I love Harvest Moon. No, love probably isn’t a strong enough word coming from someone who’s clocked 86+ hours in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. We’re probably talking unhealthy obsession. Which is why I was excited to see Harvest Moon: A New Beginning as I made my way over to Natsume’s booth to play it. Of course, a brief demo isn’t really the best way to experience a game like Harvest Moon. It’s just a way to start to get hooked.
The Harvest Moon: A New Beginning booth at E3 was actually pretty busy. One station had a Natsume rep playing the game and explaining what was happening to onlookers. The other was hands-on with the English build where you can send a farmer around town and talk to locals. Since the line for the actual hands-on station was surprisingly long, I started out by talking to a Natsume representative.
You start your new life as a farmer your way, he explained. Players decide exactly what their male or female avatar looks like, choosing their face, hair, and clothing. Even after the introductory segment, you can adjust hairstyles or pick up new outfits. What I liked best of all were the farm and town customization aspects. I first heard about them when talking to the rep, and then got to see how it worked when playing the game. Everything is fluid and at your control. You can arrange your farm and the town however you like.
I recall in other Harvest Moon entries getting a little annoyed when I found certain shops would close early or having to trek all the way to the other side of the village to meet the bachelor I wanted to woo. That doesn’t happen in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. You just pick homes, stores or buildings up and place them where you want, provided you have room for them in the new spot. The new residents don’t even mind being uprooted, though they might mention having lived somewhere else before.
Speaking of bachelors and bachelorettes, the whole relationship process is a tad more realistic in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. Instead of just magically being together and getting married, you get to date. Which means there are more event options available. Just don’t date more than one person at a time. When I asked the representative about it, he said that people will get jealous.
Harvest Moon: A New Beginning also gets players working with their hands. Your avatar is responsible for all kind of building and upgrading. You can upgrade your own tools, use harvested or acquired items for new clothing or equipment and even use items you find to upgrade buildings. I’m guessing that will mean being a bit more careful when deciding to sell items.
One of the coolest things I heard about relating to the crafting system is the fish trap. I love fishing in Harvest Moon. Not because it’s fun though, but because it can be a gold mine if you have the right rod. In Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, you can also build fish traps and put them in a lake or river to catch even more fish. Sure, they’ll eventually break down and need to be rebuilt, but in the meantime it’s another way to catch additional fish.
The gigantic Harvest Moon banner at the booth also revealed two new animals. One is the yak, which is similar to the cow in that you can sell their milk or turn it into butter. This sells for more than the standard dairy products. The other animal is the llama. So you get both llamas and alpacas, with the only difference being that the llama had a pretty stylish Fonzie hairdo in the promotional materials. Llama fur can be used for clothing, as will cotton, a new crop.
It seemed like the Harvest Moon: A New Beginning demo combined enough fresh content to rejuvenate the series while also keeping all of the farming concepts we’re familiar with from previous games. I’m most impressed with the ability to rearrange our entire towns and characters, and can’t wait to send my avatar off to try and win over Allen when this is released for the 3DS later this year.