Harvest Moon is a tricky story. The games were developed in Japan by Marvellous Entertainment, but while originally translated and localized by Natsume, is currently localized by XSEED Games (and by Rising Star Games in Europe). The problem, however, is that the name “Harvest Moon” is held by Natsume, not XSEED. So while XSEED continues to localize Marvellous’ Japanese games under the title “Story of Seasons”, Natsume and Rising Star continue to make games using the name Harvest Moon. So, to be clear, the newest game in the series, The Lost Valley, is not strictly part of Marvellous Entertainment’s main Harvest Moon series because Marvellous Entertainment had nothing to do with it, even though it shares many gameplay elements with the original Harvest Moon series. It makes sense, therefore, to analyze and review this game based not on the original Harvest Moon series, but as its own entity with the same name. Confused? Never mind. Let’s just farm through this review to see what kind of crops we reap.

In Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, you are a country yokel who somehow gets lost in a snowstorm, and are rescued by a magical sprite. No, not the drink. The other kind. As such, when you awake the next day, you’re told that your mission is to bring the seasons back to the valley, because someone clearly made off with them and wasn’t giving them back any time soon. Your main point of call is the Harvest Goddess, but it seems she needs awakening too. And the only way to wake the Goddess and get things Back To Normalcy in the valley is to sow crops, and create a farm and …fulfill requests from villagers.

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If you’ve played a Harvest Moon game before, this is going to disappoint you a lot. There’s no village to visit, no gifts to woo others with, and very little of the kinds of things that made Harvest Moon the brilliant game series it was (and still is, under the name Story of Seasons). In fact, the best way to appreciate this game is to forget that it bears the name Harvest Moon. It still does have a lot of the same elements as before, such as growing crops, caring for farm animals, wooing someone from the village and marrying them, but it’s somehow been made a lot less fun. Raising crops, for example, is a painfully tiresome process, and there are few to no ways of streamlining the process once your farm gets overly large. You still have to water every. Single. Plant. You can, of course, run a river through your field to help you, but then you lose vast tracts of land that you could plant crops in. And that’s not counting the time you’ll spend feeding chickens and cattle, and mucking out stables and running up and down between sections of the valley.

And yet I am still playing it. I’ve ploughed more than 50 hours into the game and I’m still at it. Despite the share of bad points and the whole drama between Natsume and Marvellous, it’s still not a bad game if you conveniently ignore that it’s supposed to be a game in a series about farming. One of the better ideas in the game is that all actions are context sensitive. There’s no need to, say, pull out an axe before chopping down a tree, or yank out the shears before de-wooling a sheep. The game selects the best action for you based on where you are. It’s a bit buggy, though, because if you have, for example, been sowing seeds, the prompt doesn’t change to tell you what else you can do (lay compost, harvest, etc) when you move to an area with a new applicable action. It took me a while to get used to it, but it’s still annoying.

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One of the biggest changes to this game from prior ones is the ability to fiddle with the landscape, Minecraft style. You can dig away at the landscape, or build it up if that’s what suits you. Sadly, the entire process of digging and plonking down land is nowhere as streamlined as Minecraft, and makes what should be a fun segment into a painful experience. What DOES become apparent at some point in play is that the plants actually thrive at different heights, and so it actually behooves you to build raised areas and lowered areas and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Once again, like the terraforming, trying to get every kind of plant mutation can be a bit annoying because there’s no way of making notes in the game regarding what you find.

Obviously, in the graphics department it’s no HD marvel, but what’s weird is that there’s no 3D effect. None. Even though it’s titled Harvest Moon 3D. Did I miss having the 3D effects? Not really, but it’s interesting to know it’s not there. Likewise, the sound and music are nothing to take much joy in. Get used to hearing the same 10 second clip of music over and over again.

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I’m not going to completely sink the game for being a terrible type of Harvest Moon game, because it’s still addictive, if mindless. There’s not much excitement and any drama you encounter will have to be of your own devising. However, the fact remains that this is more of attempt to use the name to gather players to an inferior title. Let’s just hope that the next Harvest Moon game better matches up to what players want to experience.

Final Score: 6 farmed prawns out of 10

Detailed Information:
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Nintendo
Distributor: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Family
Age Rating: 7
Website: http://www.nintendo.co.za/Games/Nintendo-3DS/Harvest-Moon-The-Lost-Valley-1016127.html