It’s hard not to adore anything and everything concerning Harvest Moon. After all, the series has a long history of producing consistently solid installments, making it one of the more stable franchises out there. Interestingly enough, over the next handful of months we will be treated to not one, but two Harvest Moon entries within a very short span of time — a first for the IP. While one of these games won’t bear the HM namesake per se (Xseed’s Story of Seasons), the other will indeed maintain the lineage, and come straight from Natsume themselves.
Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley appears to be a bit Minecraft-inspired from everything we’ve seen thus far, and steps away from the more traditional formula that has been in place for the better part of two decades. That being said, a bit more was revealed about the title today, showcasing an entirely new tool system that is context sensitive. This means that — for the first time in the series — players will be able to simply stand in front of, say, a tree and the game will recognize the tool needed for the situation and suddenly place an axe in their hands, essentially eliminating the need to shuffle through unnecessary menus in order to equip items. This system will work with all tools as well as player actions, upgrades and the item bag, making for a more streamlined experience overall.
Additionally, folks will not need to upgrade tools in Lost Valley, either. Harvest Sprites make a return here, but this time around are actually quite useful; they act as the tool upgrades themselves. By merely asking the Sprites to assist players, they can do tasks for folks, furthering making the game a bit more intuitive. Even the item bag has been improved, now allowing up to 255 of each item to be stored. This clearly will cut down the time that was previously used for hustling back and forth between the player’s house and the farm.
When asked about these changes, producer Taka Maekawa said the following:
When we sat down to design Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, we wanted to really study what made the game fun. We wanted to maintain the core value of hard work leading to great rewards, while minimizing anything that may detract from a fun game. We took a long, hard look at the tool system and decided to go back to the drawing board. We came to the conclusion that gameplay should flow, so we made three core changes to the tool system.
The Lost Valley hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as Story of Seasons. Nevertheless, we see with it that Natsume hopes to deliver a new kind of Harvest Moon experience; something that pushes the series forward. Story of Seasons, on the other hand, looks like the more typical gameplay we’ve come to know and love (but have almost gotten tired of — but only almost). Still, both games will be hitting the 3DS soon, so keep an ear to the ground for more news and our inevitable reviews when the games launch.