Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness Review

harvest_moon_-_island_of_happiness_coverart

Title: Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Publisher: Natsume
Platform:
Nintendo DS
Category:
Simulation
Release Date:
August 2008
How I got the game:
I got it as a gift years ago.

krismii
I’m usually a sucker for the Harvest Moon franchise — they’re my go-to relaxing games. The older games tend to have a basic story and simple goals, and I feel that the newer games are trying a bit too much in having overarching story lines and encompassing goals. Island of Happiness is one of those games that was in between, still simple enough to be relaxing but with a few gimmicks that, in my opinion, were not needed.

gameplay

Island of Happiness is similar to other games in the Harvest Moon franchise in that it’s premise is you, as the main character, starting a ranch from scratch. One of your main objectives is to raise crops and animals as best as you can while also befriending the villagers in the town. Wooing potential spouses and raising a family are also staple aspects of the Harvest Moon games, and Island of Happiness is no exception.

Harvest Moon games tend to give you free range when it comes to customizing your ranch, allowing you to grow whatever crops you want (in season, of course) and raise whatever combination of animals you wish. Want all chickens? Go for it. Want to have your field covered with tomato plants? You can do that. There’s no one telling you what to raise. Selling the crops and animal byproducts is the best way to earn money for your ranch, and some products are more profitable than others, so most take that into account. Products are also used in cooking dishes and gifts to friends and romantic interests as well.

With that said, Island of Happiness was on the Nintendo DS and, as such, Nintendo thought it would be best to utilize the touch screen as much as possible. It was more of an annoyance rather than feeling innovative. You move your character with the stylus on the touch screen while the D-Pad buttons was used to equip tools. This was rectified in the immediate sequel, Sunshine Islands.

Island of Happiness also had a more complicated method of growing your crops. In early Harvest Moon games, the best way to grow crops was to plant them in-season and water them once a day. Weather plays a part in helping crops grow and, unless there is a storm or blizzard, most days granted enough sunlight to help your ranch. Island of Happiness had some hidden mechanic where each type of crop needed a number of water and sun “points” in order to grow as quickly and strongly as possible. Later in the game, it is possible to build a Greenhouse to help control the weather. However, considering all of the possible crops that are in the game, trying to figure out and remember all the needed points was an unnecessary mechanic.

graphics-music

The graphics of Island of Happiness took a little getting used to. When I first saw the 3D models, I wasn’t too sure of them. However, the graphics grew on me, with the areas of the island being vivid and fun to explore, and the villagers all being distinct (with the exception of the minor NPCs).

Music in the Harvest Moon series was always enjoyable to me, even if the tunes do tend to make me sleepy. They’re relaxing and calming as they play in the background while you farm or explore, being perfect in matching the mood of the genre and game play.
storyIsland of Happiness opens up with your character on a boat heading toward a new land. However, the boat gets caught in a bad storm, resulting in your character and a couple of others being shipwrecked on an island. Worry not, though — your fellow island refugees are a small family that has connections and experience with farming and shipping products.

Your character and the family, consisting of a brother and sister, their mother, and their grandfather, decide to stay on the island and work to make it habitable. You agree to be the rancher while the family runs a shipping business, helping to incite trade between your island and the mainland. Your goal is to really build up and clean the island to tempt other people to move in so the island can continue to flourish.

The more people that move in, the more relationships you can develop. Building up friendships can lead to new events and festivals, new areas to explore and, if you wish, romance that can lead to having a family.

replay-value

Island of Happiness, despite some of the gameplay mechanics, is one of my favorite Harvest Moon installments. Developing the island and luring new characters to move in is enough of a challenge so farming doesn’t become so routine. There’s always something to aim for, which is why this is one game that gets plenty of use.

Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness gets…
4-lives
4 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

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Best Games To Bring On Vacation

krismii
We’re going on a relaxing vacation next week, one where we just rent a cabin to lounge beside a lake. It’s the best kind of vacation for hanging out with family, reading books and, of course, playing video games. Aside from a suitcase full of books, our 3DS systems are always packed with plenty of games whenever we go away.

rachmii
I always tend to bring more games than I plan on playing. I never really have a specific game in mind when I go away, but I tend to bring as many games as I can. I mean, I’m not really a light packer anyway.

krismii
I try not to pack too many, especially since we don’t take the cases for the games. Rather, the games all get shoved into a little Ziploc bag before going in the suitcase. I’m paranoid that I’m going to lose a game or two! That fear doesn’t stop me from always packing certain games, however. Whenever we go away, I need to bring one or two of my favorite Harvest Moon games. There’s just something about a relaxing farm game that goes hand-in-hand with vacation.

rachmii
Meanwhile, I always tend to bring a Pokemon game. I always plan on starting a new journey and beating the game before the week ends. That usually never happens, but one vacation I beat HeartGold from start to finish. I also tend to bring Pokemon Conquest, but I beat that a long time ago. I don’t know if I’ll bring it this time.

krismii
Pokemon is another good franchise to bring. One of my old favorites that I used to bring all the time was Sonic Battle for the GameBoy Advance. It always had great replay value, because the little robot character could mimic moves from all the other Sonic characters, letting you customize its fighting style however you wanted.

Rachel Mii Double Jump
I don’t remember that game. I don’t think I’ve ever played it. But going off your Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing is a great game to bring as well. It’s calming and relaxing and the perfect thing to wake up and play right away.

krismii
Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing do seem like the perfect vacation games, don’t they? When I want something with a little more adventure and strategy, though, I tend to reach for Fire Emblem. Awakening will probably be the one to come on vacation with us! There are also a couple of games that I’ve had for months but haven’t had the time to try playing them, like Monster Hunter Generation. I’ll have to bring that and give it a try!

Rachel Mii Double Jump
There are just too many games. In addition to these games, we now have the Nintendo Switch. We’ll see how much of our time is taken up by that.

Which games do you bring with you when you go away? Let us know in the comments below!

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Dream Loot Crate

 krismii
So there’s this awesome thing called Loot Crate, a monthly subscription service where you get a box full of geeky items that range from t-shirts and socks to bobble heads and magnets to towels and comics. Each box contains four to six licensed items from multiple franchises all centered around the month’s theme. While they have the generic Loot Crate, they also offer Loot Anime, Loot Pets and, of course, Loot Gaming.

rachmii
We’re excited to share what would be in our “Dream Crate.” This is a crate created by us that we would love to see in the future. We can add anything we want to it. Kris and I came up with a bunch of different themes. Since there’s two of us, we thought we’d talk about two of our ideas. The themes would be Justice and Sweet Treats.

krismii
With Justice, what comes to mind for us is our favorite heroes and all their awesome gadgets and costumes. I want to open up a Justice-themed Loot Crate box and have Link pop out! If I can’t have the guy, I’d love his hat, bracelets or necklaces of the medallions from Ocarina of Time, plushies of Sheik, Epona, and a cucco. A Batman mask and cape, replicas of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ weapons (or even a real-life Shellcycle!), a poster of the Pokemon champions and legendaries, and an art book or comic filled with pictures and lore of the Fire Emblem franchise are just a few other items that I would love to see from a Justice-themed Loot Crate.

rachmii
There are so many different items that could go with Justice and I would definitely want all the ones you included. For me, I would love anything Ace Attorney. An “Objection!” decal sticker, Apollo Justice’s bracelet or Maya Fey’s Magatama necklace. I wouldn’t mind having Professor Layton’s hat either. I would especially want a mug just like prosecutor Godot. It could have him on it with a quote or something. I would treasure that always! I would love anything from Luigi’s mansion. A ghost plushie, a Poltergeist 3000 replica, a cute figurine of Luigi from the game, or a Dark Moon paper weight. I don’t really know what I’d use a paper weight for, but I’m sure it would look pretty! The mansion would be nice too, with all the money inside. I’m going to add onto your TMNT list (because I didn’t think of them) and I would definitely add socks and pillows. I wouldn’t mind having a pillow in the shape of a Donatello head and having a comfy pair of socks with their happy faces and pizza.

krismii
Ahh, the Phoenix Wright franchise is perfect for this crate! Godot’s coffee and Maya’s burgers would also work for our food-inspired Sweet Treats theme as well. Mugs, aprons, and oven mitts decorated with the characters and catchphrases like, “OBJECTION!” would definitely encourage me to cook more, haha! Recipes from different games would be cool, too, like Princess Peach’s (rather, Toadstool as she was known then) cake recipe from Super Mario 64. Bottles for red potions, LonLon milk, or chu jellies from the Legend of Zelda, or poffins recipes from Pokemon for either you or your dog would be other great additions!

