The Harvest Moon franchise is one that I adored growing up. I remember reading and rereading the articles about the SNES game in Nintendo Power and then playing the heck out of Harvest Moon 64, which was the first of the series I owned. Now, I know many of you will argue that these games are not the same as the current day Harvest Moon. The series they were based on, Bokujō Monogatari, has since become Story of Seasons. I certainly understand that point. That said Natsume localized the franchise for years and as such, should have a good idea as to how to make their own Harvest Moon game. While the response to the previous two games have been mixed, Natsume has been working to try and improve their vision of what Harvest Moon is and their latest entry is Harvest Moon: Skytree Village. Is it good or bad? Well, let’s take a look.
For starters, let me disclose that the last Harvest Moon game I’ve played was Sunshine Islands and I have not played any of the Story of Seasons games. As such, I’m coming at this as a fan of the old games. For me, right off the bat, this certainly felt right. I selected my gender (Female), named my character (Ellis), and chose my birthdate (Spring 25). From there I was taken on a guided tour of the world. The first thing I was introduced to were the various villagers. One thing which was told to me is that there’s a bigger focus on family this time. You’ll get to know and see more of the bachelor and bachelorette’s families in this game. For me, as I wandered around the farm and village, it did feel like there were quite a few people. If I had to make a comparison, it felt about the population of the Friends of Mineral Town games. Which I both loved, so no issue there. After wandering around and meeting a few more people, I headed back to the farm to check on my livestock. This was where I was introduced to some of the improvements in the tool system, and they are things I have really wanted for a long time.
One of the biggest chores in Harvest Moon was constantly going into your rucksack and changing tools or items. This time, things are easier. The game is smarter this go around and will usually know what tool you want to use. For example, if I walk up to my cow and it needs to be brushed, I’ll use the brush, etc. This cuts down on menu time extensively, but there’s another neat addition. There are different types of feed in the game, which can do different things. One feed, for example, will make the animals like a particular season more than the others. Let’s say I want to raise a chicken for the Chicken Festival (I’m not sure if that festival is in the game, but let talk hypothetically here) and it takes place in Fall. In older games, I’d have to feed all the other chickens and then go into my bag and select the Fall Feed, then feed that one chicken. This time, I can just press left or right to cycle through feed as long as I’m still by the feed bins. I actually used this to quickly alternate between two types of feed and got my chores done pretty quickly. So that’s animals, but what about crops?
The farming aspect is where I see a lot of potential, and a few pitfalls. Let’s be honest, with how the field looks it reminds you of Minecraft. I know that’s going to instantly turn some people off, but it’s what Natsume have done with system that I think deserves at least a look. See the reason the field is like that is that your elevation of the crop matters as well this time. Crops higher up will grow differently than crops that are at a lower elevation. This could potentially add quite a bit of depth to the formula if it’s executed well. Also the tool system improvements extend here. If you only till a 3×2 section of ground, you’ll only use six seeds as opposed to the usual bag of nine in the old games. The same goes if you till a 3×3 square with only eight patches. The system also extends to watering and should help cut down on repeated trips to refill the watering can. So with all these improvements let’s talk about what you’re all really asking. Is the game a true successor to the Harvest Moon of old and can it go toe-to-toe with Story of Seasons?
To be honest I think it’s the wrong question we should be asking. While both series share bits of the same structure and design, Natsume is trying to create a game that’s its own vision. I do think we should compare them, but more like you would several different games of the same genre, rather than treating this as just an offshoot. To me, the game is fine. Yes, there’s a lot we don’t know yet, but at the same time, for a farming simulation game, it has all the elements of a good game. Time will tell how this seed will grow, but I think the soil it’s planted in is fertile.