I have written and rewritten the same column about Harvest Moon Animal Parade almost three times now, each time I find myself falling down a rabbit hole of its flaws and upsides so rambly and unreadable I’m forced to start over again.
Now, it’s not a complicated game. And from the outside it’s an indisputable improvement from the previous games. However, when you take a closer look, they replace the issues of the previous games with…other issues.
They got rid of the tutorials that, while a staple of the series, were long, pointless, and annoying. But…they replaced it with a bookshelf full of books that give endless text on how to play. So endless in fact, that in the time it would take you to flip through every last one you could have learned from experiencing the game.
They threw out the purchase of extra land that took three minutes to walk to each and every day (which made it a pain to do your simple, everyday tasks) but, they replaced it with the expensive purchase of ‘Vacation Houses’ that you could store tools at, but not a bed, making them expensive, glorified tool sheds.
But none of that breaks the game on quite the level that the pacing does.
To break this down, let’s look at the story-line…
The narrative takes place in eight parts…
The Red Bell
The Yellow Bell
The Blue Bell
The Green Bell
The Purple Bell
Becoming a Hero
Each bell is personified by one of the five story-related Harvest Sprites.
And you are tasked with finding them and then doing a series of tasks before moving on to the next. And up to the purple bell, it’s incredibly quick and easy. If you’re lucky you can be done with the first five steps within the first three hours of gameplay. It’s quick and rewarding and you feel like you’re making fast progress.
But then you hit the purple bell and everything comes to a halt. Edge, the purple bell’s Harvest Sprite instructs you to befriend and listen to the wishes of ten villagers. This task isn’t easy, though, and the friend system is based on filling a large number of hearts. The more hearts someone has for you the more they like you, and you maintain hearts by talking to people and most of all, giving them gifts each day. It takes three hearts to get someone’s wish so let’s do a bit of math here.
Let’s say you have best case scenario. You are befriending Hamilton, the town’s mayor, and you are bringing him a ‘Moondrop Flower’ every day, a favorite gift of his, and making some small talk when you bring it.
It takes one hundred points to fill one heart and each Moondrop Flower and chat is collectively worth fifteen points. Now, since this is a best case scenario we will assume you can find him every day, which is unlikely but for the sake of simplicity we’ll pretend. So, since the game requires the full one hundred points for the heart it will take seven days to get one heart.
So one heart a week. That’s fine, three weeks and Hamilton’s all done, awesome. Except when we take into account how long a day of the game takes in real time it really isn’t.
Each hour of in-game time takes one minute, and to live a day out to its fullest each day is about fifteen minutes, plus loading screens, about twenty. So it would take seven hours for Hamilton’s one wish. Ouch.
Now of course you could always simply not use up your entire day, give Hamilton his gift and his chit-chat and go to bed. Except you have to attain a Moondrop Flower for every single day. So let’s say you have bought twenty-one Moondrop Flowers to give to Hamilton costing you 5,040g. For some perspective into the economy of the game, that could buy you three refrigerators.
So to make this money you must be taking time out of each day to work as well so let’s average that to ten minutes a day. Three and a half hours, for one tenth of your goal. Remember that three hours for first five steps?
But since this is best case scenario let’s say you are befriending three people at a time, because while difficult and often enraging, three people at a time is just within the range of possible.
So, real quick, let’s add two other people into our time per day, bringing it back into the 15 minutes a day range. Oh, wait, let’s triple that cost as well, 15,012g, ouch. Twenty minutes a day it is then, have to make that extra money for the other two villagers. 7 hours for just three people.
Now let’s add those other seven people, one will have to be done alone because four a day is really not doable so…twenty-four and a half hours and 50,400g later we finally finish the sixth step. We went from five steps done in three hours to one step being done in twenty-four and a half.
And no amount of cutesy art and farm animals can excuse for an oversight that huge.