At this point it has been years since the business breakup where the Bokujou Monogatari series split from Natsume, leaving them only with the “Harvest Moon” name. Since that event, things felt a little trying with the first few subsequent Harvest Moon releases. Sure, they tried to do something new, but at the cost of nearly alienating fans who wanted classic farming gameplay and not drastic modifications. Each year, Natsume listens to fan feedback and creates a new title which edges them closer to the original magic formula that spawned the Harvest Moon franchise (which has just entered its twentieth year).
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is aptly-named because it reveals Natsume is serious about making their newer version of Harvest Moon as worthwhile to play as past entries. Players begin as a plucky protagonist who sets out at sea to voyage toward a new start in their lives. After being caught in a monsoon, they wash up on the shore of a sweet little harbor town that got caught up in the storm as well. Your task is to bring things back to a state of normalcy here, as well as fix their iconic lighthouse.
How do you take care of business? It’s the same as always – you need to grow crops, tend to livestock, collect materials and befriend the townsfolk. Material collection is required as it grants you elements needed to slowly restore the lighthouse to its former glory. As you interact with the townspeople, they offer up quests and provide new items (and areas to explore) in return. Aspects such as fishing, mining and festivals return. There are even a few new festivals to partake in. For example, you’ll now be able to bring a pet dog to the Dog Racing Festival.
Playing as a girl or boy is just standard in Harvest Moon these days so of course it’s the case in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope as well. So too is the option of dating one of five eligible bachelors or bachelorettes. And, yes, there’s still no option for same-sex romance and marriage even though one Bokujou Monogatari title toyed with the concept in the past. Once you get married, the game continues on. There’s then the chance to raise a family on your lovely farm.
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope also attempts to make gameplay easier for players. Some improvements include the fact that now most items are context sensitive. For example, if you stand over a patch of dry crops and press A you’ll immediately pull out a watering can. After the crops are watered, pressing A again pulls out the fertilizer. Standing next to a tree immediately equips an ax and the protagonist gets chopping. Little tweaks like this make gameplay much easier as you don’t need to swap through inventory items to do simple tasks.
Perhaps the biggest news of all to some fans is that Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is headed to a variety of platforms including PS4, Switch and PC via Steam. All of these consoles are first for new Harvest Moon titles, with the PC never before being graced with an official Harvest Moon release. This marks a huge shift with Natsume now eyeing the PC audience (as well as with Wild Guns: Reloaded). 3DS fans might be annoyed, but at least you can opt to play the Switch in handheld mode for a similar effect. Hopefully Natsume’s newest game will recapture fans of the classic series and spur further development in the beloved Harvest Moon franchise.