Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Challenges in Island of Happiness
Every Harvest Moon game is challenging and very few can be explored fully in less than five years (Harvest Moon time!) but I really have come to the conclusion that 'Island of Happiness' is by far the most challenging game of all. Imagine a game where you have to unlock many of the Eligible Girls/Bachelors... Imagine ordering a Bird Barn or Animal Barn that does not contain a full set of feeders or any shipping containers. Imagine a 'Maker' that requires 20 Adamantite instead of only one and a Maker Shed that must be expanded before you can order some of the 'Makers'. If you wish to order Accessories, you may need 10 to 60 pieces of Orichalc rather than 1.
Suffice it to say that I cannot imagine any player sighing regretfully that he/she completed all goals too quickly! Every aspect of this game is challenging. You have to unlock new areas on the map if you wish to meet vital characters and ever gain access to a Mine.
Festivals are unlocked as well. As you move forward in the game, you will be able to participate in new Festivals.
Items do not have a single value either. Each item has a Rank as well as a grade in terms of Quality, Size and Freshness. When you are mining or fishing, in particular, you need to be aware constantly of the number of empty slots in your rucksack. Unless the items are identical not only in type, but in Rank, Quality, Size and Freshness, they will occupy different slots. You can stack items of different ranks and grades but this must be done manually. The resulting 'stack' will contain items of rank and grades that represent an average of the original items.
New 'advanced Makers' that require an upgraded Maker Shed include a Thresher and a Flour Mill. In a previous post, I wrote about the New Year Festival, where my character actually participated in the ritual of pounding the rice for rice cakes. Little details like this astound me. The obvious time and energy that went into the creation of Island of Happiness make it a labour of love.
For fans of Harvest Moon, it is wonderful to be able to encounter characters from other games like Cliff, Trent, Karen and Popuri. (When they visit the Island in IoH, they are married to your old 'Rivals' from FoMT/MFoMT.)
The characters from Mineral Town speak of their spouses and of others as well. For example, Trent will tell you that Mayor Thomas arranged for his room at the Inn on the Island. Other characters play a role even when they are not present in the flesh. The Gourmet is an important character in one of Pierre's Heart Events.
As in most Harvest Moon games, you need not be the best farmer, rancher, miner or fisherman/woman in order to live a fairly decent life. You won't perish if you fail to meet all the goals in the game. Discussing some of the 'challenges' in IoH therefore should not discourage players who mainly play Harvest Moon games in order to marry and have a family. That goal can be one of the easier to attain, depending on the Eligible Girl/Bachelor you wish to court. There are Eligible Girls/Bachelors who will not appear on the Island if you do not attain specific goals but there are others who are available for courtship from the start of the game.
Without being too specific about Tree of Tranquility, the upcoming Harvest Moon game for the Wii, you will not be able to meet all the Eligible Girls/Bachelors at the start in that game either. At the very earliest, you will be able to unlock every possible character only halfway through your second year. In other respects, however, it is very different from Island of Happiness. It has a very detailed storyline and plot, casting your character in the role of hero/heroine. In that sense, it reminds me a little of Rune Factory, although there is no combat in ToT. In many Harvest Moon games, you are called upon to rescue the Harvest Goddess, but the plot in ToT is far more complex than that. There is a 'next generation' option in ToT that is rather wonderful. I certainly recommend that game as well wholeheartedly!
Heart Events and Rival Heart Events in Island of Happiness can be touching, dramatic or hilarious. Courting every possible candidate for marriage BEFORE you decide on a wife/husband is worth the effort because the Events are wonderful.
I think a player could spend six (real time) months on Island of Happiness without exhausting half of the possibiities. Through Harvest Moon, one can live more than one life but there always is that pesky problem of real time...