Thursday, May 17, 2007

Living an Innocent Life

As I become more deeply engaged in the new 'Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon' game by Natsume, its charm continues to grow. It combines classical 'Harvest Moon' role-playing farming simulation with the traditional 'quest' aspects of RPGs. The primary focus is that of 'healing' the land and restoring the balance of the elements through farming and ranching, but there are dungeons to explore as well. There is no fighting in the game, unlike most RPGs, but there are maze dungeons and Chests containing treasures.

There is something very enchanting about the landscapes in this game as well as the process of 'breaking seals' and transforming barren wastelands into fertile farming ground. This game offers far more travel than most Harvest Moon games. One can explore deserts, plains, dunes and forests as well as caves.

The PSP is an incredible handheld gaming system but it offered few games to players who enjoyed depth and intricacy rather than simple slash-and-hack or driving simulation games. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth was a magnificent, complex role-playing fighting game, but there never have been any games to match Harvest Moon.

When 'Innocent Life' was announced last year as a future release for the PSP, I was very excited. It measures up to all expectations.

For fans of Harvest Moon, every new game will be compared to all other Harvest Moon games that preceded it. In each case, there will be aspects of the new game that will delight, but often an aspect of an old game that was not included in the new one will be missed.

An example of this can be seen with respect to Ranching in Innocent Life. Harvest Moon DS offered almost too many activities with respect to animal care, but Innocent Life offers very few. As it is a 'futuristic Harvest Moon', the ranching system is automated for the most part. Eggs and milk appear daily automatically on a conveyor belt. Sheep go through a shearing machine en masse automatically every Friday at 5.30 p.m. One can 'pet' each Animal once each day, but that is the extent of interaction with poultry and livestock.

On the other hand, with the arrival of the 'Pink Mask Representative' and his outlandish goods, you can acquire a 'Mother's Touch' and 'Shiny Coat', items that allow you to interact more with your animals.

An option is unlocked with respect to the World Ranch Channel that allows you to 'gamble' on your poultry and livestock by purchasing animals who possess temporary 'Stars', raising their value on a limited time basis. Even so, one misses the ability to milk the cows and shear the sheep oneself.

The endless Touchglove activities in Harvest Moon DS did become rather annoying, especially because of the wear-and-tear to the DS Touchscreen. To be perfectly honest, the Ranching activities in Friends of Mineral Town remain the best in Harvest Moon games.

This is rather esoteric information, however, for any one who never played a Harvest Moon game before. For a newcomer to the series, Innocent Life may be one of the easier games to master, as it is more 'linear' than other Harvest Moon games. Events unfold in sequence and there are enough hints from other characters in the game to allow a beginner to understand what he/she should do next. In any event, my General Guide to the game should give any further information that may be required in any case.

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