Harvest Moon is one of those franchises that is so difficult to explain the appeal to those who have never tried it. Who wants to simulate a life where you wake up at 6AM every morning, have to spend a few hours every day watering and tending crops, and where the local tavern is the only community entertainment for miles around.
And yet, if you're anything like me, you feel a sense of glee whenever a new title in the series is announced... alongside a desperate hope that it is as good as the ones you remember so fondly from years back. It's true, many of the recent Harvest Moon titles have been a bit lacklustre; but the massive success of Stardew Valley proves there is a massive market for a farming simulator done properly.
Learning From Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley was so successful because it tapped into the traditional Harvest Moon formula that Natsume appear to have forgotten over the years. We want to grow crops, raise animals, marry somebody nice, and attend wonderful festivals! Thankfully, Natsume appear to have learnt from this for their upcoming title:
“Harvest Moon: Light of Hope will set itself apart from other Harvest Moon titles with its depth, including a robust story and clear-cut goals. We set out to create a SNES-style nostalgic game with deep and meaningful characters and events, and we are excited to have our fans play it at E3 and tell us what they think!”
Martin Defries, Managing Director, Rising Star Games
With Harvest Moon taking a step back to focus on what made the older games so great, I think it's worth looking back at some of the classics and thinking about what the upcoming title could learn from these.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is my favourite in the series, and a large part of that is surely due to the wide variety of festivals you can take part in throughout the year.
Stardew Valley capitalised on this somewhat, but even that game doesn't have events that come close to the brilliance of dog Frisbee - which encourages you to play with your pet as much as possible. There was horse racing, contests for all the different animal types, a harvest festival, a cooking festival, and more besides. The huge variety here really encourages the player to explore all the mechanics of the game, and strive to become the very best! I would love to see Harvest Moon: Light of Hope bring some of these back, and add some new experiences too.
Raising Unique Children
Getting married has always been one of the main "goals" of Harvest Moon, with having a child being the next relationship step in each game. However, no Harvest Moon game has had as in-depth a system for raising a child as Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for the Gamecube.
In that game, the appearance of the child was generated based on the appearance of you and your spouse. Furthermore, the child's personality was partly based on your spouse, alongside the decisions you make during child-focused events. Children also grow older in the game, and you can see them develop their personalities over time.
For some players, choosing the right partner and having children is a key part of Harvest Moon, and would love for this depth from A Wonderful Life to return.
Customise Your Farm and Town!
One of the features people love most about Stardew Valley is the level of customisation options it grants you in your house and greenhouse - as well as choosing where to place your barn and coop.
Harvest Moon: A New Beginning outdoes even Stardew Valley on this front, however. It allows you to move your fields, barns and even your house without losing your crops or animals. It is very easy to do, and takes hardly any time.
Not only this, but A New Beginning goes one step further by allowing you to redesign your entire town! You can place shops for your villagers to use, and a festival square you can fill with different flowers. This level of customisation was (and still is) unprecedented in a Harvest Moon title, and I'm hoping Natsume agrees that giving the player more customisation options is appreciated by many players.
Harvest Moon Needs To Reclaim The Crown!
It's clear that Natsume have learnt a lot from how an indie developer managed to surpass the quality of some of their recent Harvest Moon titles, and has sold millions of copies as a result.
This article has shown that Harvest Moon has historically included many features that even surpass Stardew Valley, however. If Natsume embraces the history of the series and takes the best features from them, the upcoming Harvest Moon: Light of Hope could definitely be a game to get excited for.
We will be seeing more from this title at E3, and I will update on my thoughts then. In the meantime, happy farming!
If you enjoyed this article, I think you will also enjoy reading:
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Are you excited for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope? Let me know in the comments!