Review by Unnoticed_Hero
"Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is here, and it certainly lives up to its subtitle"
Hello! This is my first review, and it was mainly motivated by the lack of attention, (or unfair, negative attention), Harvest Moon games tend to receive. I hope it's informative and gives a good idea of what to expect from this latest addition to the Harvest Moon series.
Please keep in mind that I am writing this review as someone who has played and enjoyed past Harvest Moon games, and so I'll be focusing on the differences and new features that this installment offers. If you're not familiar with the Harvest Moon series, I hope this still provides some level of insight!
I'll start the review by explaining aspects of the gameplay, since that's the most important thing for games, in my opinion.
To sum it up, A New Beginning introduces some new and exciting features to the franchise while moving a little bit away from some of the aspects that other Harvest Moon games have focused on. It doesn't completely turn the series upside down, but it gives players new things to do, which helps alleviate the staleness that some Harvest Moon games admittedly have.
The biggest new feature is the ability to create items and edit the layout of the town and your farm. Your character is responsible for bringing life back to the town, and so you build houses and place them in whatever arrangement you want. You can always edit where buildings are, so you could even move your boyfriend/girlfriend's house closer to your farm, or place your pasture in between your chicken coop and your barn. The number of items you can create is pretty huge, and the fact that they're unlocked by finding or purchasing blueprints adds a fun "gotta collect 'em all" aspect to the game. Building each thing also requires specific items, which is also a good incentive to explore everything in the game, whether it's buying one of each animal or foraging for specific items in the forest.
Another welcome feature is that goals are given to your character through a Town Restoration Plan. Without going into too much detail, you have specific goals to accomplish and specific buildings and structures to place in order to meet those goals. Upon fulfilling a set of requirements, more is unlocked, along with another Restoration Plan. It adds a good sense of purpose and pacing to the game, and it motivates players to keep expanding their farm and the town. There are enough Town Restoration Plans that most players will fulfill them all within 2 or 3 years in the game, depending on how actively they're pursuing them
There are other refreshing aspects to the game such as a Travel Agency, a large variety of animals and crops, and a decent amount of character customization. The online multiplayer mode is also a fun and interesting feature. Basically, up to four people get put in a pasture with their animals, and everyone runs around brushing and collecting milk/wool from the livestock. At the beginning of each multiplayer session, everyone contributes a gift that is given to another farmer selected at random. You don't have to go into multiplayer mode to accomplish everything in single player, but it can help you get items that you're having trouble finding. It's not something that I imagine people spend hours playing, but it's definitely a fun little feature.
I mentioned that there are some elements from other Harvest Moon games that aren't given as much attention in A New Beginning. Mining and fishing were the two things in past Harvest Moon games that I enjoyed the most, but those two activities are simplified a bit in A New Beginning. They're still important parts of the game, but they're not as complex or deep as they were in past games. That might disappoint some players, but there is a ton of stuff in the game other than mining and fishing, so hopefully that disappointment goes away.
I touched on it in the gameplay session, but the basis for the story is that you have to breathe life into a mostly abandoned town. Harvest Moon games don't have much of a story, generally, but what A New Beginning has is a nice concept. The characters are an important part of the setting, of course, and they're all fairly interesting, in general. Some characters are a bit one dimensional, but that's okay. There are a lot of little scenes you can see that flesh out the villagers a little more, and a couple of them even made me laugh a bit. Overall, it's what you would expect from a Harvest Moon game.
The graphics for A New Beginning aren't anything special, but they don't detract from the game, either. Everything is bright, smooth, and colorful, so the graphics fit the mood of the game perfectly. The character portraits that appear when you're talking to villagers are all nicely done, so that's a plus.
Again, there isn't anything that really detracts from the game. The music is all bouncy and happy, which fits. It's unfortunate that you have to listen to the same song every day for each season, but it's not necessarily a game that you have to have your volume on to enjoy.
Every game has problems, and there are definitely things in A New Beginning that leaves me asking why the developers didn't fix them.
The first thing a player might notice is that the controls are a bit clunky. The quick menu isn't exactly quick, and when you're editing the town you'll end up throwing things where you don't want them sometimes. But all those things aren't a problem after you spend some time playing the game. Honestly, if you dismiss a game as terrible just because the controls are a little awkward, you're not giving the game a fair chance, and you should at least try to adapt. The minor problems in A New Beginning just take a little bit to get used to, that's all.
Another problem is that the game's tutorial is way too long and slowly paced. The first month in game will be a bit of a drag, but once you get past that, everything explodes and becomes way more exciting.
Something that I have no idea why the developers included is, when certain shops open or close and your character is in the main part of town, the game makes you watch a little scene of the shopkeeper setting up or packing to go home. The problem is, this happens every day they're open, so even if you're a couple years into the game, you'll still be forced to waste half a minute watching a store open. You learn to avoid walking through town at the opening and closing times, so it's not a big deal.
Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is a game that, if you're already a fan of Harvest Moon, is definitely worth looking into. If you're new to the series and looking to try a game out, it may take a little getting used to, but the tutorial at the beginning will definitely help you to get into the game. It's a relaxing game that you can spend ten minutes a day playing, or hours a day, and it'll keep your interest by the sheer amount of things it offers. It does have a few problems and is by no means a perfect game, but as long as you give it a chance and try to adapt to the problems, you'll easily get over them and have a fantastic game on your hands.
Thanks for reading!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/13
Game Release: Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (US, 11/06/12)
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