By Benny Carrillo / July 4th, 2017
Natsume is a publisher I’ve been reporting on for the last two E3s, so why ruin a good thing? With that in mind, I accompanied our Project Lead for Interviews, Quentin H., and went down to the Natsume booth to see what they brought to the show this year, which turned out to be quite a bit. Let’s start with company’s newest flagship title Harvest Moon: Light of Hope on the Nintendo Switch.
Harvest Moon is one of those series I love, but I never seem to be willing to buy these days. While yes, the franchise is technically different from the games I played growing up, the influence is still there. Last year’s Harvest Moon: Skytree Village focused on terraforming. This time though it’s back to basics with a focus on clearing land and an overall look that reminds me quite a bit of the SNES days. The setup is pretty standard retro-affair as well.
You board a ship and set off to begin a new adventurous life. However, much like Falcom from the Neptunia series, you end up shipwrecked and wash up on an island. Thankfully it’s not deserted and a few of the islanders rescue you. However, the place is desolated. Trees, rocks, and weeds cover the landscape. Much like the SNES or 64 versions of Harvest Moon the land is not fit to produce a crop. It’s going to take some elbow grease and some long in-game nights to get things in working order again. Thankfully unlike those days where we had to go into menus and manually switch tools every few seconds, Natsume has ported over their contextual tool system from Skytree Village.
This system is something that falls into the realm of “things we never knew we wanted”. You no longer need to manage menus to grab the tool you want. Just walk up to the object and press the tool button. You’ll use the proper tool for the job. Boulders are smashed, weeds cut, and wood chopped. While menu navigation was never the worst part of any Harvest Moon game, it did slow down gameplay and could feel a bit tedious. While this change is welcome, the system itself still needs a few tweaks, namely in precision.
During my playthrough sometimes the game wouldn’t target the square right in front of me, but instead the one next to it. This happened when working with seeds and watering them. Most likely I was just standing in a spot where the game thought I was between two squares and picked the one it thought I wanted. In the game’s defense, this is a very early build and I’m sure the system will be tightened up before release, which is good because when it works it makes the usual day-to-day work of Harvest Moon titles quick and snappy. This will leave you with more time to visit the townsfolk and pursue your various romances. In fact, reviving the town is a major part of this game.
If you played titles like Magical Melody or Sunshine Islands then this part of the game should be familiar. As you complete certain tasks new areas will become available or new townsfolk will move in. It’s certainly one of the stronger points in past games and I’m happy to see this system return as it feels like you’re accomplishing something grand. You’re not just rebuilding a farm and living your life, but you’re contributing to those around it. It makes those bonds feel more important than your usual NPC relationships.
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is something that I’m actually pretty excited for. Moving the series back to its roots isn’t a bad thing. In fact, one can argue the fact this is a back-to-basics type of Harvest Moon means the development team can be more focused on polishing the game. Really, it’s going to come down to not only the systems but the characters themselves, which is something I sadly didn’t see during this demo. Hopefully, Natsume will give these characters a proper introduction soon.
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope doesn’t have a release date as of this time, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted as details are released. Also, keep an eye out for Quentin’s upcoming interview with Natsume where we talk about Harvest Moon in more detail.
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