E3 2014: Harvest Moon Gets an Injection of Minecraft in ‘The Lost Valley’

It’s been almost two years since the last Harvest Moon, so it’s just about time to get a new entry into the main series. Natsume obliged this requirement by showing off Harvest Moon: Lost Valley on the E3 show floor, and while it’s possible to get jaded by yet another entry in a long-running series, Lost Valley has real game-changing additions that expand the farming possibilities in fun new directions. Short version — Harvest Moon got an injection of Minecraft.

It would be easy to be cynical about this change, but if any game can properly utilize a bit of earth-moving added to its core capabilities it’s Harvest Moon. You can dig flat squares of dirt that aren’t, despite current convention, actual cubes (2 squares stacked is too short to make a perfect cube, 3 too tall) and place them wherever necessary in the world. While Lost Valley is hardly the first 3D Harvest Moon, it is the first one to fully utilize 3D in its landscaping. Dig dirt, place to create platforms to higher areas, enjoy wandering a world designed for full 3D exploration. Additionally, dirt squares placed in different areas can have differing effects. Place a square in the river and it becomes swamp. At the moment there’s nothing officially announced for varying crops that can be grown in different types of land, but that’s generally PR-speak for “We’re working on it, give us some time.”

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Another change in the creation aspect is an Insta-Builder, which lets you plop down things made from the resources you harvest- bridges, pathways, wells, full-sized barns, etc. Things like bridges and paths get put down square by square, while buildings are plopped onto the landscape fully-built. Between the building and the landscaping it allows a whole new dimension for building your farm. Clear off a square and lay down some crops, or go nuts creating a multi-leveled garden. It’s all down to how creative you feel like being, but my hands-on time showed that tearing the land to pieces and putting it back together was quick and easy.

Other new additions include context-sensitive tool use and DLC. Stand in front of a tree and the game automatically selects the axe from inventory to start chopping away with, or using the pitchfork to clean up the barn. It’s a welcome change, streamlining the workflow nicely. The DLC could potentially be a bit more worrying, but it was described as being new content for people who had beaten the game rather than bits held out. Basically, most people get to a point (get married, have child, achieve financial stability) and quit playing, so the DLC is designed to give them new goals to strive for beyond whatever their personal stopping point would normally be.

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The last Harvest Moon was called A New Beginning and was supposed to be a relaunch for the series, but Lost Valley looks to be a rebuild that could truly invigorate the series. The more detailed landscapes and ability to terraform the farm, as well as build land-steps to explore the mountain areas, add depth to the farming experience in ways that expand the central gameplay beyond its previous confines. All the social interaction with the villagers is still there, of course, but setting off into the world after all chores are complete and the daily routine attended to should be much more engaging with the ability to blaze your own path into the wilderness. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley adds just a touch of Minecraft to its comforting formula, but it adds a world of possibilities to your farming life.

  • Robert Kupper

    Its worth noting that this game is a result of MarvelousAQL (The makers of harvest moon up to now) publishing their new harvest moon games in the west through XSEED who is a subsidiary of theirs.

    Natsume owns the title “Harvest Moon”, and used that title to publish the previous games in the series in America. (It is not called that in Japan) Since they won’t be publishing the new ‘farm story’ games, they decided to use the name Harvest Moon on their own, so this is their first internally developed Harvest moon game.

    To make things more confusing a new game in the series formally known as Harvest Moon, and made my Marvelous, is coming out in America as well but under the name “Story of Seasons”

    Personally I am a bit worried about The Lost Valley. I don’t like the new art style; especially for characters. I also really disliked minecraft, so that doesn’t appeal to me much. However, some of the smaller things like context sensitive menus are a welcome addition. I am keeping an eye on it, but if it isn’t my thing I am happy more traditional Harvest Moon games are still coming out. I cannot lose :P Hopefully the developers will learn from each other too.

    • inplainview

      Not sure why the education on the series evolution was necessary. All that was needed was the last paragraph, which I agree with.

      • Robert Kupper

        Well the fact that this game is in fact unrelated to previous harvest moon games and is being developed by completely different people is kind of a big deal. So is the fact that people displeased with the changes can get what is literally a harvest moon game, just not allowed the name, if that is something they prefer.

        Since this is a very different game, I suspect people might be confused by the recent change in title/developer.

        • inplainview

          Hmm well I can understand your misgivings with new direction of Harvest Moon. But, despite your feelings about the relation with the previous entries in the series, and even given the new dev team it is an official mainline entry.

          Now I also understand that you were attempting to inform fellow readers of the fact that Story of Seasons is a HM in “spirit” but I guess I found your post a bit verbose. ;) Sorry.

          Anyways no harm no foul, (?) Harvest Moon fans should pick up Story of Seasons.

          • Janus

            A late reply, but i feel that it is needed to correct the information and misgiving posted.

            First of all, Natsume doesn’t develop ANY of the harvest moon games, they merely publish and translate it. Thus they own the english name “Harvest Moon”.

            Marvelous AQL develop aka created the games.

            Therefore story of seasons is ACTUALLY HM in its truest form, and that lost valley would actually be what you call “HM in spirit”.

            This is not even a case like bungie or Piranha Bytes losing the rights to make game they originally created, merely that Natsume trying to make their own farming game while using the popularity(?) of harvest moon to help marketing.

  • http://charcoalstudios.blogspot.com Rocky Lincourt

    Since this game is English Exclusive, made by Natsume; it’s officially an “Spin-Off” game. Story of Seasons by XSEED games is the True Sequel.