A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, unlike many recent titles in the series, does not offer the chance to play as a female protagonist. The male lead can woo and marry any of the women in the game -- including the supernatural Harvest Goddess. The game does contain gambling on horse races and the drinking of wine, but neither ever has to occur if the player chooses not to engage in those events. Parents should also be aware that the town in the game contains a church at which some game events may take place.
What's it about?
In HARVEST MOON: HERO OF LEAF VALLEY, a young farmer has just moved into town after inheriting a farm from his grandfather. Unfortunately, the Funland Corporation is prepared to raze the entire area and turn it into a theme park. The farmer -- and the new friends he makes in Leaf Valley -- have two years to find a way to stop the construction. There are numerous paths to victory -- raising $50,000 to buy back the land, getting Leaf Valley declared a nature preserve, finding ways to bring tourism to the area -- and along the way, the farmer will make friends, find a wife, and discover new things about himself.
Is it any good?
In many ways, Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley feels like a revitalization of the series. With the exception of last year's Frantic Farming (which was technically a puzzle game), we've had a decade of extremely similar Harvest Moon titles. Although Hero of Leaf Valley bears resemblance to previous incarnations, it feels so much fresher. Instead of dumping your crops into one box, you take them around to sell yourself -- this adds more work, but also a welcome new business element. Farming is not the only way to make money, as you can now take on jobs around town (as a miner, cook, lumberjack, and more). It's also very nice to have a story with a definitive goal -- and multiple ways to get there. Having the corporate "villains" milling about town -- and available for you to marry! -- adds a depth of drama that previous iterations also lacked.
Harvest Moon games have always been fun and well-made, but were often too similar to one another. Hero of Leaf Valley bucks that trend with a gorgeous new look and adventurous new feel. I still miss the option to play as a girl, though.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why children choose to pursue a certain girl over others in the game. What is it about that character that makes you decide to woo her? If the player is a girl: Do you choose a wife who is similar to yourself, or very different?
Hero of Leaf Valley only lets you play as a boy, while other Harvest Moon games gave you the choice of being a male or female farmer. Is that a flaw in this game? Can girls still play this Harvest Moon game and have as much fun with it?
Farming and growing flowers and vegetables is a huge part of this game. Does playing make you interested in real-life gardening? Do you think you would take pride in the food you grow, just as the characters in the game do?
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