(Check out that llama's pompadour hair.)
Harvest Moon. The long running farming simulator that has won the hearts of people all over the world. Maybe itís the quaint characters. Maybe itís the adorable animals. Or the heartwarming story? Either way, this is the 11th installment of the game, the first title solely released on the 3DS. Although it is still a Harvest Moon title, this game, as the name promises, is a whole New Beginning.
The game starts with your character moving into a new town. Your parent sent you to Echo Village, as you have inherited the old farm that has been in your family for generations. You meet an old man named Dunhill along the way, who appears to pass out from dehydration upon meeting. You take him home and he treats you to a meal, and tells you about the state of the town. Things arenít doing so well. Everyone is leaving, and the town is on the verge of nonexistence. Why, you even witness a sad scene where the Innkeepers leave on your first tour of the town! Can you help bring it back to life?
Natsume themselves boast that in this game, ďCustomization is KingĒ and they couldnít be more right. Everything is customizable, including your own farmer. You are free to choose hair color, hair style, eye color and style, even your skin and clothing upon starting a new game! Do you want a female farmer with long, green hair? You can have it. What about a boy with spiky brown hair? You can have that one, too. Even if the clothing styles are limited at first, you get more wardrobe options later on in the game.
Not only is your farmer customizable! Through the course of the game, you will be able to customize your farm layout, deciding where to place barns, coops, fields and other farm equipment, like makers and mushroom sheds. Once you are satisfied with your own land, you can go out into the town and place streetlights, roads, and even decorate with potted plants statues. Whatís more, you can even move the villagerís houses to your liking! Does a store close too early, or maybe your sweetheart lives on the other side of town? No problem! Bring their house over closer to your farm and see them anytime you want!
Your village may seem bare at first, with only a handful of folks living there. Well, itís your job to restore the town, and new people will not move in until you can build their houses or businesses. I loved the new storyline, where restoring the town is all up to you! Designing the town and my farm to suit my playing style was a huge plus for me.
Farm life is boring at first. I started playing with the expectation of huge selections of new animals, crops, and things to do. However, this is not the case. At the start, you are forced to adjust slowly to farming. You are given tools in set amounts, starting with a hoe, sickle and watering can. With these, you learn to plant and grow crops. Later on, you receive a hammer and ax, when you can begin cutting down any unwanted trees. You do not really unveil the main purpose for the storyline until the first summer, so be prepared to suffer though spring if you are a veteran player like me. New players may adjust well to the slower pace, however.
At the start of the game, you are given your first cow by Neil, who is an eligible bachelor for female players! As you grow your farm, new animals may become available. Later in the game, you will be able to choose from sheep, alpacas, llamas, and even yaks to raise! Each animal has a distinct personality and a product to harvest.
Crop farming has taken a new turn, as well. Even if you only grow turnips and potatoes in the beginning, later parts of the game bring paddies, where you can plant aquatic crops like rice and even lotus plants! There is also a big selection of flowers and tree seedlings you can experiment with for fun, decoration, or profit! The seed maker is also back, so you can churn your best produce into higher quality seeds for later planting.
As your village grows, some man or woman may move in that catches your eye. There are a vast number of bachelors and bachelorettes to suit anyone! Maybe you like the beautiful blacksmith Iroha, or the punk-rock animal lover, Neil? Each possible candidate has a little heart icon that changes color as their affection grows, and you will be able to trigger events between you and your crush! If you keep up your pursuit, you will eventually be able to make your relationship official, marry and have your own baby boy or girl!
One noteworthy thing is the inclusion of the multiplayer system. With this system, you may trade items with your friends, near and far. All you have to do is add their friend code to your 3DS system, and create a room or join an already existing one through the title screen of the game! Even if none of your friends play the game, you can link up with a random group over Wi-Fi. There are plenty of things to do, you may trade items and play with other farmerís animals. You donít even need an alpaca or sheep of your own to harvest wool, as long as you have a friend who does! This is an easy way to get milk and wool with minimal effort on your part. Also, animals that come into the multiplayer field get their stress reduced to zero and receive a big affection bonus! After my first time in the multiplayer field, my cowís affection went up an entire heart level!
The newest harvest moon is loaded with features, but they are hard to achieve. As I write this, I still have not uncovered everything. The only disadvantage is the wait for new products and the experimenting you must do with villager friendships and shipping goods to ďunlockĒ new things. The game may lull into boredom sometimes, as you strive to get a certain new crop or animal. The goal of the game, as stated by CeeCee from Natsume, is to experiment and find balance between what to keep and what to sell, and which friends to make and keep! Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is so much more than just a farming simulator, where you job expands beyond your farm to encompass the upkeep of the entire town!