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E3 2012: Is Harvest Moon: A New Beginning A Fresh Start For The Series?

Posted on June 8, 2012 AT 08:00am

Life on the Farm—The Remix

The Harvest Moon series has been around for a long time. A long, long time. And in that time, new features have come and gone, but some have argued that the series as a whole hasn’t progressed as far as it could have. Now, Natsume is prepping to release Harvest Moon: A New Beginning for the 3DS—and while it isn’t a revolution in the world of farming, it does bring with it some major new changes.

Eric L. Patterson (News Editor): So, I’ve been a fan of the Harvest Moon series for a long time—since the original SNES release, in fact. In that time, there have been no less than 400 released in the series—well, give or take a few due to my over-exaggeration. For this new version, however, the subtitle is “A New Beginning”, which seems to say that we’ll be seeing a refreshing of sorts of the series. A refreshing that, even as a fan, I’d say the franchise no doubt needs at this point.

Kat Bailey (Contributing Editor): Yeah. Speaking as someone who’s been more or less finished with Harvest Moon since Friends of Mineral Town, it really did need to be refreshed. I’m not a huge fan of the game’s new direction though. Character customization is just swell, but the new look is a little… weird. Now you can harvest crops in a panda suit! Good… I guess?

Eric: You know, you’re not the only person I’ve talked to who isn’t a fan of the new character designs. One comment that I heard is that they’re more “stereotypical anime”. I’m actually very torn on this: I don’t think the new designs are bad, and I think maybe they’ll be more appealing to a wider audience, but some of that charm of the old-school, more distinct designs has indeed been lost. Do you think maybe it’s another example of a game succumbing to the appeal of targeting the casual market?

Kat: No. If anything, Natsume is pandering more to the hardcore anime fandom that comprises a large chunk of its fanbase. No offense to that demographic of course, I just don’t think that it’s extremely well-executed. I think the best thing I can say is that I like the idea of being able to harvest cotton and use it to create new outfits (like the aforementioned panda suit). It builds rather nicely on the traditional goal of building a bigger house, earning new tools, and other Harvest Moon standbys.

Eric: So, I am really, really happy about the customization in this game. Like seriously. I think it’s long overdue that the Harvest Moon games allow for character customization, because I think the series has a wide appeal among a large variety of gamers—many of whom might not be spunky white kids. I don’t know that I need that to also come along with aspects like custom outfits, but I do appreciate those things too. I think the Harvest Moon series is one of those franchises that’s all about making a connection with the game, and it’s easier to do that when you can identify better with your character.

Kat: Yeah, but like I said, the execution is lacking. If anything, this is one of the uglier Harvest Moons that I’ve ever seen in terms of both art direction and animation. I might actually prefer Friends of Mineral Town, which is like a decade old at this point. What’s the point of customization if you don’t like looking at the actual characters? Anyway, it doesn’t appeal to me much. Maybe other people will disagree! If that’s the case, then most power to them. What did you think of the ability to rearrange the town?

Eric: If I’m playing a game that has city customization of some sort, and I can’t change that city, I’ll literally erase my save and start over because at some point I’ll find myself not being able to stand the placement of one building. So, this is another pretty big deal to me. To be honest, it does feel kind of weird in how it’s implemented in A New Beginning—you just walk around, pick up anything, and move it anywhere. Want that girl you’re smitten with to live closer to you? Just pick up her house and move it! In a way, it’s almost a little creepy. You’re like this all-powerful god that can just toy with the world however you wish.

Kat: Not creepy but… I find it kind of weird. It’s not something that I would ever want to do myself; it breaks the illusion that I’m living in a real world. But hey, maybe I’m in the minority in this one. It seems like Harvest Moon is being recast to appeal to people like you (generalizing here)—hardcore anime fans who happen to be really particular about their town layouts. Not a bad thing, but I just can’t get into this new Harvest Moon. I’m much more interested in Project Happiness (the upcoming project from Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada).

Eric: Oh I, too, am very interested in Project Happiness—but I still also have such a soft spot in my heart for the Harvest Moon series. It’s a series that I find nearly impossible to properly keep up with at this point due to all of the releases, but I keep waiting for that right time to jump back in. Maybe Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is that right time. Sure, I’m not totally happy with all of the elements that are in place, but I’m terribly curious how the customization aspects are going to affect things. Just for the benefit of finding out that answer alone, I’m definitely going to give this latest chapter a try.

How do you feel about the customization options coming in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning? And what kinds of things would you love to see added to the Harvest Moon series?

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