Rachel Mii Double Jump
Cookie cutters! Cookie cutters everywhere! Cookie cutters of everything from all the games! Seriously, though, I’d be a master baker. Recipes would be nice, but having a copy of Rosana Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies cookbook would be cool. I would love to have utensils and appliances based on games. A Gameboy fridge would be cool. It’s the right shape and they’re making smartphone fridges, so all the tools are right there! Speaking of Ace Attorney again, I’d love to have an apron from Tres Bien, a restaurant location from one of the games. And what about the Gourmet Shy Guy in Paper Mario? I’d love to have a pillow or plushie of him. Oh, and anything Yoshi. He gobbles everything up!

krismii
Kirby too! Remember his final Smash in the Smash Brothers game, where he gathers everyone into a giant pot? Let’s just have a plushie or figurine of him with his little chef hat and everything! A chef hat with Kirby on it would be awesome too! A book full of Harvest Moon recipes would be another item for my Sweet Treats list. To go along with cookie cutters, cake molds of characters like Link and Mario would be great! Oh, I could go on and on about all of these…

Rachel Mii Double Jump
I could go on and on as well. Sadly, I know some of these items are unrealistic, but that is why it’s called a “Dream Crate.” This may or may not happen, but it’s always fun to dream about!

If you guys could have anything in a Loot Crate, what would they be? Let us know!

Who Needs a Map?

Double Jump Kris MiiTo those of you who celebrate it, happy Halloween! I hope everyone gets lots of treats, pulls off awesome tricks, and stays safe during this holiday!

Considering that scary games, movies, and books aren’t my thing, this post has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween, haha!

One of the most anticipated games that will come out next year is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and one of the earliest aspects of the story that we heard about was the fact that you can beat the game without completing the story.

The world in the game is enormous and gorgeous, and it’ll be an amazing place to explore. Exploration is one of my favorite elements of any video game, so I’m excited to get lost in this particular version of Hyrule. However, I do also love story lines and character development in video games — those are a couple of reason as to why the Legend of Zelda series trumps the Mario series in my opinion.

So, when I heard about being able to beat Breath of the Wild without finishing the story, I was little… confused, maybe skeptical, perhaps even a bit disappointed. It’s hard to pin down. I enjoy having some directions when it comes to video games, but with plenty of room to explore to my heart’s content. Sure, maps may not be my most used item in games, but it’s nice that it’s there in case I need it (Water Temples, I’m looking at you).

I suppose it’s like the Harvest Moon series. The main point of the game is to revitalize an old farm, but you have free reign to do it however you want. Want to raise just corn? Go for it. Only want cows on your farm? No one said you needed chickens. The latter games in that series that have more goals, such as building up a town or keeping track of market schedules, aren’t my favorites because they give too much direction. The earlier games, like More Friends of Mineral Town, are my go-to versions of the series.

What about you? Do you prefer games that are linear or more free with their direction?

 

Single Player Mode

Double Jump Kris MiiHey everyone, Kristen here! I have quite a bit of time on my hands this week, so I was thinking about what kind of games I could play to pass the time…

Games have made tremendous stride in becoming great social activities, from multiplayer games in the living room to online games capable of allowing you to play with people from all over the globe.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be able to just a play a game by yourself.

Fire Emblem games are ones that I prefer to play by myself. They’re brilliant to talk about with others, and there’s a lovely fandom for the game, but if you’re just sitting next to the person playing the game, it’s not the most exciting. Rachel can testify to that!

