is lovely, hard work always pays off and sheep love to be hugged.

3
Ahhh. Who wouldn't want this life?

The Wii conversion of Magical Melody is slightly inferior to the original, but all of the most important elements remain intact. Much as I'd love to mark this long-overdue European version down for forcing me and the legions of other female Harvest Moon fans to play as a male farmer, robbing us of the most significant choice that the American and Japanese GameCube versions of the game allow you to make, it wouldn't be fair. It's fantastic that this game has finally been released over here, even if the port is a tiny bit botched and the added Wii controls are all but redundant.

Even after two years, this is still my favourite Harvest Moon game in the whole world ever. Whether you're a fan or a newcomer, Magical Melody is captivating, mixing the best aspects of every game that came before to create the biggest, most involving, most addictive and most challenging entry in this loveliest and most unique of series. Still, it really is a huge shame that girls are going to have to find an import copy of the Cube version if they want to marry Kurt instead of Katie.

8 /10

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About the author

Keza MacDonald

Keza MacDonald

Contributor

Keza is the Guardian's video games editor. Previously she has been the UK editor for Kotaku and IGN, and a Eurogamer contributor.

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