It seems that my 3DS has seen me starting a couple of new virtual lives recently. Animal Crossing: New Leaf was a prime example. Now, another of my all time favourite life-sims – Harvest Moon – has me starting another new life. Though, I have to admit, this time around I was in a far more familiar role than a town mayor. Putting myself into the shoes of an ambitious farmer was a lot easier thanks to the ton of experience I’ve had farming over the last ten years or so.
Now, Harvest Moon: A New Beginning may seem a bit unjustified in regards to its Animal Crossing counterpart – largely due to, on the outside, it being just another Harvest Moon game. As usual, you’re a new kid on the block (or pasture) and you start out with nothing. You work on wooing a spouse to share your life with etc., but, you’d be mistaken if you thought there wasn’t anything new to the table. While it does take a tediously long time to get through all the tutorials and the basics of farming that you’ll already know if you’ve played Harvest Moon before. Eventually its greatness unlocks for you (and I don’t use the word ‘eventually’ loosely, this is a very slow game) and you can enjoy the world of farming unrestricted. It’ll take you a fair amount of time to unlock the various animals and to get those hay bails rolling.
Once it does however, the true wonder shines through. The key factor in A New Beginning is Rebecca and her Blue Print shop. While the village starts off rather barren, with only a couple of shops populating the vast area of land. This does make it a rather lonely experience at first. But it turns into an extremely pleasing experience when you’ve finally gathered enough resources to make the village a hospitable place for wide variety of occupants.
Another rather lovely feature for the series is the character customisation options you go through at the start. Already it thrusts you into the feeling of actually starting a new life with a character of your choosing. While options aren’t hugely varied, like in say, Nintendo’s Mii Maker, it’s better than nothing – which is what Harvest Moon had before. And, let’s face it, in a game such as this, it’s important to have your own character identity.
While A New Beginning has a rather gorgeous soundtrack, it seems to fall a tad short on visuals. While past Harvest Moon iterations have thrived on beautiful cartoon looks, this one seems to go for a more realistic visual style. I can only assume this is a way of trying to complement its move to 3D. In doing so, however, a large chunk of what made Harvest Moon so lovely to play has been lost. Gone are the buckets of charm and child-like moments of farming glee, it all seems like a rather flat and dulled-down world. Even suffering from frame rate issues here and there when knocked into 3D mode.
Everything that happens, everything you do, all seems to have such a big purpose to your overall farming life. Harvesting more, earns you more money, which in turn earns you a better social life for meeting new people and wooing the suitor of your choice. It all seems incredibly dense. It’s without a doubt Marvelous’ most intricate and detailed farming sim to date, but that’s once you get through the opening moments.
Audio/Visual - 3/5: Lovely soundtrack but a rather flat and un-typically dulled down world compared to past versions let it down a bit
Gameplay - 3/5: After getting through the first four hours or so A New Beginning shines like a brilliant farming sim beacon that should be taken note of by any fan of the series
Innovation - 4/5: Character customization and a wealth of variety of things to do add so much to the enjoyability and longevity of the title
Value - 4/5: A bucket load of content to keep you farming for a long time to come