The Good Parts (4 out of 5)
Very minimal changes have been made to the game from previous games in the franchise. This is still basically the same fun old formula of farming, buying and selling gameplay that puts the energy into my step when I play.
The variety of things to do in Harvest Moon Tree of Tranquility is astonishing. You need to mine for precious metals and gems to sell, raise animals, and even take a part time job to keep you busy and help out. Plus, you can go to monthly festivals, participate in community activities, build up your wealth and buy more property to use for different functions.
The fun and quirky characters you interact with on the islands add a fun element to your social life, with emotional scenes that will make you laugh. Also, you can choose to be a boy or girl when you start, which adds a little more variety to the socializing in this Nintendo Wii game.
The Parts That Need Improvement (2 out of 5)
The game has too many screens to load, which with the load times really slows the already slow pace of this game. They need to find a different way to handle this element of the gameplay.
The Wii motion control scheme works, but it needs a little helping out. It feels uninspired and lacks energy. The capabilities of the Wii aren't implemented as well as many of us have been hoping for with the latest crop of Wii games.
The day to day life will often seem slow, and the pace of the game is slow to begin with, but on top of this, there are a lot of rainy days that slow the pace even more. How about a few more sunny days?
The mini-games included with the game feel added on at the end. They all deal with events and things that occur in the normal game, like a little mole-whacking or simple rock skipping, but had no entertainment value once unlocked.
Graphics (3 out of 5)
The visual presentation is the same as previous titles in this popular franchise. The environments are very well lit, but lack detail, making them bland and boring after awhile. The lighting will change as the day progresses, the shadows changing with the available light, and the rain added a nice effect. The maps look good, are well designed and all the residential areas, fishing spots, hot springs and buildings, while a little more detail would have been nice, are more then good enough to provide the level of entertainment we have grown accustomed to with this franchise.
Sounds (3 out of 5)
The sound effects sound soft and muddled at times, like they were done in a large and crowded room with a lower quality microphone. This is very poor compared to the sound quality of the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is slow and slows the pace of the game, a mixing of boring elevator music that lacks energy and is totally uninspiring while you go about your daily chores. Natsume really missed an opportunity here to make the game better with a soundtrack that livens up the game and gives a better and energy-filled pace.
Storyline (3 out of 5)
You begin as either a boy or girl (you decide) that has mysteriously arrived in a small town on Waffle island after surviving storms at sea. The inhabitants of the island put you to work at Souffle Ranch, and eventually you will have to decide on one of three locations to begin your new life as a farmer.
You will take care of your farms and interact with the inhabitants, while trying to increase the economy output and eventually bring back the Goddess Tree to help make life better for all.
There are small storylines in the game that involve events occurring on the individual islands, which adds a lot of variety and depth and gives this game a good entertainment value.
Playability (4 out of 5)
The single player mode is where the majority of the game is played, but there are so many different things to do that it's hard to get bored if you're motivated. The game is really about playing at your own pace, which is okay for many gamers, but some prefer a more fast paced experience, and Tree of Tranquility isn't a game that provides this.
The developers did include a neat option for you to replay the game as your grown-up offspring, provided you decide to get married and have kids and have completed the single player game. This allows you to inherit all the valuables you had from the first game. It is a wonderful idea that adds a touch of history and growth in the game play, and I really like this option.
Overall… (3 out of 5)
Overall, Harvest Moon Tree of Tranquility is a well designed Wii game that certainly provides the gameplay elements and variety we have come to expect from Harvest Moon titles, yet the recycled gameplay, poor sound effects, and poor camera control scheme make it much less fun, enjoyable and entertaining then they could have easily achieved with a little more thought.
Despite these faults, this is still a game I would recommend if you like to play in spurts and play at your own pace. You're really only bound by your stamina for the game, the day cycle, and your patience for loading screens.
Images for this article are the promo screenshots provided by Natsume, Inc.