Harvest Moon: A New Beginning Review

by nintendoiso on September 27, 2013

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this classic farming simulation returns in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. What new life will await you in this new town? Will you rise to the tough challenge of farm life? Read on to find out.

Game: Harvest Moon: A New Beginning
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Publisher: Marvelous AQL Europe
Reviewed on:

HMANB_BA 

STORY

As a celebration of your coming of age you take over your family farm that has been protected by your ancestors. Encouraged by a strange voice you assist a man who has collapsed on the road on route to the farm, who turns out to be Dunhill, the leader of the town. Making your way towards the town you discover that some of the villagers are leaving. Dunhill explains that the town is no longer as lively as it used to be, and with no work there are no people, a vicious circle. Only as many as you can count on one hand remain. At Dunhill’s request and with the help of the villagers you hope to restore the town to its former glory and entice people to move in and make it their home once more. It’s not exactly up there with the likes of The Last of Us, but that’s not exactly what Harvest Moon is aiming for. The story is there to service the gameplay, and it does that pretty well.

GRAPHICS

Harvest Moon: A new Beginning is the first in the series to be made exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, which has given the series a new lease of life. The visual characteristics remain true to the series with its Japanese anime illustrated characters that pop up when you speak with them, complete with changing expressions and beautiful details. Characters now appear as larger avatars compared to the smaller sprites in previous games which gives more realistic proportions. The colours pop out with lush green grass and deeper shades in the foliage and supplies a bright viewing experience even in an unlit room. Lighting is pleasantly portrayed from bright days, gradually changing to a warming orange hue as the sun sets to a deep blue as the night brings a chill to the air. The 3D is sometimes subtly shown off with even the smallest effects. Blossoms, leaves and snow drift through the air, twisting and turning in the breeze. Some appear to gently flutter down, whilst others appear to come flying past, almost as if they came from behind you and right over your shoulder!

A great new feature has been added to that allows you to zoom in and out, as well as rotate your view, something not found in previous games. The ability to adjust your view gives you more freedom on how much or little you see and allows you to view the game at the best angle for you. This also comes in handy when foraging for items that may normally be hidden from view. Although the 3D design gives the game a fresher look and introduces some new elements, I cannot help but feel a little let down with the overall visuals of the game. Harvest Moon games have gorgeous artistic styles, mainly in the more recent titles (Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns was bursting with textures!) However, A New Beginning appears more flat and simplified, even crops have been enlarged which in all makes the experience a little less aesthetically pleasing compared to its predecessors.

HMANB screen 1

SOUND

Music in A New Beginning is not intrusive and is limited in its number of musical scores, serving as gentle background noise as you go about your day. The music comprises of some new tracks and some taken from previous games, all of which are happy in nature. Tending a farm and rebuildig a town can get stressful at times and the tranquil melodies aid in helping you get along with your days, along with chirpy tunes to hum to as you water your crops or go foraging. Small sound effects are thrown in, such as a gentle plop in the water, or the trickle from your watering can. Night brings silence, with the occasional hoot from an owl or rustling of insects. Melodies change with the seasons to go along with the mood. Spring is a peaceful start to the year whilst summer brings a little more fun and energy.

GAMEPLAY

Whilst you may want to dive right in and get your hands dirty building up your town, you may want to hold your horses. The game starts off with a rather tediously slow tutorial, which pretty much takes up the entire first season of the game. Whilst newcomers to the series may find this useful, veterans of the series will find that there is nothing new at this point and would rather get straight to the juicy bits. Do plough on though dear farmers, as it is certainly worth the wait. The firmly rooted core of the game is to build up your farm, raising crops and animals to become the best farmer you can be, making friends on the way. You will carry out your daily duties and soon build up a routine to live your life to, which soon becomes very addictive. At first your farm, not to mention the village will seem rather barren, but fear not as there are plenty of things to raise, and what a huge space you have to work with too! You start out with some free seeds but more can be bought from the local general store. Depending on the season you are in will determine what crops you can grow, and others will not unlock until you have passed your first year. Spring will bring about turnips and potatoes, whilst summer will bring onions and tomatoes. Winter will be limited to what you can grow due to all that snow. You will have to till the soil to plant your seeds and water twice daily and soon you will reap the fruits of your labour. Different crops will grow at different rates, and there a few things you can do to help get the best crops. As well as using fertiliser, the soil in which you grow them can be changed. Starting with gravel fields you can later make soil fields which give your crops a better boost. These things will help raise the star rank, the quality of your crops which will lead to a fuller tummy and a better chance in the crop festivals.

