While I'm a giant Harvest Moon fan, I burnt out a little last year on all the titles, some of which weren't the most stellar offerings Natsume and Marvelous had published, but this year looks to be much improved. I sat down to play Harvest Moon: Sunshine Island and was very pleased with the improvements it was showing over its predecessor.
Sunshine Island is a follow up to the previous DS title Island of Happiness; the story of the previous game is complete but the family of characters introduced in Island is back for another adventure. In the previous title, only one island was available to populate and develop. The new title will feature nearly ten islands which the player needs to raise up out of the ocean. A discovered treasure, the Sunstones, will aid him in his quest to retrieve these sunken landmasses. The game will begin with just two, but it's enough to keep the player very busy until new islands can be raised. To make farming life simple, each island has a separate purpose: one, for example is for mining while a second will be for growing mushrooms and where the player's pig will be kept.
Additional animals are available to both tame and befriend this time around; along with the aforementioned pig there are will animals such as ducks and badgers which move in to specific islands and will perform simple tasks for you, freeing up your time to socialize. The ducks will fish for the farmer, netting not only tasty fish but various herbs that are vital for restoring energy as well. There are also new farm-oriented mini-games associated with the player's tame animals; previously these were mostly associated with cows and sheep but now the farm's horse, dog, and cat can also feel the extra special love.
Two new love interests, one of each gender, were added to the game to give some additional variety and I was assured both were "quite hot -- I mean, attractive" by Natsume PR. As I didn't get to meet either during my play period, time will tell. Additional tweaks to the game include D-Pad contol, absent from the prior Island title, a sort all inventory option which was desperately needed, as well as the joyful return of the Harvest Sprites, who now perform a larger variety of duties no longer limited to farming. I set up one of my sprites to magically lower the cost of goods in the seed store.
While Sunshine Island isn't going to change the opinion of any diehard hater of the series, it is definitely good to see that Marvelous is willing to learn from their mistakes and resolve to fix them in successive titles. It's also nice to see a Harvest Moon spiritual successor that doesn't require playing the former title such as Friends of Mineral Town. A mid-to-end August 2009 release is expected for the title and the accompanying plushie is as of yet unannounced. Maybe they'll take my idea!