We all know and love (or hate) the Harvest Moon series. For decades, it’s brought us hours of farming fun at no physical expense for us or stinky animals to deal with. Through the years, we have watched it grow, evolve, and expand. The newest installment of this lovely game has come to the DS and 3DS in the form of Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns.
In tale of two towns, you take on the form of a boy or a girl, who, as in other games, moves to a remote village to start a life of solitude and agricultural living. In the story, your character loses control of his or her cart, drawn by a horse that may have gotten spooked, and you eventually derail and fly off, landing on cold, hard dirt.
This may shock you, a tragedy happening so soon! Fear not, for two friendly mayors of opposing towns find you and help you regain your consciousness. At this point, you must make a choice. Both Rutger and Ina want you to start your farm in their towns, but you can only have one! From this point on, it’s up to you, as the player, to make choices by your personal interests. Bluebell, Rutger’s village, is an English-looking town with cobblestone streets, flowers in full bloom, and their lives revolve around animals. Cows, sheep, alpacas, and chickens are abundant in this charming little burg. On the other hand, Konohana, Ina’s village, as the name implies, is reminiscent of a little countryside town in Japan. Bamboo grows everywhere, every home has a pagoda roof and colorful paper lantern on their porch, and the villagers mostly wear Asian-themed clothing, such as kimono or yukata! This town gives you an abundance of farmland perfect for one who is interested in growing lots of crops.
No matter which farm you choose, you can still do both aspects of farming. The only difference is, obviously, the barn can hold more animals at first in Bluebell, and Konohana has more land for growing crops on to start off. Konohana players get a small advantage, however, as Ina plants a whole patch of turnips for you that are ready to harvest right from the start, as sort of a little housewarming gift!
Besides this, the storyline of the game is quite simple. Long ago, a tunnel through the mountain linked the towns of Konohana and Bluebell. But over time, the mayors of each village quarreled so much that the Harvest Goddess got mad and blocked the tunnel! Now, the only way to get from town to town is to take the long hike over the mountain….but there is a way to open the tunnel again! The only way is to make the villages stop fighting and help them all be friends again, but it won’t be as easy as it sounds!
Not long into the game, the Harvest Goddess appears before you and asks you to take on a quest. A quest to open up the tunnel again. This will not only benefit everyone, but it’s so much easier to travel that way! She mentions that the two towns only meet four times a season, for the competitive cooking festivals. Yes, there are four cooking festivals a season. The theme is always in this order: Salad, Soup, Main Dish, and Dessert. You must cook a dish and enter it in for judging, and whether you win or lose, the friendship of the two mayors goes up a little. Make sure you enter as many times as you can, it won’t do much for the friendship if you don’t participate at all! As a bonus, the mayor of your town will give you a prize for participating, whether your village won or lost!
Cooking is quite simple, simply visit your kitchen in the corner of your home, and press the A button. A list of your cooking utensils and known recipes are automatically shown. If you choose a recipe, the ingredients will automatically be added if you have them. If not, you can always just make something from scratch! Don’t worry about starting off with a skimpy kitchen, you will acquire more things to cook with as the game progresses.
This game has many things in common with other Harvest Moon titles, but with a few twists. For the first time ever, you can catch bugs and frogs and such, called “critters” in little boxes! These can be sold for a profit, given as gifts, and even used to fulfill Requests placed on the message board.
That is another new surprise in the game. In the past, I found time to be too plentiful for my farm tasks, and spent the rest of the day wandering the outskirts of town. But in Tale of Two Towns, there is a message board placed outside of the Town Hall in each village with requests from villagers! Plenty of folks need help, whether it is searching for ingredients for cooking, presents for friends, or an item in need, and the best part is you get money and items for a reward, and your friendship with the requester will rise! As you complete more and more requests, the rank of them gets higher, meaning more difficult and time consuming requests to fulfill. Completing these is the only way to remodel your farm, get certain tools such as the axe, and obtain new clothes to wear. One thing I disliked is this aspect, you cannot purchase home upgrades, clothing, or tools unless you finish a request to trigger one.
