Harvest Moon does deliver, it does offer compelling gameplay and satisfaction, but you need to be patient to dig down that far.
I have a past with harvest Moon games, a past which led me to unwrap this title with gleeful excitement. I have happy memories of tending my farm, growing crops, planning fields and improving my equipment to make life easier. So with my 3DS only a few weeks old, what could be better than reliving some of my happiest Gameboy moments?
Harvest Moon is a wordy Tale of Two Towns, in true Harvest Moon fashion you descend on a broken down farmstead, one of two on offer. The choice being yours depending on your preference between raising crops or animal husbandry. There is a back story that the towns in question are separated by a mountain, the tunnel that connected them was closed in a spat and you have been tasked with restoring harmony. All good so far.
Along the way you will be introduced to key characters and plenty of NPCs that will drive the story along and encourage you to develop your farm with fetch quest rewards, there are also inter-town cooking competitions that will test your ability to grind quests, find ingredients and pop them together on your stove.
There is depth here, but I feel held back from it by the Japanese Role Playing overtones, it seems that I can’t move from one location to another without being interrupted by a character with some helpful dialogue or instructions. My love of the ‘olden-days’ versions of the game left me with memories of freedom, but today where handheld games are more often designed to be ‘pick up play and put down again’ Harvest Moon is demanding too much attention. I can’t help but feel shackled by the intrusive narrative and just want to get on with ploughing a field full of eggplants. The introductory sequence was similarly painful, partly my fault for trying to start the game late at night, but it took a couple of attempts before I could stay awake through the whole opening act.
The graphics are nicely detailed and the 3D does its job, the sound is fine even with the twinkly music that I can’t seem to switch off and the controls do struggle with my adult sized fingers. I often find myself facing the wrong way when attempting to target particular spots on the ground.
That said, Harvest Moon does deliver, it does offer compelling gameplay and satisfaction, but you need to be patient to dig down that far. There are the two farms, each with a leaning to either crop growing or livestock rearing, exploring the villages and their numerous chatty inhabitants will keep you busy and of course the cooking competitions can let you scratch that Masterchef itch by impressing the villagers. Not to mention buying birthday presents for your new found friends, regardless of the time you are not at the farm.
If you are a 3DS owner with a JPRG leaning and a fondness for Harvest Moon this game will hit the spot, twice. Given that the story can be played out from both sides of the mountain. For me I am held back by reluctance, knowing that the in game clock is always ticking and balancing fetch quests with farming wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to sit through all the saccharin sweet dialogue. Online it does allow you to visit farms run by friends, but my limited list has prevented this from happening yet and the same goes for the street pass benefits in this nintendo wasteland.
I will persevere with Harvest Moon, but in today’s world with all the mobile gaming we have in front of us these days I struggle to get really excited about it. There is a lesson to be learnt here that is more about the passing of time and rose tinted memories, this is and has been a franchise I have been very fond of, but for all the gloss and depth afforded by a modern handheld we are not connecting how I imagined we would.