The Harvest Moon series has been around this the beginning of the gaming industry, featured originally on the SNES under the simple name of “Harvest Moon,” this farming simulation game has been the inspiration for many others of its kind and has essentially owned its market. Most of the stories are the same, you inherit a farm and must save the town from destruction. While that may be fairly generic of a plot, they’ve always added a little spice to the mixture, so it’s a fresh experience each time! Harvest Moon: A New Beginning (ANB) is no different. Little changes in the mechanisms and style have brought an entirely original play-through to the genre.
Harvest Moon – Graphics
Harvest Moon: ANB’s presentation follows in the footsteps of the Wii’s chibi-like pursuit. Revolving around “poofy” characters and original styles, there isn’t much that’s left to be desired. While there are a few places that seem rather devoid of detail, a regular Natsume consumer will be right at home with the changes. Cut-scenes tend to use the same graphic style and are just automated actions of the characters, so there isn’t any special graphical effort placed in the storyline. Not that that’s bad, just noted. Really, the only place you’ll see a change of style and quality is through the chat dialogues, as per usual.
Harvest Moon – Gameplay
Quite a few elements were introduced in Harvest Moon: ANB. For one, the brand new blueprint system! In the past, you would go to a lumberjack to have a new building built on your farm, as well as start off next to a fully operational town. Contrasting that almost completely, it’s the character’s job to build, organize, and practically create the town! You start off with a few necessary townies and eventually develop the massive open space into a thriving city of commerce and activity. Which is the other integral design piece for Harvest Moon: ANB, the ability to completely customize and control the placement of buildings and the setup of your town/farm. A grid-like system allows the player to move objects and buildings to the locations of their choice. Another noted change, is that trees are the main source for lumber in this game. They grow and you cut. While it’s still possible to acquire lumber by scavenging, how most stone is found, chopping down trees is the main way to go. One plus is that they got rid of the terrible jobs system that Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns (ToTT) relied so heavily on. Being at the beck and call of all of the citizens and having to wait for events/house upgrades was no the way to go.
Harvest Moon – Captivity
By instead relying heavily on the customization features, Harvest Moon: ANB is ahead of the curve in our industry. While I feel that this game is essentially a stepping stone before a real masterpiece, it still holds its own weight against other games. I’ve recognized that a lot of the recent Harvest Moon games have had a specific idea and targeted it closely, such as the jobs system in ToTT and the customization aspect in ANB, so as long as one realizes and accepts that, all should be well. We should take it as a message that Natsume is testing which styles tend to work best and will eventually create the Harvest Moon game of all games. Anyways, I digress. While ANB was captivating in an unusual way–due to the creative aspect–I didn’t feel it keeping its hold on me for as long as I would have liked. At first, you’ll be enthralled with the idea of controlling the outcome of your city, but I feel that the developers spent too much time lengthening the process. It takes quite a while to be able to finish the restoration plans–an in-game system of tracking your progress–and obtaining the idea that you’ve fulfilled everything you wanted to. As such, your ability to truly customize your surroundings takes a back seat to the goals of the game. Oftentimes, you’ll ruin your design in favor of progress.
Harvest Moon – Overall
I can’t really complain about the latest Harvest Moon installment, as it has truly been a wonderful experience. The graphics are suited to the 3DS and tend to pop when the 3D switch is on. Gameplay is intriguing and customized, giving you a unique layout of choices and possibilities. My only real issue with the game is how progressing throughout the needed goals takes precedence over the ability to utilize the creative options available. If you’ve spent any time playing the Harvest Moon series and enjoyed it at all, my advice would be to pick up a copy of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning and give it a shot!