Another new twist on fishing appears in this game! Now you can go Hillbilly hand fishing in the shallow waters at the foot of the mountains! Okay, it’s not actually called “Hillbilly Hand Fishing” but just hand fishing by itself. This way, you can start catching fish without a rod! All you have to do is walk into the water and hit the A button on a fishy shadow. If you’re quick enough, you will hold up your prize over your head. There are other things you can catch other than fish. Old balls, boots, cans, fish bones, and coins can all be caught in the rivers. These things might seem like trash, but some villagers need them in requests! You never know what will come up, so it’s good to keep a little bit of everything.
I found that this game has a lot of unexplained things that you can’t figure out right away. One of these is the friendship system. There are no hearts or any other obvious indicator of a character’s affection for you at first, such as a hidden diary like in the past. However, the little flowers that decorate their text boxes actually grow and change colors along with their level of interest. These are called flower points, and it will take a lot of work to establish a friendship, and even more to develop a romance!
There are not many choices for marriage in this game, but it is not a big downstep. More potential candidates will move in throughout the game, but in the beginning, each town has two males and two females, making four in all. If you are a girl, there is Kana, the horse lover. He is a tall guy with a brown ponytail (how cute!) and some even say he’s obsessed with horses! The other is Hiro, whom works at the Clinc. He is a cute boy with a childish face, and a compassionate personality. He is always worrying about the villager’s health and will often talk to you about taking care of yourself. Both of these fine young men reside in Konohana. In Bluebell there is Ash, and no, he is not a Pokémon trainer. He lives on the farm with his mother and little sister. Beware, Cheryl, his sister, hates girls who take his attention away from her! If you’re willing to brave her wrath, you can go into the farmhouse to buy animals or other goods for farming. The other one is Cam, whom is usually quiet. He has his own flower stall outside of the café, where he sells rare flower seeds and fresh cut flowers to give as gifts or make into bouquets or perfumes. If he isn’t at his shop, he can be found on the Bluebell side of the mountain or in the café, where he lives.
As for the girls, there is Reina and Nori of Konohana. Like most residents of the crop-growing village, Reina is a botanist and loves plants. However, she is bad at getting along with people and can be hard to approach. Nori is a sweet and quiet young lady who lives on the farm with her grandfather. Go to him if you want to buy seeds. In Bluebell, your choices are Laney and Georgia. Laney is a cute blonde who helps with the cooking at the café. She is best friends with Georgia, who ironically has a Georgia accent! She talks differently than others in the village and often feels left out, unless she’s with Laney. Georgia is a firey red-head who loves horses, she even wears a little sweater with horses adorning it! She can be found on the horse farm, where she lives with her dad.
There are also secret marriage prospects whom you can get later, some even require friendships with other villagers to get them to move in.
To get your prospect of choice to like you, find out what gifts they like and speak to them every day. If they begin to like you enough, you can even go on dates! Be careful with where you choose, each date has two places they like going to, and one they dislike. To make sure they have a good time, choose wisely! Some dates will turn into Flower Events, much like Heart Events on other HM titles. If you are a girl, the guy of your choice can even propose on one of your dates, given his Flower level is high enough!
There are also wild animals that wander about on the mountain. There are animals such as monkeys, rabbits, mice, birds, ducks, even bears and boars to see! However, the animals are not friendly at first, they will get spooked and run away. The bear and boar will even charge and attack you! I learned that if you manage to catch an animal, or feed it a favorite food, its affection will rise. You cannot handle the boar or bear, but pressing A near them will “talk” to the animal and cause it’s affection to rise by a small amount. If you get the friendship high enough, the animals will even give you a favorite gift!
One more interesting thing is the multiplayer field. The Harvest Goddess will show it to you later on in the first year. With this, you can link up with a friend and plant crops in a large field reserved only for those allowed in. When those crops grow, a friend can come in and harvest them, and you can do the same with any they plant. It is a great way to share your produce! However, you can set a fee for entry into your sharing field! This implement has a potential to bring in a healthy profit and new crops.
All around, this is a Harvest Moon packed with almost everything you could need in a farming simulator. I have found no fault with it so far. If you are like me, you will embrace this marvelous new version with open arms and go on an all new farming adventure.