Its time to roll up your sleeves, grab a spade and get working – that field isn’t gonna dig itself y’know!
Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is published in the UK by Rising Star Games and is available on the Wii. For those of you unfamiliar with this series of games, Harvest Moon sets the player the task of running a farm and all of the associated tasks that go with it. From growing crops and raising animals, to making money and finding love. All of these tasks and more will have to be fulfilled by the player.
You begin the game on a boat traveling to Waffle Island. During the journey a huge storm breaks and you fall into unconsciousness. Whilst passed out, you dream of a beautiful lady who is in trouble and needs your help.
You awaken in Waffle Town and are promptly ushered into the games tutorial, that will see you participating in a number of quests designed to show you the basics of the game. Once completed, you get to choose your house and are left to your own devices.
Aside from the main story, which slowly runs through the game, there are a number of things to think about. There are so many things that you can spend your time doing, but making some money should be high up on the list. There are a number of ways to make money, such as taking a part time job in one of the stores, or selling the stuff that you find whilst exploring. The money you make can be spent on equipment, stuff for your farm, decorative items for the house and even gifts for others.
The game has a clock that translates to one minute of game time for every second of real time. Your character, therefore, only has a limited amount of time to do the things that are needed. Time management is of the utmost importance. You will wake up at 6.00am every morning and begin your day. Should you start the day with all of the heavy work, your little guy (or gal) will likely be exhausted by lunchtime, and thus unable to complete other tasks. A good nights sleep is the best way to replenish stamina, but a quick visit to the hot spring can also soothe those aching bones.
The social side of this game is also quite important. Make friends, find a partner, get married and even have a child. This is the first of the Harvest Moon games that actually allows you to play as your own child in a new game. This means that you can carry on the family line forever, should you desire to do so.
Bundled in with the game, are a selection of mini-games. These games need to be unlocked within the main story mode though, and that could take a while. Once unlocked, the games will provide a diversion, but nothing more. They feel like they have been added as an after thought.
There is a lot to do in this game, and therein lies its major flaw. There are just not enough hours in the day (one of my favorite phrases). Each day runs through so quickly that before you know it, its time to sleep again. This is slightly frustrating. Also, the main story seems to get lost somewhere along its way. It is very slow in revealing itself and, after a while, I found that I just didn’t care any more.
The soundtrack does a good job of providing unobtrusive background music, whereas the soundeffects and voices are sadly not that great. The games graphics, also, seem uninspired. They seem bland and washed out, not as bright and colourful as you would expect. The controls have been changed for the Wii, but not to any great degree. You may find yourself shaking the wiimote or tilting it in a watering can style fashion, but the opportunity for a unique control method has sadly passed this game by.
For all of these faults, Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is not a bad game. It just feels as though it has missed its potential. There is still a lot of fun to be had in building up a successful farm and finding a soul mate. The core gameplay that has made other Harvest Moon games so popular is still there, and that’s a good thing. Players new to the series may find this game disappointing, but fans of the series will be happy as pigs in…a field.