By Jenni . December 15, 2011 . 4:21pm
Now that the holidays have come, the 3DS is finally starting to build an admirable library of games. There aren’t too many RPGs or simulations yet, but Natsume has stepped up with Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns to help fill that void. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the DS version with a few minor enhancements.
Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns begins like every other Harvest Moon game. You are are young man or woman who has decided the absolute best thing ever — would be a life as a farmer. As you’re setting off to make your dream come true, you tumble down a mountain. Fortunately, you land right between the mayors of Bluebell and Konohana, two major farming towns separated by a mountain. Bluebell has a European look and focuses on ranching, while Konohana has an Asian feel and believes farming means growing crops. The mayors fight a bit and ask you to choose a new home.
Shortly after settling in, the Harvest Goddess pops by to visit. The two towns used to be friendly, but a fight between two older mayors happened in the tunnel that went through the mountain angered the Harvest Goddess. I don’t know, maybe she was napping when it happened. Anyways, it annoyed her, so she decided to make the tunnel cave in so the two towns wouldn’t have to deal with each other, which she realizes that was a rash decision. But, instead of just using her magical goddess powers to instantly fix everything, she’s forcing the new farmer to attend weekly cooking festivals between the two villages to restore the bond between the people of both towns so the tunnel can be cleared.
Your initial choice of town doesn’t have too big of an effect on your farmer’s daily life. If you go to Bluebell, you start off with one cow and one chicken plus have access to other animals to raise and flowers to grow. If you start in Konohana, you begin the game by growing crops to earn money. Since you can switch villages if you’d like, the game isn’t like you’re forced to stick with a choice you don’t like.
Besides, most of your time will actually be spent running errands and exploring the mountain for goodies. This is especially true, early on. Fulfilling requests is a great way to boost relationship levels with villagers, earn essential tools, acquire items or even get some extra cash. These are almost always fetch quests. Initially, they’ll just require you to head up to the mountains and collect some fish, bugs and gathered items. After a while though, people will get more demanding and start wanting crops, rare items or large quantities of normal or out of season items.
This isn’t such a bad thing, as the various mountain products are a great way to earn fast cash. You can easily make between 200 and 400 gold each day if you do a lot of gathering. If you start in Bluebell, as I did, you also have milk and eggs that help boost your initial profits. It’s quite helpful and it was a lot more fun to alternate bug catching, general scavenging and fishing rather than relentlessly fishing to earn quick cash. Fishing in deeper water after getting a fishing rod is still an awesome way to earn quick cash.
Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns also puts more emphasis on cooking than previous Harvest Moon games. That’s because you have to cook and attend the festivals to open the tunnel between the two towns. Initially, the contests are really quite difficult to win. Especially if you haven’t started going between the two towns, living in each one so you have access to crops and animal products. You do get used to the endeavor though, so eventually it isn’t as trying. The best way to have a chance at winning comes when you start adding extra ingredients and higher quality items to recipes to increase their value and freshness. (A number of great guides are available online to find out what also works in each recipe.)
Now, Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns is actually available in two varieties right now. There’s a standard DS version and a slightly different 3DS version. For the most part, they’re the exact same game. The 3DS version does have some mild 3D effects on the top screen, but they’re so minor that it really isn’t worth draining the battery to keep the 3D effect. The animal petting mini-game that randomly comes up also displays a 3D animal on the top screen to pet, which is cute but also mostly unnecessary. Well, it isn’t totally unnecessary since it does make animals love you faster, but it isn’t a major feature.
The only really good 3DS exclusives involve online multiplayer and StreetPass. Since the 3DS only requires one friend-code for the whole system, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of another DS friend-code. When Spring is coming to a close in the first year, a special field is unlocked where you can plant whatever seasonal crops and flowers you want. You can then have a friend come by and water, tend and harvest those crops. In return, you can visit their plot and plant/harvest/water. It’s a nice way to earn extra cash. You also eventually get access to a StreetPass box, which lets you put up to 12 items in a send box for other people to get, and receive up to 12 items from others in your receive box. Again, it’s a good way to help each other out.
Unfortunately, Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns marks the return of another, less beloved tradition in the series. I’m talking about bugs and glitches. If you look online, you’ll see multiple people complaining of the game randomly freezing. Personally, I’ve had this happen once. It occurred after I’d played for about a month of in-game time, during a two hour play session, when I had my character running to attend a cooking festival in the mountains. This was before the December 3DS firmware update, however. Since then, I’ve finished my first year in Bluebell and have yet to have the game freeze again. So it’s a gamble. Tale of Two Towns could freeze on you, forcing you to reset your 3DS and continue from your last save point, or it could run perfectly. You never know.
Aside from the aforementioned annoyance that is random freezing, Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns is really a fun little game. It has all the classic Harvest Moon elements people know and love, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunity to farm, raise animals, fish and make friends while also helping to achieve some higher objective. It moves at a good pace and the ability to choose right away on what kind of farming you want to focus on, and then eventually switch between the villages if you like, is a nice way to change things up and offer some players a new way to live their virtual lives. Granted, the 3DS exclusive features aren’t all that, but it is nice to not have to keep track of an additional friend-code and exchange items via StreetPass.
Food for Thought