At this point, those looking for their regular farming sim fix will discover that there are plenty of options out there. With the rise of social gaming, it has been necessary for the now seventeen-year-old Harvest Moon series to continually seek to reinvent itself – an effort needed to maintain the interest of those who have stuck with it through the years. And that’s exactly what Harvest Moon: A New Beginning promises.
We’ve been treated to selling our wares at a Bazaar and a branching narrative that tied two towns together, but it is this most recent arrival that makes broader strides than that which came before it. Character customisation, a startling first for the series, adds a more personable level to the young farmer that you will dutifully spend hours with, as you’re challenged to revive the desolate town of Echo Village.
Skin colour, hairstyle, facial and clothing can all be tweaked, after which your carefully crafted character takes their first steps toward revitalising their ancestor’s farmland. Sadly this otherwise exciting prospect begins with an unwelcome and lengthy introduction from Dunhill, a man whose painstaking explanations to every facet of the game will have veterans grinding their teeth. That this lasts hours, treats you as if you have never played a Harvest Moon game before, and is entirely unskippable detracts from the experience, as pushing through this leads to the frenetic farm management that we’ve come to adore.
Those expecting to spend their time tilling the soil, tending to their livestock, and selling produce to earn funds to expand their farm can still find all that here, with blueprints being required before you can select buildings and items to more heavily customise your farm’s appearance. Though, you will need to invest plenty of time before your efforts are more visibly rewarded.
Dunhill will task you with Town Restoration goals at the start of each season, normally constructing a specific building to entice new villagers to relocate, this loose narrative direction steering Echo Village from obscurity to the bustling town that it once was. Forming strong relationships with your townspeople remains just as crucial as it has always been, whilst courting will similarly still lead to eventual marriage once you’ve found someone that takes your fancy.
What proves a concern is why there has been no effort to correct any of the framerate issues that were widely reported when Harvest Moon: A New Beginning hit North America last October, whilst we’ve waited nearly a year for the game’s European release we still discover everything chugging away with the publisher merely turning their attention to Linking the New World, the next game which will launch in Japan next year.
It’s an undoubted shame, diminishing from the clear successes that have been achieved here. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning delivers precisely what its subtitle suggests, even if there’s still evidently work to be done.