I don't play my Wii nearly as much as my DS, but Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is definitely a tempting way to sink ridiculous hours into the Nintendo console as opposed to its portable sibling. It's a follow up to the prior Wii title, Tree of Tranquillity. While Tree's story is complete, the cast of the game has been carried forward into the new title, and familiar faces from long-ago games mix with new witches, Goddesses, and other love interests. I wonder what sort of wild animal plushie Natsume will think up for this one.
The name derives from the brand new Circus, which arrives in town on the final Sunday of each season (month). Thomas, a mayor in previous Harvest Moon titles, has donned a new top hat and is Ringmaster for the new show! Unfortunately, his knack for bumbling hasn't changed, and his animals frequently get loose! It's up to the player to round up whatever he's lost that month and return them unscathed to the circus. But don't rush them back too soon -- you want to make friends, don't you? One of the new tools the farmer character has available is a whistle, which he or she may use to teach a variety of animals to do fun and cute tricks. There are four levels of tricks, each requiring a successively higher level of affection from the animal. The tricks are simple but fun: the snake will dance up and down, while the dog will perform flips and pretty sitting poses.
The newfound whistle also adds a new dimension to transportation. Don't have a horse? No problem! Just blow the whistle to summon your cow. No, seriously, you can ride the cow. All four legged large animals are available as quick mounts, including sheep and some of the circus animals, once their affection is high enough. The concept may seem silly but it's a very effective way to travel and cuts down considerably on the amount of walking the farmer needs to do, saving valuable time during the day.
The theme of the title is "One with Nature" and it's up to the protagonist to set things right and bring lift back to the town. The player will have a whopping four choices to choose as their character, more then any other previous title in the series. The game play will be very non-linear, but will still retain a focus on building life in the community and of course the farming aspects. New to the series is the ability to dress your character in a variety of outfits. I pranced around in pink overalls and a hair scarf before I got bored and switched to a more sedate pair of jeans and ditched the head wear.
A final interesting addition to the game is the ability to take simple pictures in-game. The camera is swanky enough to include a time delay option, meaning the player can jump into their own picture for some very fun and interesting results. These pictures can be mailed via the Wiimail service to anyone on your friends list, including those who do not have the game. I'm smiling for the camera with my favourite sheep and sending it out to all my friends -- expect delivery at the end of September 2009 for the photos as that's when the game is launching; I promise not to take TOO many!