Posted on June 12, 2014 AT 05:00pm
After a shakeup in publishing rights over Bokujou Monogatari, the Japanese series localized here in the States under the Harvest Moon banner, publisher Natsume has decided to craft their own games for the series going forward. The first of these was revealed to be Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, the story of a snow-covered valley where, once you’ve returned the seasons to their proper balance, your true life as a farming fanatic can truly begin.
If you read my Japan Service columns here on EGMNOW, you’ll know that I was more than a little concerned for what life after Harvest Moon might mean for the American branch of Natsume. When the studio announced that they’d be developing their own Harvest Moon games going forward, that concern switched to worrying if the company would be able to bring us games on the same quality level as Marvelous’ Bokujou Monogatari releases.
After talking to the The Lost Valley’s producer, Yasutaka “Taka” Maekawa, and getting a look at what Natsume has been working on for their first home-grown Harvest Moon title, I have a new feeling for the game: excitement. Having localized the series for 17-plus years at this point, Natsume is well aware of what fans have liked and disliked about its various chapters over the years—and they’re really taking all of that feedback to heart in building The Lost Valley. For example, many tools and actions are contextual now, helping to take away the monotony of constantly digging through your equipment to get to the one you need at any given moment. Walk up to a crop, and the A button will automatically be used for watering it; water it, and the A button’s use will switch to spreading fertilizer, since the game knows that would be the logical next step at that point. Saunter up to a rock, however, and now the A button provides the option to break it with your pickaxe. It’s a small change, but one of many that look to go a long way in making for a more enjoyable experience.
Ah, but then there was the biggest surprise of them all: the game’s world. When initially announcing The Lost Valley, Natsume proudly touted that this would be the first truly 3D Harvest Moon release. Many fans (including myself) were confused by this, as we’d had polygonal Harvest Moon games for years. What they meant was the world now expands in three dimensions, with height and depth playing a role where they never did before. In a style somewhat similar to what’s done in Minecraft, the landscape in The Lost Valley is built with various blocks of material, and these are used to give real topography to your farm and the surrounding area. Don’t like your surroundings? Craft new ones by digging rivers and wells, building up hills, placing bridges and structures, and more.
I walked away from my time seeing (and playing) Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley being convinced that losing the publishing rights to Bokujou Monogatari may be the best thing to happen to the Harvest Moon series. Natsume now has the chance to bring some real change and evolution to the series, and so far, I think they’re on the right track. Of course, I’ve been excited by the ideas behind Harvest Moon games before, only to have some of them not turn out well in the end. I’m hopeful for what Natsume is developing here, but given that they’re basically doing a complete reboot of the franchise, I want to see how the final game turns out before I’m totally convinced of their ability to pull it off.
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