HMANB screen 2

Raising animals also plays an important part of farm life. You are given your first cow by Neil, who you can later buy other animals from. Other animals you can raise include sheep, chickens, adorable alpacas and even bees. Taking care of your animals as well as your crops is rather hard work, especially putting your cows out to graze which will take a rather tiresome push until you discover the bell. There are different breeds you can choose from, and they will all provide their own unique produce. Animals will also come in different colours and markings so no two will be alike. The items you produce on your farm can be shipped for money, cooked into delicious meals and given as gifts. You can also enter into different festivals, which gives you some goals to work towards, as well as a little fun. You can see who the best cook is and who raised the cutest cow, to who laid the perfect egg. Winning these contests will bring rewards and should you fail it gives you something to work harder towards next time. Different seasons and weather conditions will bring both advantages and disadvantages. A hot summer will require more watering but will be great for your animals to graze outdoors, whilst rain will save you watering but be sure to keep your animals indoors otherwise they may fall ill and become stressed, and no one wants a stressed cow.

Another well-loved feature of the Harvest Moon series is the marriage system. Life on a farm can get lonely, and sometimes a cuddly sheep just isn’t enough to get you through. Based on your gender there are six marriage candidates, all of whom have their own personality and style which gives everyone a chance to find their perfect partner, should you not choose a life of solitude. Bachelors like Neil will be available from the start but others you will have to entice back buy rebuilding the town. The marriage system has become a little more complicated in A New Beginning. Regular interaction and giving of gifts will raise your friendship with your chosen person which will lead to heart events that unlock by reaching a particular heart colour. These will be in set places and times and all you have to do is turn up at the right moment. These scenes reveal more of the persons past and personality and present you with different choices. Depending on the choice you make will result in an increase of friendship and love or result in a falling out. Now in A New Beginning before you can progress further into your relationship you must give your potential partner a commitment ring or raise it enough for them to be the one to commit to you. You will have to complete certain requirements to do this but once you have you can then progress onto the final heart events. Of course this all eventually leads to marriage and a happy life together, and then of course there are children. However should you feel that you no longer want to marry a particular person you can break up once the relationship meets a stale point and then pursue your next love interest should you wish. A relationship will make the seasonal festivals a little less lonely, and you can snuggle up to your partner under the starry night.

However, the most anticipated new feature of A New Beginning has to be the customisation options. Previous games in the series saw you play a set styled character and the town was ready and remained as you saw it. Fans of the series have been waiting to be able to put their own stamp on the game, and now you can. The character you play can now be customized to reflect your own style and personality. Though the selection is limited this is something you could not do before and allows you put yourself into the game and make it personal to you, to build a greater connection. You can select your skin colour, hairstyle and colour and even have cute or mean looking eyes. Unlocking the hairdresser and tailor later in the game will allow you to change your style at any time and you can even buy a wide variety of clothes to truly show off your fashion sense. You can even customize your wedding day by selecting the style of clothes you and your partner wear for the special occasion. The clothes you wear will also have an effect on potential partners, all of whom prefer different outfits.

HMANB screen 3

Even greater than the character creation is the ability to fully customize your town. Rebecca plays a key role in this process. As an architect Rebecca runs a shop where you can buy various blueprints to build new decorations, homes and town amenities. As part of the story to help entice people back to the town you will have to complete a series of town restoration plans, which include decorating the town and building the houses for people to move into. If the houses are not built then the relevant people will not move in and it would be a shame to miss out on the new opportunities these villagers will bring. There is so much freedom in how your town can look. You can place benches and flowers anywhere you like. You can even choose who has what neighbour if you wish. Your farm can also be redesigned by building and placing new buildings, such as coops and tool sheds. Want your house by the river? No problem. As if you were the mighty Hulk himself you can lift your house over your head and place it there! There are endless possibilities to how you create your town and should you wish to change things up a little you can rearrange it how and whenever you like in edit mode. There is so much fun to be had and so much to discover, and should you need to take a break from your busy day, fear not. You can now save at any time and any place you like. No longer will you have to miss out on the hours of the day by an early bedtime!

LONGEVITY

Harvest Moon: A New Beginning could last you a lifetime. The great thing about this series is that even once a new one comes out you will still find yourself going back to them, and this one has to be one of the best ones yet. You do not have to rush your progress, take as long as you like building up your dream town and really get to know your neighbours. Harvest Moon is a truly addictive game and is hard to put down once you are sucked in. Some things may take a while to accomplish but relax and take your time. You have many years of happy farming ahead.

VERDICT

Although the graphics may have slightly let the series down, after hours of playing it soon grows on you and there are just so many other positives to the game. As a fan of the Harvest Moon series for many years I anticipate each new tile in the series, and the new gameplay additions to this title make it one of the best yet. Now fans get to do what they have been dreaming of, creating a unique experience for you. For newcomers to the series this is an excellent start to your farming adventures.

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