reviews\ Oct 29, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Harvest Moon DS - NDS - Review

Harvest Moon has been an extremely long-running series with many sequels and spin-offs. You've most likely at least heard of Harvest Moon at some point, and have probably even played one of them. Its simplicity and charm has allowed it to survive this long, and the newest release, Harvest Moon DS, continues to keep the formula intact while expanding the gameplay.


The "point" of this Harvest Moon is to rescue the lost Harvest Sprites that have been banished to a different dimension by a prankster witch. I use the term "point" loosely, since the true point of Harvest Moon is to expand your farm any way you prefer. While the game is fairly open-ended as to how you expand your farm, you'll find that that's really all you do in a Harvest Moon. This one isn't much different. There will be events or side objectives that you can go for, but they usually involve your farm in some way as well.


The biggest and most obvious difference in Harvest Moon DS versus is the new menu system. All of your stats, tools, bag contents, and a town map can be accessed from your touch screen without interrupting gameplay. You also have a personal TV with stations run by rescued sprites that can be accessed on the touch screen as well.


The gameplay of Harvest Moon DS should be very familiar to anyone who's played a Harvest Moon in the past. You start with a small house on a plot of land. With your trusty rucksack and simple tools you can begin to clear your land and collect plants, rocks, and lumber. After gathering enough material you can build additional structures on your property, expand your house, or even just sell them to make some money.



Everything you do in Harvest Moon DS drains your stamina, a staple of the series. The main character has different animations at different levels of exhaustion. If you overwork him in a single day, he will pass out, forcing one of his neighbors to drag him back home. The bad news is that you lose a percentage of your money when you let this happen.


Once your plot of land has some clear space you can plant crops. Seeds are purchased through the supermarket or from various secret vendors. You can also build additional buildings on your land to house chickens, cows, or even to store materials.


Once you've built a bird or yodel house, you can own money-making pets. These include ducks, chickens, sheep, and cows. These pets produce products that you can sell or cook with, and can also be entered into tournaments or sold. No matter how you look at it, though, they're used to make more money. You can even buy an accessory from the store that opens up a petting mini game on the touch screen. Succeeding in this mini game will make your pets more happy, thus earning you more money with their goods.


The Harvest Moon calendar consists of four months: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Different seasons mean different crops, and most crops die at the turn of the season. The food you harvest from your crops will at first be primarily used as a means of income, but Harvest Moon DS gives you more reason to keep the food you grow.


You can purchase a kitchen, refrigerator, and various cooking tools in Harvest Moon DS. As you can probably assume, the refrigerator is used to store the food you harvest to keep room in your rucksack. The kitchen and cooking tools are used to cook different recipes. These recipes come in extremely handy in Harvest Moon DS, since some later activities require a lot of stamina to complete.


The kitchen, refrigerator, and various other household appliances can be purchased through TV shopping as your house is expanded. Each sprite you save can help you in some way or another, and some start their own television channel on your personal TV. One particular channel offers items to purchase that you can't find in the local shops. Other channels will tell you about the weather, give you game tips, or even hints on where to find the remaining sprites.


Other services offered by the sprites include watering and harvesting your crops for you. The more sprites you save, the more they can help. The tricky part to enlisting them, however, is that you must play their casino games to earn their help. In the casino you earn medals instead of money. You can always buy more medals with your money if you run out, but with medals you can purchase the help of the sprites, or special rare items (including one-of-a-kind seeds and recipe books).



As I stated before, the true objective of Harvest Moon DS is to rescue these missing Harvest Sprites, and eventually their princess leader. Fortunately, rescuing most of these sprites doesn't require work outside of your usual farm maintenance. Certain sprites will be released from harvesting, watering crops, gathering materials, and even eating.


In addition to tending to your farm, you can find yourself a girlfriend in town, participate in cooking tournaments, enter your pets into competitions, or even explore the mine to the north of town. All these activities are pretty trivial, but exploring the mine will most likely take up a lot of your time in Harvest Moon DS (especially in winter, when you can't grow any crops). Not only does mining earn you pretty decent money, but you will gather the needed supplies to upgrade your tools as well as unlike some of the hidden items in the game.


But the mines are not to be taken lightly. The first one that opens up seems pretty tame. Basically you explore one room at a time, breaking rocks or digging up the ground for items. As you explore you will stumble upon holes that drop you deeper into the mine. Each floor has a staircase to escape with, but going as deep as you can is the whole point. The deeper you go, the better the spoils. The first mine only has 10 floors, but getting to the 255th floor of the second mine wasn't nearly as easy. Especially considering the second mine had enemies.


Harvest Moon DS Screenshot


Enemies in the mines take the form of black versions of the animals you'll find on your farm. These enemies drain your stamina when they hit you. And considering you're also breaking rocks and digging as you go through these mines, reaching the final floor in a 255 floor mine without passing out was a chore. There are 4 mines total, and each one gets progressively longer.


Harvest Moon DS is extremely addicting. Just like previous Harvest Moon titles, and the popular Animal Crossing, for some reason living a normal life of chores in a video game is strangely appealing. There were times I couldn't put Harvest Moon DS down for hours. Between raising your animals, upgrading your farm, harvesting crops, exploring the mines, courting a girlfriend, gathering materials, fishing, and cooking there is always something to do. And since Harvest Moon's gameplay is simple enough for beginners, now is as good a time as any to see why this series is so popular.

Review Scoring Details for Harvest Moon DS


Gameplay: 9.4

With so many things to do, and easy-to-understand gameplay mechanics and goals, Harvest Moon DS is a great game for any age group. Finding all the hidden items and features is difficult enough to give the completists a run for their money, while other gamers can have fun with what's readily available.


Graphics: 9.0

I personally have a soft spot for the look of the original SNES Harvest Moon, and Harvest Moon DS looks exactly like that. Nice, clean sprites, good animation, and an overall charming look.


Sound: 7.0

The tunes are subtle at first, providing a great background to your hard farm work, but with every day of a season having the same music it will most likely get on your nerves. The sound effects don't add a whole lot to the overall experience either, but are still done well.


Difficulty: Easy

The hidden items and tools are actually pretty difficult to get, but since they are technically hidden, I don't consider their requirements as part of the main gameplay. Harvest Moon DS is an easy game, mostly because there are no time limits, you can't die, and you can't really fail at anything. It's all about doing what you want and doing it at your own pace.


Concept: 7.5

Harvest Moons have been coming out for years, so it was only natural it gets a turn on the DS. I'm just glad it's in the style of the classic SNES version, but with all the features and options of the more recent versions. 


Overall: 9.2

Having Harvest Moon on the go is great. Being able to save anywhere makes it the perfect portable game, and since there's virtually no learning curve you can pick it up and play at any time at all. Gamers that are happy with just tending to the farm will be perfectly content, while gamers that crave more have access to much more than that. This is one of those games that just about anyone can enjoy.


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