Harvest Moon is a serious of games that have been released in almost annual installments and have a loyal niche fan base. It is no wonder then that when John Deere made a farming game they would borrow as much as they could from an already proven series. Harvest manages to succeed in a limited area, but for every one success found in this game there are 12 bold failures that stand out and are clearly present.
The game begins with the standard name input screen with very simple, very repetitive music playing. During the first half hour of gameplay this music seems like the kind of tune that a madman might hear playing over and over again in his head before he finally snaps and starts screaming at the purple elves that only he can see. Strangely, after that first half hour has been broken through the music no longer feels like it is pushing the world closer to oblivion, but instead starts to take on an interesting and almost soothing sound.
The animations in the game are well designed and implemented. When the character is walking or using any of the various tools to construct the rather massive farm that can be unlocked after several short hours of play. The movement and swing of the tractor seems natural and well thought out, the fluid way that the character moves from one position to another all of them seem to be held together with well thought out and designed. What seems odd in all of this is that the man character is the only sprite that is ever animated. Upon entering shops all of the store clerks are represented by still images speaking through text only.
Sadly the game decides to fall apart rather quickly after the player has more than a couple of fields planted. After a certain point is reached the game simply cannot handle all of the data and starts to have massive amounts of object appearing and disappearing in the game. Add on top of this every time that the area changes the game has to load for almost 10 seconds. These makes the simplest task, like changing the tool being used or saving the game, take roughly 10 times longer than they need to be.
While the advantage of the game seems to be firmly placed on being a simple introduction to a Harvest Moon type game, there isn’t really a need for that. While there are interesting design choices like having fields dedicated to a specific crop instead of a needing to buy different crops all the time, the game itself just can’t seem to keep the momentum going long enough to introduce any of them that might be genre changing. At the end of the day John Deere: Harvest in the Heartland ends up being a broken game that simply can’t find a way to work even though it presents various valid and different design choices. If you have a choice in farm games, stay with the Harvest Moon instead.