Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley Review
A Place Called Home
Here at RPGamer, Harvest Moon reviews have been relatively non-existent in recent years. They are games that are difficult to complete and they require that special someone who has loads of patience to give them the attention they rightfully need. Having been a huge Harvest Moon fan for years, I can say that this series has been largely one I like to relax to. Unlike the Nintendo DS which has numerous iterations, the PlayStation Portable has only had two titles to its name, and now finally a third one has been released with Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley.
Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley is a spiritual successor to the PlayStation 2 title, Save the Homeland. It is by no means, however, the same game, and those expecting a similar title may be pleasantly surprised by the numerous changes and additions made with Leaf Valley. Farming essentially takes a bit of a backseat as the objective this time around is to save Leaf Valley from the evils of the Funland Corporation, which threatens to build an amusement park on top of the land. Thankfully, there are so many different ways to save the valley that one cannot experience it all in just one playthrough.
Part of what makes Hero of Leaf Valley stand out compared to other Harvest Moon games is the fact that it offers so much replay value, and has a solid story that isn’t just the usual chop-chop-dig-dig affair. Although the simplest way to save Leaf Valley is to fork out 50,000 gold before the end of the second year, there are other options such as turning the valley into a tourist spot or making it into a nature reserve. Depending on which townspeople are befriended and the extent to which they are helped, new sections are added to the story and endings specific to various characters can be acquired. With roughly twenty or so endings to attain, this gives Leaf Valley tons of replay value, and an actual plot to boot.
Besides attempting to stop the destruction of Leaf Valley, players will also have the chance to get married, which was not possible in Save the Homeland. Unlike the DS iterations such as Sunshine Island, players will not have to worry about catching specific events, and instead simply have to raise the desired bachelorette’s heart level to its maximum. Befriending and helping the villagers is what makes this game shine. There are many different villagers to encounter, each with their own specific problems and goals that they wish to achieve, and it’s up to you to help as many people as possible. Every day there’s a new event to explore that extends the story, as well as scheduled events that deal with the Funland Corporation’s takeover attempt. The villagers in Leaf Valley have lots of personality, and it’s very easy to care about their individual causes.
The gameplay in Hero of Leaf Valley is also distinctively different from other Harvest Moon titles. As previously mentioned, farming is not the focal point, but it can be used as a way to gain funds. Leaf Valley opts for the removal of the tried and true shipping box, and instead directs players to sell items to stores and take part-time jobs as the primary ways to make money. Outside of farming and part-time jobs, players can also fish, mine, collect items on the ground or from trees, or even be a lumberjack. There are also delivery requests that can be done each season to earn money and help the villagers. Even the dog and horse can help contribute to rescuing the town, as the dog can search and dig for items, and the horse can participate in the horse races as a way to promote tourism. There are so many different ways to work towards the $50,000 goal that every day can be different, though trying to remember which store accepts which items can take a bit of getting used to. The lack of a shipping box also removes the simple financial system that the series is known for, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is disorienting for veteran Harvest Moon players who are used to popping off all their items.
The controls are another thing that take a bit of getting used to. For one thing, the camera is controlled using the D-pad, while the player’s character is moved using the analog stick. This can be a bit awkward at first, but after awhile players will ease into it without much trouble. This makes for clumsy camera angles from time to time, but the camera can be repositioned with the triangle button.
A new feature added to Hero of Leaf Valley is the ability to press triangle on the map screen and be instantly taken home. This is particularly useful because the town is quite large, and trekking home manually can waste a lot of time. The days in Hero of Leaf Valley can be very long, taking anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour, and the ability to return home instantly is a welcome time-saver.
Although there are a lot of positive aspects to Hero of Leaf Valley, the music sadly isn’t one of them. While the soundtrack definitely fits the tone of the game to a tee, it’s not exactly exciting or interesting to listen to. Most of the music is dull, repetitive and not memorable whatsoever. Also, having to hear it loop as the day progresses can get very grating. Most players will likely find themselves turning on their own music or turning the volume off.
While the sound and music aren’t at all exciting, the visuals in Leaf Valley are lovely, save for a single spot in the game in which some visual tearing occasionally occurs. Texture problems can occasionally cause black and white lines to appear in distant objects, though this isn’t usually too distracting. For the most part, the 3D is pleasant looking, and the character models are fairly detailed and cute. Unlike Sunshine Island which has a very vibrant colour palette, Hero of Leaf Valley opts for soft colours and a more dream-like atmosphere, making it very enjoyable to explore as seasons change.
Even with a FAQ, collecting all twenty endings is a challenge. Hero of Leaf Valley‘s main plotline takes roughly forty hours to complete, though there’s plenty of postgame content for those who wish to continue their playthrough, making this game easily over sixty hours if the player chooses to continue playing after the town has been saved. However, in order to complete said content players will have to deal with rather long and frequent load times.
For those who were disappointed by the previous Harvest Moon offerings on the PlayStation Portable, this one is sure to delight, though it’s not without a few flaws. Hero of Leaf Valley is an enjoyable experience for both new and old fans of the series, as there’s so much content to explore and events to discover. Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley is a must-have for Harvest Moon fans and is a delightfully satisfying experience for those who want to get their farming-sim on.
Over twenty different endings to obtain
Tons of activities available
Villagers are full of charm and personality
Music is corny
Visuals have some minor issues
Long and frequent load times