The Harvest Moon franchise has been around for quite some time and has garnered the attention of many a gamer through addictive farming-sim gameplay. The latest entry in the series, Tree of Tranquility, features more of the same gameplay that made all the past iterations so enjoyable. You’ll have a nice big island to explore, plenty of activities and events to participate in, and, of course, lots of people to talk to. But, I am not so convinced that Tree of Tranquility has enough content to set it apart from other games in the series.
The game begins with the generic fill-in-the-blank story that occurs in every iteration of the series. You are an aspiring farmer, who travels to a troubled land that has fallen out of favor with the harvest goddess. This goddess reveals herself to you, and you realize that your farming skills are the last hope for this troubled land. The travesty this time around has taken place on Waffle Island, which, despite being isolated from the rest of the world, had done quite well for itself before it had fallen out of the goddess’ favor. The town has plenty of natural resources, and it will be up to you to explore the island and make use of all you find.
Like all the other Harvest Moon games, you’ll start off by growing a few crops and gathering natural resources to earn money. However, in Tree of Tranquility there is also a welcome money-making option in the form of part-time jobs. Your character will be able to work several part-time jobs in this game and can try their hands at positions like shopkeeper’s assistant or farm-hand. Of course, the draw-back here is that the more you work, the less you will be able to manage your farm, so I found it easier to stick to planting and gathering natural resources.
After your character has earned enough capital, they will be able to upgrade their tools, add on to the farm, and even raise livestock. In addition to expanding our farming skills, you will also learn to mine, fish, and cook! And of course, after a very long time, your character will be able to find a suitor and get married. You can play as either a male or female, but don’t worry; there are plenty of suitors for either gender.
In addition to your day to day activities, the island community will have a festival from time to time. During these festivals you can take some time off from farming and schmooze with the neighbors. You can also play some carnival-style mini-games, which will subsequently be unlocked in a special mini-game mode. However, you won’t be able to unlock them all until a whole year has passed because each seasonal festival has certain mini-games that your attendance will unlock.
If you are a Harvest Moon veteran, most of these gameplay facets will sound very familiar, and I have to say that for me it is a little too familiar. The gameplay teetered on boring territory more than once, just because of the striking resemblance to earlier games. Even if you haven’t played a Harvest Moon title since the GameCube, you still may find that this title relies far too much on the old formula. I was very disappointed with the lack of innovation in this title because the jump to the Wii console was a great opportunity for the franchise to expand and branch out. The lack of substantial new gameplay facets represents a real missed opportunity for the franchise.
The controls in Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility are pretty simple, and you have the choice of using the Wii-mote and Nunchuk combination or the classic controller. The Wii-mote and Nunchuk controls work very well, and you are able to use the motion controls for agricultural tools like the watering can and the hoe.
The motion controls actually speed certain actions and are very convenient when you are working on hoeing large fields. Although the regular control scheme feels fine, the classic controller scheme feels more natural for seasoned Harvest Moon players. Both control schemes are precise and easy to use, and no matter which one you decide on sticking with, controlling this title is a breeze.
Another strong point for Tree of Tranquility is the in-game music. The different melodies are quite nice to listen to, and the different character themes are nicely varied. However, the overall sound scheme of the game is brought down by infrequent and sometimes awkward-sounding voiceovers. Characters are largely silent, however, there will be an occasional “yay!” or “oh no!” that sounds out of place.
The visuals in Harvest Moon: Tree of tranquility look fairly standard as far as Wii graphics are concerned. Characters sport a fair amount of detail, and animations are nice and smooth. The environment, however, does not look as polished as the characters, as there is a real lack of detail. The different areas look very bland and, for an island paradise, looks unexpectedly dull.
Harvest Moon has been a staple Nintendo franchise for a decade now, and at first glance it is easy to see why. The farm-simulation game is instantly charming and its task-based gameplay appeals to both the casual and hardcore sect. Harvest Moon is always fun and always engaging, but as the years go by and more and more iterations of this classic franchise are released, it becomes more apparent that it is always the same. While Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility will provide countless hours of fun for those only vaguely familiar with the series, there isn’t much new content here for those who have been with the series for the past ten years. Sure, exploring the island is great, and the new characters are always fun, but the game experience remains virtually unchanged from past iterations, which is my chief complaint. Still, if you are really into farming, and don’t mind the repetitive tendencies of the series, then Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is a solid entry and definitely worth your time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Graphics are pretty good despite having very simplistic elements. 4.1 Control
Controls on the Wii-mote and Nunchuk combination as well as the Classic Controller scheme work very well. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is very good, but infrequent voiceovers are annoying. 3.5
Like any Harvest Moon title, Tree of Tranquility has plenty of depth, but it doesn’t cover any new ground which is disappointing for longtime fans. However, newcomers will find plenty to love.
3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.