Saturday, September 1, 2012

Okay, Hero of Leaf Valley is Pretty Good

I am legitimately surprised by the revelation that I've stumbled across these last couple days when I've been putting some work in on the ol' farm, as it were.  Hero of Leaf Valley, despite what it's connected to by virtue of being a remake of (more or less) seems like any other Harvest Moon game in its own right, which is a compliment mind you, and I find it a little hard to put down when I get going with it.  Truly the sign that there is a good Harvest Moon game in my hands, you see.  Always striving to get just one more day in, to keep the schedule tight, to get one goal done with before I stop playing.  I need my chickens to give me medium-sized eggs.  I need my cows to start producing milk.  I need to make more money so I can buy more things so that I can do more in a day.  More more more more more, I need to -play the friggin' game more to get this done-.

....Ahem.  I'm sure the general spirit of what I was trying to get across made it through all that.  My point is that a mark of a good Harvest Moon is that it has the freedom, the openness that it allows you to simply form your own goals as I clearly have and do whatever to meet them.  Granted, there's basically only a few ways to accomplish things unless they are generally vague, ala "make money, get paid", but it still ends up feeling like 'your' way, no matter how it gets done.  Whenever I manage to track down a friggin' blue rock to upgrade my hammer with, for instance, it'll be -my- accomplishment, not one the game has guided me towards.  When my stupid friggin' dog finally likes me enough that I can tell him to search for Power Berries and I find one - that's all me, that's mine.  It's entirely much more excitement to come from a farming simulation game than one would expect to ever occur, but it is there and it is glorious.

Something that I'm not quite sure about the game, that I'm deciding whether or not it's a double-edged sword is the simplicity the game seems to carry.  Not only the actual simplicity it carries, like all Harvest Moon games do, but the simplicity that I feel the game carries over the others.  You can only farm chickens and cows like previous games, you just have a tiny plot to farm on, and whatever you grow, you sell to villagers instead of shipping it to parts unknown for profit, and there's really only a handful of villagers around.  They are mostly utilitarian, as per normal, with there being six different 'store-fronts' with which you can deal your wares with (of course, everyone only buys certain things so you don't have a one-stop-shop) and little extra fluff.  Despite there being over twenty characters running around, it feels like considerably less since there is not a day where you are likely going to interact with all of them, and much less a chance of a week going by where you do that either.  Unless you are particularly social, there's no real reason to spend your valuable time running around and talking to everybody, so you tend to keep it cut down to who is necessary to speak with and more or less, those people don't really change.

For instance, my normal day (at least, what I'm trying to get into) consists of getting up, feeding the stupid dog who lost a heart for me because I brought him inside when it was raining hard because he's a stupid, stupid mutt and then going off to take care of my three chickens and two cows.  I go back to the farm proper and harvest/water the Rice crops I've got going (They apparently stay viable from Spring to Fall and give multiple harvests without mention of wilting.  Seems perfect.) and head off towards the woodcutter's.  I hand off a berry to Gwen, who my character will probably be marrying and then (depending on the day) wait for 9 where I can work for Woody to cut down trees.  Eventually doing this will allow me to actually keep lumber with which I can expand my farm with, something I am desperate to do.  Then I hit up Bob and/or Ronald to do side-work for them for quick money and by that time it's time to go to bed.  That is four characters only and unless somebody is directly in my path, I don't waste time.  The variation on this is when it rains, or if it's a day the Woodcutters is closed, I head off to the mines in hopes of getting Blue Rock so I can get a better, lighter hammer which costs lest energy to use which means I can do more in a day.

Moreso than in previous Harvest Moon games, I feel like I am fighting time instead of simply abiding it and that's something I'm really not too happy with.  Either my character moves too slowly or time simply passes too quickly and I start feeling like I could get more done, talk to more people, have a little down-time, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it.  I'm clearly enjoying the game, even if it's not unequivocal, so that's really all that matters at the end of the day.  Everything is sort of a "matter of time" process regardless, so schedules change rapidly based on what happens.  I didn't use to devote time to running off to the barns to tend to animals, after all, so that was factored in, and once I'm able to get more steady resources (better quality eggs, some friggin' milk, etc.) I'll get more money and won't have to rely on the side bits.  Hell, once I get some Blue Rocks, I'll probably never mine again, unless there's another tier of upgrades after that, which there honestly could be.  It's just all a matter of making sure everyday gets you a little closer to getting a little more tomorrow and I've got that balancing act down-pat.

I do wonder if this will be a case of the glow starting to fade eventually, as I'm clearly not -completely- enamored with the game, just....mostly.  I can't help but feel like I want more than the game can provide, and worry that it's only really a stop-gap between this and the next HM-related title I can get my hands on, but I'm only rounding the end of the first Spring so I've honestly barely dug into the game at all.  It just feels like it since I have really gotten quite a bit of progress out of it in such a short time.  Once the events really start presenting themselves, as I get to know the townsfolk more and more, I'm sure I'll start feeling the full breadth of what the game has to offer and start considering things for the 'long term', but that's off in a distance that I simply cannot get to yet.  Still, I am excited, which is still a surprise, to see how it goes from here.  And certainly, I've gotten my $7.50 out of it by now.

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