By Jenni . December 9, 2012 . 5:00pm
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I’d graduated school and knew I wanted to move forward, but didn’t know which move would be right. It’s then that my parents reminded me that there was a little plot of land in the family that could be my spot. I could find my place in a small town where people would be friendly and I could make a difference.
With hope in my heart, I headed to Echo Village.
This is the premise of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning.
I actually arrived at what probably wasn’t the best time. As I was walking towards town, I came across an elderly man named Dunhill. It turns out he was Echo Village’s mailman and the closest thing the village had to a mayor. Echo Village had fallen on hard times. People were leaving at an extraordinary rate, with the innkeeper Hossan and his son Noko leaving on the same day I was arriving. So the bad news is, I was moving to a dilapidated ghost-town with only Dunhill, a shipping woman named Emma, an animal dealer named Neil and an old woman named Hana that managed the general store.
On the plus side, with such a small town and meager area to start with, things could only get better! After all, I had a house, a few fields and a barn. Neil even brought me a cow to raise. My whole future was ahead of me and if I put in enough effort, I could make not only my life better, but improve the lives of everyone in Echo Village.
Of course, I had to start small. I only had a single cow, after all, and couldn’t handle too many crops. Fortunately, selling extra fodder from my grassy fields was a surprisingly good way to make money. Not to mention there was a forest, river and mountain nearby with plenty of wild items to scavenge and sell for cash.
It was during these excursions that I realized I wasn’t going crazy. See, ever since I arrived at Echo Village, I started hearing voices. I thought it was exhaustion. After all, I made over 25,000 my first month there and was running around until about 9pm every day.
But no, it turns out I was something of a chosen one! There is a Harvest Goddess living in the mountain pond near Echo Village and her two Harvest Sprite assistants had decided I would be the perfect person to revitalize the region. The bigger town would get, the more regions and nature-gifts would be made available. I almost wonder if they whispered in Dunhill’s ear, because he decided the same thing. Of course, it could have been that he was gossiping with Emma and Hana, noting how many purchases I was making at the general store and how many items I was shipping out.
Before I knew it, I was being approached with all kinds of plans for Echo Village. You’d have thought I was the mayor! It seemed like whenever I started showing an interest in something new—chickens, sheep, cooking, crops, you name it—Dunhill would want to hold a new festival for it to draw more people to Echo Village and give people something to celebrate. When an event would happen, I’d have the opportunity to compete in one of three difficulty level of contests, with recipes, blueprints and crop seeds as rewards. It also provided ample opportunities for socializing with townsfolk.
Speaking of blueprints, it wasn’t long before Rebecca and her son Toni moved to Echo Village. It was a pretty momentous occasion, as Rebecca was a sculptor and architect. She too, shared a vision of a bigger and better Echo Village and was ready to help by providing blueprints for new homes, buildings, and decorations. For some reason, the whole town restoration project had become my responsibility, which was a bit odd. After all, Dunhill had been here longer. I suppose he saw I was making great steps forward and figured a younger, fresh viewpoint may be more successful. This meant fulfilling certain goals, like shipping certain products, having certain decorations in town and placing certain homes to attract new residents and make Echo Village more appealing.
Fortunately, building up a farm and Echo Village is incredibly simple. You just collect various items, like wood, stone, weeds, flowers, beehives or other assorted materials then head to a workshop conveniently attached to my home. If you have all the materials, you can build the item or building the blueprint describes. Once that’s done, you can edit you farm or Echo Village. Time seems to halt as you run around either area, placing everything exactly where you want. If you don’t like how it looks, you can pick things up and shift them around.
Frankly, it’s a very freeing experience. I feel like I have ultimate control over my life in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. Not only that, but I have a major bearing on the nearby village. I’d almost say I’m a god to them, but the relationship is too symbiotic for that. See, the villagers are just as important to me as I am to them. Not only can I find love and build a family, but I can befriend those around me to improve my own life. Iroha helps me with my tools. Rebecca helps me improve the town. Clement gives me recipes. Charles helps me travel to different areas when I need a break or exotic materials. They’re as important to me as I am to them.
On top of that, I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with fellow farmers. Taking care of animals is hard work and finding necessary items and materials can be terribly troublesome. Fortunately, all of us farmers have an arrangement. No matter where we are in the world, we can come together and share one item from our inventory and bring our animals to socialize with one another (thanks to the Internet). When we come together, we can swap items, make our animals happier and generally make our lives easier. It’s a shame you can’t share items just by passing each other (StreetPass/SpotPass), but the ability to connect in this special way with up to four other farmers is still a very important bonding experience for farmers and animals alike.
I’m going to confirm now what all of you have probably already guessed—Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is the best portable Harvest Moon game I’ve ever played.
The ability to fully customize your farmer, your farm and your town is absolutely fantastic, and I felt like I connected more with the citizens in this game than in any of the prior Harvest Moons. Building my town didn’t feel like a quest or an obligation. It felt like I was improving my own community and making my little part of the country a better place.
My previous record for time spent on a Harvest Moon game is 86 hours with Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. With over 56 hours spent on Harvest Moon: A New Beginning already, I’d say I’m well on my way to beating that record.
Food for Thought
1. You can completely customize your avatar for the first time ever – you decide his or her gender, skin-color, hair style, hair color, facial features and clothing.
2. Stockpile gathered materials! Make sure you have at least 10 of each gathered item in your storage, even weeds. They’ll invariably be needed as building materials.
3. Develop a schedule. Plan out what you want to do each day at each time. A lot of money can be made from gathering and fishing, plus you want to make time for socializing and tending crops/animals.
4. Make sure crops/recipes are at about one and a half stars if you want to win the beginner contests.
5. Make friends with Iroha, as she’s the one who will give you blueprints for better tools in exchange for gifts. She likes wine, branches and rocks.