REVIEW: Harvest Moon: My Little Shop

this article is part of an ongoing series examining the entire Harvest Moon franchise. see the main article and index here.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my console buying habits are based solely on how many Harvest Moon games have come out on a given console.  When I acquired my Wii, four Harvest Moon games had been released, with this one coming out a couple days after I purchased the system.  I decided to get in on the first wave for this one and wait a bit to play the others.

Yeah… this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. This is also way longer and more detailed than most of these Harvest Moon reviews will be, since this is the newest one and it’s so different and all. I figure some people will be curious about it.

QUICK FACT: More like a spinoff game than a regular entry in the series, the emphasis is not on farming.
QUICK FACT: The gameplay is minigame-based, and the game runs in real time.

GAME LENGTH: The game keeps going once you finish (and the finish depends on how quickly you master the minigames, how frequently you play, and also when a random customer comes into your shop at just the right time). It’s likely that those who enjoy it are going to want to keep playing past the end since there’s a lot of villagers to interact with, especially with the add-on content, and that’s the best part.

It’s different from a regular Harvest Moon game.  Different enough to consider it a spinoff, like Puzzle de Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and Innocent Life.  It’s a store simulator rather than a farm simulator, though there are a couple small farming elements.

The scenario this time around is that you are a young child spending the summer with your grandma and grandpa on their ranch in Clover Town.  Clover Town is, for all intents and purposes, a ghost town with very few residents still hanging around.  Jarvis, the mayor, is confused and unhappy about this, and even the signature quadruple clover windmill has stopped spinning.  On your grandparent’s ranch, your grandpa pulls his back and your grandmother decides to close down her small store due to lack of business.  You offer to try your hand at the store and help out a little around the ranch.  Do well at the store, and the residents will come back to Clover Town.  Money from sales at the store can be used to expand the farm, and as you spend more money at the stores, more items to expand your own shop will become available.  Eventually, you’ll even get to revive the windmill and welcome the harvest sprites back into the town.  With the harvest sprites back, you may even get to learn a little more about the legend of the clover necklace given to a special someone.

As is the trend with the newest games, you get to choose either a male or female character at the beginning of the game.  The only differences between the genders, as far as I can tell, is who is available to give the clover necklace to, though not every bachelor and bachelorette from the old games will be available in this game (and, hilariously, Jamie is once again available to both genders).  The game runs on real time as far as the calendar dates go, so keep an eye on the schedule when someone makes an RSVP.  You also have to remember to play within a certain number of days so that the crops don’t die and your livestock doesn’t run away.

The farming and ranching elements are minimal.  You get a max of five farm plots that you water once a day (harvesting happens automatically), and once a day you have to brush your cows and feed your chickens.   Again, you have to play once a day at first in order to keep up with the real time clock and maintain your good farm, but later you can buy tools that keep your crops and livestock happy for up to three days.  The only cool thing about the farm is that you get four different types of chickens and cows that produce different types of goods (cows, strawberry cows, coffee cows, and jersey cows all produce different types of milk, and chickens, quails, pheasants, and turkeys all produce different size eggs).  For the farm portion, there are also different types of produce that take different numbers of days to grow, but later, the fertilizer nullifies that time constraint.  You can switch your crops at will (five fields isn’t enough to plant every crop in the game simultaneously), but… you probably won’t want to once you get everything finished up.  Other than that, the farming part is rather unrewarding.  It takes less than two minute a day to complete, even at full capacity.

The meat of the game are the minigames you play in the shop, which are also, sadly, the worst part.  There are three different “shops” you can open every day – the Juice Bar (which you play with the vegetables you grow), the Egg Decoration Stand (which opens when you buy your first chicken), and the Ice Cream  Stand (which opens after you buy a cow).  Each shop will start with only two minigames, but you can buy add-ons that expand that number to four each.  Some of the add-on tools for each shop make the games more fun (the Ice Cream Stand is a lot more fun after you buy the Milk Smoother, but the Egg Decoration Stand is hellish once you buy the Egg Roller).  To be fair, the games are pretty varied.  They include things like a sharpshooter game for vegetables, painting eggs with your Wiimote, swirling your arm like you are putting soft serve ice cream on a cone, choosing which chicken is about to lay an egg, and other things.

But all the games are pretty… childish.  I felt silly playing the egg decoration stand, and Willy would jeer over my shoulder as I had to “moo rhythmically” (with button presses) in a copycat fashion with a cow.  And the Ice Cream Stand and Egg Decoration Stand include games that make them downright no fun to play.  Swirling the ice cream onto the cone is a maddeningly vague art with a high rate of failure, and good luck ever clearing the Egg Roller with the two larger egg sizes.  I was great at all the other minigames, but I’ve still only cleared the egg roller perfectly one time.  Playing these silly minigames every day for as long as it takes to beat the game is also extremely repetitive and uninteresting for me, a 25-year-old woman.

