Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii), polygamy and animal sacrifice

I don’t think there is a game series that has made me question my sexuality and gender as much as the Harvest Moon series. This reached a whole new pitch playing Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. Let me first say, that Animal Parade is probably the single most relaxing and inoffensive game I have ever played. This is as much a criticism as it is a compliment. On the one hand, it’s a good thing because it feels like a genuine return to roots, often reminding me of my favourite game of the series, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. It feels smooth, calculated, lulling me into a sense of security and peace. On the other hand, everything is a bit too smooth; I keep having the perverse desire to ruffle a few feathers, even entertaining the idea of giving a failed soup to a neighbour – though, of course, I haven’t actually followed through! I am just sorely tempted.

In this particular edition of the farming series, you must restore the balance of nature by ringing five mystical bells, which adds a Zelda questing aspect to the gameplay. Along the way you also tend to your lovely farm and animals, make friends with the neighborhood and fish – the usual. Animal Parade has a total of three (!) mines, and Toucan Island is an accessible, fun addition that changes up the scenery. I enjoyed the characters, though I felt their plot lines lacked drama. On the technical side of things, while the graphics are pleasing and have a Wind Waker-esque charm, the frame rate is bad to the point of distraction. It’s telling that the only time my pulse rises when I play this game is when enduring the load times between areas. The Wii can handle a cinematic masterclass like Xenoblade Chronicles, so why they couldn’t fix this I don’t know.

Now to what I really want to say: Animal Parade is so innocent, so easy-going…playing this game sends my mind to odd places. (Yes, this blog post is about thoughts. Deal with it!)

Animal-Paradeboys

For one thing, I noticed that the girls are much, much more attractive than the guys and, as I was playing as the female character, I felt rather cheated. If it wasn’t for the Wizard and, later, the Harvest King I might have even chosen to be a male farmer. This got me thinking: why couldn’t I get with a girl character? Was this just to keep the more conservative fans of the game happy? In a game which does away with formal religion (the combination of the church and the Harvest Goddess myth has always seemed a little forced to me), why do I have to choose opposite sexes as spouses?

And another thing, why monogamy? Yep, this game had me dreaming of polygamy – spouses are the ultimate collectible! You could just keep making your house bigger and bigger a la Little King’s Story, and have many, many children. I imagined a tall multi-storied house, or crazy castle, filled with rooms for spouses and your children. Perhaps, to get around the thorny issue of pregnancy, you or your spouse would visit a magical seed bank to have a baby. Or perhaps there would be an human Miracle Potion.

animalparadechildren

Yes. Lots of babies. Lots and lots and lots…

I also daydreamed quite a bit while watering my crops with my incredibly effective watering can about what Harvest Moon would be like crossed with Silent Hill. The Witch is a recurring character in the Harvest Moon series – now imagine if she was the Goddess of the game. What would her world be like? I think a cutesy but creepy Harvest Moon would be pretty awesome. Animal sacrifice. Growing weeds. Perhaps you could choose between being evil and being good? Follow the way of the Goddess or the cult of the Witch?

All in all, I felt this game played it a little safe, even sanitised – but I did really, really enjoy it. After all, what Harvest Moon fan doesn’t like safe? Videogame farming is sanitised! But I felt like a bit of drama would give this game some spice, and spice would prevent me daydreaming about animal sacrifice and the demise of monogamy…

Animal-Paradeweddding

Harvest Moon: Back to Bigamy?

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. Sir Gaulian

    Here’s something I never thought I’d read about a Harvest Moon game! Like you I’m a bit fascinated with gender roles and appeal in video games and it’s a good point you make about the constraints of the game seemingly at odds with its own appeal. I found the same in Persona 3, because while l found the girls attractive propositions playing as a bloke, but the male characters were all written to be male stereotypes that I’m sure wouldn’t at all appeal to girls. It is all in the writing and design, and Harvest Moon is strange in that while it seems to be marketed heavily toward the female demographic, parts of it like its writing and character design are undeniably male-centric.

    Excellent post!

  2. YvoCaro

    Your post made me think about Harvest Moon games in general: most of the people I meet online that like HM seem to be obsessed with the quest to find the perfect love interest. It makes me feel a bit strange (well, maybe I am) that I’m not in the least bit interested in the romantic side of the games. For me, it’s all about managing the farm, having happy animals and a nice looking farmstead.

    • veryverygaming

      I would suggest that you’re the normal one, and we the strange ones! I think obsessing over the perfect spouse is similar to obsessing over the farm, though – I do wish you could collect spouses (a full barn so to speak) but I’m probably just being greedy.

  3. moresleepneeded

    I have never played this game. It sounds like a calm, relaxing game, with cheerful characters and a light hearted story. How does the main story interact with the gameplay of managing a farm? What does the witch do? Doesn’t the idea of a Harvest Goddess add a pagan idea to the game?
    I can understand your desire to add controversy to a game that conveys a sense of innocence, it reminds me of the Lemmings game. The idea of the game was to give specific lemmings roles to help the rest of the group reach their goal (such as a builder building a stairway or a lemming preventing the other lemmings reaching a dangerous area). However, it was always tempting to add darkness to the game, such as leading a lemming to a strange device and watching it killing them or using an option that caused all the lemmings to explode to create as big a hole or strange a display as possible. It also reminds me of The Sims. This game seems to be set in an idealised environment that resembles a fifties sitcom from America, with well decorated houses, open green land and kids dressed sensibly. However, the player was able to use their characters to introduce disorder, such as fighting with neighbours, causing the kids to be sent to military school and finding the ghosts that inhabit the Goth household. This actually seemed to have been slightly intended by the developers, the advertising for this game consisted of what seemed like a scene from a fifties sitcom followed by a surreal addition, such as a genie or llama. This concept was expanded in The Sims 2, with a violent police force that beat up burglars, the introduction of WooHoos (a synomyn for sex) and allowing a character to become a prolific lothario who seduces members of both sexes, all set in bright sunlight and cheerful background music.

    • veryverygaming

      Thanks for your comment. I have played The Sims 2! And I enjoyed it thoroughly, until I felt a bit listless and bored because of the lack of direction. I did think about it a lot when writing this post.

      The witch doesn’t really do anything. I think that’s partly the problem… there are a lot of interesting characters, but it’s like the developers were too focused on giving relaxed gameplay, rather than a bit of friction and drama. I really desired a bit of kitchen sink drama. There is a very concise main storyline, which only develops when you choose it to. I feel that the main “story” of the game is to satiate collectoholics like myself, and people who like making everything neat and ordered…guilty again.

      Still, I do think they could have risked giving the NPCs larger roles and lives of their own. I actually started feeling sorry for the NPCs, wondering how hard it must be to solely exist for my voiceless avatar. Their routines and storylines are so rigid. And a game which has magic and sorcery but doesn’t really utilize it…seems like a wasted opportunity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s