Last time we talked about Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories, I offered some tips for getting into the Apple iOS game. But, I also brought up an unexpected issue with the game. Natsume is very obviously courting classic Harvest Moon fans with this release. In so doing, there are some design choices that will leave people unfamiliar with the series flummoxed. It could end up proving quite divisive.
If you’ve played a Harvest Moon game before, Seeds of Memories is going to trigger all sorts of old memories. The play pattern is akin to Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo or the Game Boy’s Harvest Moon GB. You can have all of your tools by the end of the first day. A hot spring is waiting on the mountain. People in town already have full store inventories. The mining cave is open for business. It’s familiar.
Someone who knows what they’re doing will have a routine set by the end of the third day. There’s no learning curve. I’m getting to the end of Spring in my game now, and everyone in town has at least half a note of friendship with me. I have over 50,000 gold in my wallet and made 41,350 gold in one day. Thanks to a gold hoe upgrade, I’m regularly getting gold and agate ore. Honestly, if it wasn’t 85,000, I’d probably have that house expansion by now. (I expect to be living in luxury by the end of Fall’s first week.) In my mind, the only thing that might be holding me back is the whole “planting” thing, since there’s no seed spreader. Man, how great would a seed spreader be, so I wouldn’t have to tap each plowed plot one at a time to sow them?
For someone who has played at least three Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons games, Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is a cakewalk. Even the question of crop mutations doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. I stopped bothering with compost and fertilizer, only water once a day, and still randomly see savoy spinach, jalapenos, huge cabbages, scallions, and squash on the regular. How often are they appearing? If I plant 9 cabbages, at least one will be a huge cabbage. Same with savoy spinach. It could be luck; I don’t know.
But, all of this could pose quite the problem for someone who isn’t as familiar with a Harvest Moon game. Enter my mother, a huge fan of Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, and Farmville. There have been attempts on my part to introduce her to the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons line before, which haven’t exactly been a success. I handed her my iPad, got her started with a new game, and spent over half an hour acting as a human tutorial. While the touch-based control scheme and context-sensitive tool usage went over really well with her, the freedom did not. She wasn’t sure what crops to go with or how to spend her day outside of the initial planting.
It highlights an issue with Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories. It doesn’t do the best job of selling the game to someone who doesn’t have virtual farming in their blood. The opening tutorial only covers tilling the soil, planting the seeds, watering the plants, and harvesting the crops. It doesn’t go over cooking, fishing, mining, or animal husbandry, four very important aspects of the games. The idea of talking to people and giving gifts is encouraged, but it doesn’t tell people how to offer someone an item to buy their love. A lot of information is omitted, with the assumption being someone will just “know” how to do it.
Which can be an problem even for someone who does know exactly what they’re doing. My first time fishing in Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories, I made the mistake of approaching the mountain pond from the side, rather than from above. There were fish in the water, the bobber barely went down, and I lost my catch. The exclamation point signaling it’s time to reel one in only appears if you approach a pond from above. There’s also no explanation as to how to catch said fish. (Note: tap frantically on the screen once the bobber goes under and the exclamation point appears.)
The best way to put it is that a lot is left unsaid. You don’t have a calendar in your home, reminding you of people’s birthdays. You have to talk to them every day and hope you find them at the right time, since wishing them well is another “Seed of Memory” and earns you a reward. Shops don’t list their hours of operation outside of them, so you have to either check your bookcase every day for help or stop by and check. If you didn’t already know about crop mutations, you sure wouldn’t find any information.
Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is an interesting game, and I’m genuinely enjoying my time with it. (It makes me feel so smart and competent!) There are just a few issues with what it offers and tells you. This, in turn, can make it over-easy for people who know what they’re doing and confusing for those who don’t.
Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is immediately available for Apple iOS devices and will eventually come to Android devices and the Nintendo Wii U.