The other thing about these minigames… well, they suffer from some of the Harvest Moon glitch/logic.  For instance, I have to wonder if the egg roller minigame was playtested with the larger size Turkey egg.  Why is it that the ice cream swirler is infuriatingly vague about the speed of the swirl?  Why does the cutter in the juice game sometimes not seem to work, and why is it that you get penalized when the ingredients you are looking for take such a long time to appear on the conveyor belt (and speaking of that conveyor belt… robot fruit?  seriously?)?  Sometimes the points seem arbitrary, too, which may be sour grapes on my part, but there are sometimes where the scores genuinely do not make sense.

So playing these games will net you cash to expand your farm, but you also do it to satisfy customers and expand your customer base and get as many “regulars” and permanent residents of Clover Town as you can.  Getting more residents triggers the windmills to start working again, and once you’ve got all four going, you find the clover necklace and give it to your sweetheart.  Since the default girl name matched my (extremely unusual) real name, and the little boy character in the game that came to my shop every day matched Willy’s real name, the choice was clear to me this time.  On an interesting side note, since this was the first game on the Wii, I was really worried when the character name came up with my name in the space.  I had only entered my name as credit card information to purchase the Wii points to buy it, so I was concerned that somehow the WiiWare had access to my payment information and was quite disturbed.

To the game’s credit, it doesn’t skimp on villagers.  There are 43 total customers if you buy all the add-ons.  There are a handful that are unique to this game and residents of Clover Town, but most are from the older games, and it’s awesome to see them stroll into town and mingle with one another.  Their dialogue is also often based on their scenarios from the old games, which was a detail I really appreciated.  I loved the variety, and that was the one thing about playing all those minigames over and over again: I got all those people bumped to regular customer status pretty quickly, and it was kind of fun waiting to see who showed up next.  The easy-to-please Choco?  That jerk Vaughn?  Stuck-up Jamie?

Yeah.  I’ll admit I enjoyed that way more than I should have.

I loved talking to the residents every day and filling up the village with all the characters from the old games, but I hated playing the games to do it.  I couldn’t figure out what triggered the windmills, so I played a full loop of customers in each shop every day, which wound up being four minigames for six customers in each of the three shops on a daily basis.  I got sick of it real fast.  You do not have to play it that frequently to beat it, however.  Serving certain key customers (Takakura, Gourmet, Witch Princess… and maybe Jarvis?), getting a perfect on them, then closing the shop immediately after you serve them is what triggers one of the cutscenes with that customer that means another windmill will be activated the next day.  Trust me.  Nobody wants to play those boring minigames as much as I had to before I got the clover necklace.

There is also some add-on content, which includes more decorations for your shop, the turkey, the strawberry cow, the watermelon seeds, and a ton of new customers.  I bought it all, since I’m Harvest Moon’s slave for life, but admittedly, they aren’t worth it for how expensive they are, and the add-on characters (the one reason I actually loved buying them) seem to have less dialogue than the ones programmed into the game.  To be fair, though, it’s cool to have Skye and Leia cruising around your town.  The game itself costs 1200 Wii points (or $12), and the add-on content costs 400 points ($4) each for four sets, so buying the full game costs $28.  The add-on content is certainly not necessary at all to play the game (though, cruelly, you do get a bonus if a customer asks you to make something with the add-on ingredients), so not buying it doesn’t take anything at all away from the experience.  Unless you like Skye and Leia, I suppose.

Is the game worth $12?  Not really.  It seems like its aimed more at children than any of the other releases in the series.  I can see the logic behind that (since the series isn’t all that adult-oriented in the first place), but it’s a shame there wasn’t more than just the social aspect there to appeal to older players.  Had this review been written closer to the time I finished the game, it would have been far more scathing since I was furious when I finally figured out the event triggers after all those repetitions through the minigames, but looking back, it really just made me sad it wasn’t more fun.  Not even the economy stimulation plotline, something that will make Island of Happiness my favorite for life, could hold my interest in this game.  I would love to see future small WiiWare releases in the series like this, I just hope they go a different route.

RANK: Towards the bottom.  Better than Puzzle de Harvest Moon and not much else, though not outright terrible like that game.

Sorry for the watermarked image again, yeah, yeah, visit IGN, whatever. I couldn’t help myself, though. This was just how I felt about the whole game.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands (DS – 2009) Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii – 2009) Harvest Moon: My Little Shop (WiiWare – 2009) Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley (PSP – 2010) Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar (DS – 2010) […]

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