Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (牧場物語～ワンダフルライフ Bokujō Monogatari: Oh! Wonderful Life lit. Ranch Story: Oh! Wonderful Life) is the first title in the Harvest Moon series to be released for the Nintendo GameCube.
A Wonderful Life features new characters and bachelorettes, as well as an entirely new town. It is the only Harvest Moon game in the series to date where people visibly age around you, your child grows into an adult, and the main player can die.
The game offers connectivity with the Game Boy Advance game Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town.
True to its name, this is the first Harvest Moon game that progresses through the main character's entire adult life, from young adulthood to old age. However, numerous years are skipped as the game is progressed.
NPCs in the game, including the main character's son and wife also grow older as time passes. The game takes place in a new setting for the Harvest Moon series - a small village called Forget-Me-Not Valley, populated entirely by new characters.
The basic plot is familiar from several previous Harvest Moon games: the main character, a young man, inherits a somewhat run-down farm in Forget-Me-Not-Valley after the death of his father. The Twilight is the last chapter.
The Ending is the death of the player.
- Celia is the youngest and most traditional of the three girls, Celia is kind, polite, and rather sheltered. She lives and works on a vegetable farm just outside of town. Because she is usually easy to find and most of her favorite gifts are easily obtained, Celia is the easiest of the three girls to successfully court.
- Muffy is a barmaid who works in town, she recently moved to Forget-Me-Not Valley from the big city, and has some difficulty adjusting to country life. She enjoys flowers, old coins, ores, milk, crops and the Big Huchep fish.
- Nami is the least conventional of the three brides. She can often seem rude and distant, even when she is in love with the player character. Her attitude, her unpredictable schedule, and her unusual taste in gifts make Nami more difficult to woo than the other two girls. If the player character marries Celia or Muffy, Nami leaves after the first year, only to return in the second chapter. She likes human statues, fossils, cooked food, tomatoes and only fall flowers.
As in other Harvest Moon games, courtship in A Wonderful Life consists mainly of talking to the desired girl and bringing her gifts that she likes every day. The player can propose marriage by offering one of the girls a blue feather, although she will only accept it after the player has convinced her to fall in love with the main character.
If the main character is not engaged by the end of the first in-game year, either Celia, Muffy, or Nami will spontaneously propose to him, depending on who has developed the most affection. If none of them like the player, then Celia will propose by default. If he refuses this proposal, the game ends. If the main character does marry at the end of the first year, the game continues to follow his married life. But sometimes if you fail in your married life (such as say something quite rude to your wife like in the end of Chapter 2), you will divorce (or splitting up) with your wife and the game ends.
This is the first Harvest Moon game in which the player character not only has a child after marriage, but can raise the child to adulthood. Each possible wife has a different son, who will always end up looking similar to said wife, and a unique set of interests and talents. However, the player can influence the child's developing personality by taking him places, introducing him to people, and giving him gifts related to various fields. At the end of the game, the (now adult) son will choose one of six possible careers: Farmer, Rancher, Musician, Artist, Athlete, or Scholar. If he becomes a farmer or a rancher, he will take over the family farm. He can also marry. If the main character becomes good friends with Daryl, the scientist, the son has a higher chance of becoming a scholar (scientist). If Wally becomes good friends with the main character, the son has a good chance of becoming an athlete, and so on with many other characters like the artist who lives in a trailer and the guitarist who lives in the hut.
- Celia's son is most interested in plants and animals, and his strengths lie in these areas as well. He also seems generally happier than the other two, having an easier time in his teenage years. When he grows up to be a teenager, strangely, he has gray eyes.
- Muffy's son is most inclined to grow up to become an athlete. He is the most mischievous and outgoing of the three children, making him somewhat more trouble to raise. He seems to be depressed as a teenager, but is cheerful as an adult.
- Nami's son is talented at every possible field except athletics. However, he at first has no interest in anything besides art and farming. He is very quiet and well-behaved compared to the other two, but he sometimes seems very depressed, especially as a teenager and adult.
The main character can have only one child, and the child is always male. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition includes the possibility of having a daughter, which has a closer appearance to the character than his son does. The daughter looks more like the main character instead of the wife.
The player starts the game with one cow, and can later acquire additional, higher-quality cattle as well as male sheep, male and female chickens, and a male horse. In addition to these traditional Harvest Moon animals, this is also the first game in the series to feature ducks and a goat. The ducks appear not to incubate eggs of their own, but after acquiring ducks, some of the eggs the player harvests from chickens will hatch as ducklings. The goat produces milk for one year; after that, however, she dries up. The goat cannot be sold, and many players end up deliberately killing her in order to free up more space in the barn.
The player also starts the game with a dog, and may later receive a cat if the character cultivates friendships with certain NPCs. However, these animals serve no particular function on the farm. Persistent rumors that players can also receive other pets, such as an owl, a lizard, a turtle, a chihuahua or a raccoon, are unfounded, and, as of yet, unproven.
Farming in A Wonderful Life is relatively complex. The player's farm has three fields, with varying levels of fertility. Plants must be watered more than once per day and nourished with fertilizer to obtain high-quality fruits and vegetables. Each crop has its ideal growing season, and will do poorly if planted at the wrong time of year. To obtain the highest quality crops and seeds, the player must water and fertilize the crops every day.
The game offers seven vegetable crops: melons, watermelons, strawberries, turnips, potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes. The player can also grow several fruits - tomatoes, peach, orange, grape, banana, and apple.
One new feature in A Wonderful Life is the ability to create hybrid crops. The player can do this by feeding any two different seeds or crops to a talking plant, Tartan, who appears at any point after the first year is over.
If the player connects a Game Boy Advance with Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town to the Gamecube while playing A Wonderful Life, the two games can exchange information. Initiating the connection requires going to the mountain path next to the vegetable farm where Celia lives in A Wonderful Life, and throwing an offering into the Harvest Goddess' pond in Friends of Mineral Town. NPCs in Forget-Me-Not Valley will begin to make comments about events in Mineral Town, and vice versa. In addition, some NPCs will make periodic trips to Mineral Town, returning with new items to sell or hints for the player.
Even without connecting the games, the Harvest Sprites in A Wonderful Life occasionally visit players in Friends of Mineral Town.
An updated version called Oh! A Wonderful Life was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 in November 2004. The English language version was called A Wonderful Life Special Edition and was released in late 2005. While very similar to the original version of A Wonderful Life, some extra items and events were added in addition to an updated soundtrack. The most notable changes were the ability to have a daughter and marry Lumina (a character players could not marry in A Wonderful Life).
- Early character design and concept art shows Nami with very unkempt, messy hair. This was changed to straight hair in game.