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Harvest Moon: Magical Melody is the most robust game in the Harvest Moon series yet. It features the most options in farm building and marriage the series has ever seen. Also unique is the ability to choose the main characters gender from the very beginning, eliminating the need for a 2nd near-identical "girl version" a couple of years later.
The game focuses around your character, who must build and expand his farm, all the while trying to collect "musical notes" to save the Harvest Goddess who has been turned to stone. You must also befriend citizens of your small village, some of which are potential spouses. HM:MM goes back to its roots and expands upon them compared to the previous Nintendo GameCube entry, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.
The main character can be male or female. Players input a custom name, though the male character has been typically called "Jack" in previous HM games.
There is also a rival farmer, the gender ambiguous Jamie. Depending on what gender you choose, Jamie will be the opposite. Jamie's purpose is to provide competition - Each day your profits are compared to his/hers in your pause menu. He/she will also be participating against you in many festivals and mini-games.
The next important characters are the spouses. There are 10 males and 10 females. The 10 females come from the original SNES Harvest Moon as well as the PlayStation 2 game, Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. The 10 male spouses come from a variety of different games, and some are even original. These people are paired together in predetermined couple, making the 10 spouses of the same gender your "rivals", though they don't as actively seek marriage as in HM:A Wonderful Life.
You can also marry your rival, Jamie, with much work. However, this will trigger an official ending to the game.
One of the most important things in the game is securing income to buy items, land, buildings, crops, and much much more. The three main source of income is shipping: Products that you send out to be sold. These fall into three categories: Ranch shipping (Stuff that comes from your animals, like milk and eggs), Crop shipping (The plants you grow, including flowers) and Miscellaneous shipping (Items you dig up in the mines, or pick up off the floor).
This basically consists of animal care. Most of your animals produce products, some more frequently than others. The quality of these products determines how much you earn when you ship them. Animals with higher affection levels (displayed as hearts in the menu) will produce better wool/eggs/milk. To raise affection levels, you are expected to feed them every day, as well as making sure they are happy by talking to them & grooming them. Hitting your animals with an axe, or leaving them out in the rain? That just angers them and gets them sick.
They live either in your barn, or in your chicken coop. The chicken coop contains, well, chickens. The barn animals are Sheep, Horses and Cows. All animals must be bought in their baby state, where they are not mature enough to produce anything. Sheep produce wool every few days, cows produce milk every day, and Horses are just good for riding & entering in the Horse Race festivals.
Alternatively, you can keep your animals outside, and they will feed themselves as long as if you have a grass field nearby. However, you will have to make sure to usher them back inside before the weather turns bad.
Farm is the act of taking care of your crops and plants. To plant crops, you must own some land and till the soil with a hoe. As you befriend the mayor, your choice of land expands. Some properties are bigger, some are closer to important parts of town, and others contain very fertile soil. Fertile soil makes plants grow quickly. Plants grown in fertile soil also sell for much more.
You can plant crops or trees. Crops are scattered in a 3 x 3 square pattern and must be watered daily. Trees take up only one square, but take a long time to grow into a full, harvestable tree. They also last throughout all the seasons, including Winter, but only produce goods in one. Then there's grass, which is scattered like crop seeds, but does not need to be watered. After 5 days, grass can be cut with the sickle to produce fodder which can be fed to your animals.
Different crops take different lengths to grow. Turnips grow in about 5 days, but only once. Eggplants, on the other hand, take about 7 days to grow, but will continue to bear products every 2 days after being picked. These are repeatable plants that tend to make more money, though they initially take longer to harvest.
Besides selling, you can use crops as gifts for various townspeople & animals, for donating to festivals, or for use in the dozens of cooking recipes.
- This is the first Harvest Moon game to feature the ability to choose your gender at the start of the game. Previous games had separate games, released months apart, for each gender.
- Nami, from Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life spends summer in the town and is also the weather lady on TV. She cannot be married.
- Players received a plush sheep doll for pre-ordering the game.