E3 2008: Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility Hands-On

It has been 10 years since this franchise started, and we take a look to see how far it has come.

Harvest Moon is celebrating its 10th anniversary with Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility for the Wii. It must have been celebrating for a while now, since we saw the game last year at E3. Like in its many predecessors, you play at your own pace and choose what you want to do. There is a storyline to follow if you choose to follow it, but simulation games are usually not meant to be played for the story.

The overall premise of this title is that you have moved to an island town but the Mother Tree has disappeared. What do you do? You make friends, raise animals, and build friendships and a family. You can choose either a male or a female character when you begin, and eventually you'll have a family and a child, and your child can inherit what you've built if you decide to play the game over again once you've completed the story mode.

On the Wii, your farming can be done by using the Wii Remote motion controls for tools such as a sickle, a hammer, or a watering can. Things can get tiring if you're swinging the remote all day, so there are tool upgrades that let you cover a wider range. If you don't feel like moving, there are corresponding buttons for all your farming needs.

As you progress through the story, not only will you uncover more of the island, but you'll participate in festivals that in turn will unlock minigames that are accessible through the main menu. These games can be played with up to four players, and there are six minigames in total. They are similar to carnival games, like skipping stones, whacking moles, or racing horses.

This game is described as a combination of all the previous titles, and it is much larger. You'll find a wide range of animals, including an ostrich as well as other exotic animals, like goats, sheep, and cows. When you begin the game, you can choose the type of pet you want and work your way toward befriending them. If you've ever wanted a pet raccoon or panda, here's your chance. Instead of foraging, fishing, and mining, you can work part-time jobs to earn some cash.

Even though there is no online component or the ability to share your harvest, fans should find that there is plenty to do to keep busy. Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is set for release on August 26.

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