Harvest Moon is another game that I prefer to play while hanging out alone. It’s so relaxing (usually), and I almost always get sleepy after a good virtual farming session.

Then there are games that are one-player games that should be multiplayer, like the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games. They’re utterly brilliant, and it’s so much fun trying to find clues and figure out how the crimes were committed with others. It’s not so much fun trying to cram together to stare over one Nintendo DS console to see the game.

What about you? What kind of games do you enjoy playing solo?

 

Friday Favorites: GameBoy Advance Games

Double Jump Kris MiiYay for Friday!

I hope everyone’s week went well! Today I’m sharing some of my favorite old games, ones that were for the GameBoy Advance system. That handheld console turned 15 years old this year!

5. Harvest Moon: (More) Friends of Mineral Town

This was my first foray into the Harvest Moon franchise, and I adored it. A friend gave me FoMT for Christmas, explaining that it was “much better than it sounded.” He and I had similar video game tastes, so I was happy with his recommendation (even if I was a little skeptical about the farming angle at first). Since then, I’ve played quite a few, but I tend to stick to the older ones for nostalgic purposes.

4. Sonic Battle

Before atrocities like Sonic Boom were a thought, there were some Sonic the Hedgehog games that I definitely enjoyed, and Sonic Battle was at the top of the list. With familiar characters and a new, adorable robot character, the levels consisted of duking it out with one another while the robot learned different fighting styles. As the robot Emerl, you could customize your moves however you wanted after mimicking the others. All sorts of customization could be had, and it had decent replay value for that feature alone.

3. The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap

Of course there’s a Zelda game on this list. There’s always a Zelda game on my favorites lists! This game was tons of fun, and Ezlo was amusing as a partner character. I have never actually fully beaten the game, unfortunately — I’ve been stuck on the final boss battle for years! Perhaps its high time to pick it up again…

2. Fire Emblem

The original Fire Emblem game, the first one brought over to North America, definitely earned a spot on this list. Although it wasn’t my first Fire Emblem game (that honor goes to Sacred Stones), it’s one of my favorite installments. I haven’t had the chance to finish it yet, though, considering the copy I have had never had a working save function. My parents were amazing enough to find a cartridge of the game, and I had gotten through Lyn’s story by always keeping my GameBoy Advance on the charger, but it’s been awhile since I was able to try again. I now have it on the Virtual Console, so it’s a game I need to get back to.

1. Pokemon Emerald

Why didn’t Emerald get a remake? It had been my favorite of the three Hoenn games, especially with the Battle Tents scattered throughout the region and the Rayquaza tie-in with the legendaries. Hoenn is home to some of my all-time favorite Pokemon, like Grovyle, Mightyena, Gardevoir, and Ninjask, and Emerald was a brilliant game to raise them in.

What are some of your favorite GameBoy Advance games?

Friday Favorites: Worlds to Live

Double Jump Kris MiiI love Fridays!

Everyone has had those fantasies where you live in a beloved video game world rather than reality. This week’s Friday Favorites list is to celebrate those certain worlds that I would love to at least visit.

Hyrule

No matter the reincarnation, Hyrule is always a beautiful place (you know, before and/or after the Ganondorf of that time takes over). The castle town always seems bustling, Kakariko Village is rich in history, and whatever quaint little hometown that Link comes from seems charming. Not to mention all the different races to get to know!

Mushroom Kingdom

Okay, so you probably have to deal with some sort of destruction caused by Bowser every week, but other than that, the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t seem to be a bad place to live. The Toads are a friendly group of folks, the Mario brothers are always there to lend a hand, Yoshis are adorable, and Princess Peach seems like a benevolent ruler.

Harvest Moon

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to live in a Harvest Moon game? Quaint villages, working on a ranch of your own, plenty of (usually) friendly people to surround yourself with — it sounds perfect to me!

Pokemon

Seriously, who hasn’t wanted to be a Pokemon master? Having a group of superpowered creatures to travel throughout the lands with sounds amazing (as long as, you know, the world doesn’t play by the Nuzlocke rules).

What kind of video game worlds would you like to visit?