Before Farmville, before The Sims – heck, even before the RTS genre there was a little farming simulator called Harvest Moon.
Expecting people to devote a huge amount of time to managing a farm seems like a big ask – but some how the Harvest Moon series seems to keep out doing itself in terms of new gameplay features and enjoyment levels.
So how does the latest game in the farming series stack up?
Harvest Moon 3D: A Tale of Two Towns on Nintendo 3DS is actually a remake of the Nintendo DS title of the same name (minus the 3D bit) with added enhancements and a graphical refresh to support 3D graphics and Nintendo 3DS’ 16:9 widescreen aspect. It’s worth noting, too, that the Nintendo DS version did not get an Australian release.
The game follows you, a farmer, who has recently moved to a new town. On the way to the town, you get into a horrible horse and cart accident and, when you wake up, you’re literally at a crossroads with two rival town mayors asking which town you want to live in.
It’s pretty awesome that two mayors who hate each other are willing to give you a house, complete with a large plot of land but your choice comes with a catch: one town (Bluebell) focuses your farm on raising animals and livestock. The other (Konohana) focuses on growing crops.
Of course, you’re able to do either, but your in-game goals in life will change slightly depending on which you choose. For example, if you live in Bluebell, you wont have as much land to crow crops, so you’ll need to upgrade your space, whereas in Konohana, you can only have a small amount of animals unless to buy a bigger barn.
Apart from those differences, there isn’t much you’re missing out on by choosing one farm over another, and you can move towns once a month if you wish. The two towns are central to the game’s story, however, which revolves around a request from the Harvest Goddess: she wants you to help out all the people in both towns to unite the warring mayors and bring harmony to the land.
Enter the Notice Board: a “quest” system for Harvest Moon. Almost every day, the townspeople will post requests on the Notice Board which you can complete to earn money and, more importantly, respect from the people. These requests range from finding some random item that is abundantly available in the mountains (such as weeds or rocks), to more substantial quests like growing the perfect turnip, or catching a prized fish. Some are more annoying than others, but it serves as a great way to earn extra cash as you wait for your crops to grow.
Over the years, the Harvest Moon experience has been improved and streamlined. With the Nintendo 3DS game, the series has reached a high point. It’s now easier and faster to set up your farm and water crops, and animals don’t take quite as much attention as they have in past games.
Your in-game day will still be packed with stuff to do, though. Growing crops, feeding the animals, doing requests, managing your produce and engaging in the festivals the series is famous for means that time flies by extremely quickly.
The game does threaten to feel repetitive at times, though that’s kind of the point; you’re working on a farm. It’s no cakewalk. But there are plenty of life goals that will keep you hooked; wooing a girl, starting a family, upgrading your homestead, and cooking the perfect dish.
There’s also an online multiplayer mode that allows you to grow crops in a magical field for your friends. Friends can enter your field and pull up your crops but the beauty of it is that you can sell those crops at whatever price you want.
The Nintendo 3DS version of the game has added features such as StreetPass compatibility as well as the ability to raise llamas and beehives (for honey). The game is also now in 3D, but as a whole there isn’t a huge amount on offer to entice people to upgrade if they already have the DS version.
Harvest Moon 3D: A Tale of Two Towns is probably the fastest paced Harvest Moon game to date. The game serves mainly to refine the experience rather than leap into a revolutionary new game style. Still, if you have even the slightest hint of OCD, you will likely pump hours and hours into this game.
Harvest Moon 3D: A Tale of Two Towns is extremely fun and even more addictive.