Anyone who played the last 3DS version of Harvest Moon, Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns knows that with its game breaking glitches and crop watering lag, the game was an utterly depressing failure of a port. I’m into summer of the second year of A New Beginning, and I have to say, so far I am nothing but impressed and relieved. Fans can rejoice in knowing that not only does the game actually function properly, but there have been vast improvements to overall gameplay.
The game opens in typical HM fashion; the player picks a gender and the game opens to a cutscene of the character arriving in a new town, hoping to rebuild a dilapidated farm and bring the village back into its former glory! However, A New Beginning is chock full of exciting new changes. One of the biggest pluses is that the ability to save anywhere in the game returns. Players no longer have to worry about making a terrible mistake in the middle of the day and having to start over from the morning. The game is also fully 3D instead of being viewed top-down. A camera function allows the player to tilt the camera and zoom in and out, which I have found to be a pleasant change from past HM games.
Another great change from previous installments is that HM has finally become fully customizable, from eye color to skin color and other physical attributes. Marvelous has also created many hairstyles and outfits that become available to the player through the course of the game through challenge completion and friendship points in traditional HM style. Marvelous also takes customization a step further by also allowing the player to completely rearrange and decorate the entire town. Buildings can be placed and rotated, roads rerouted, and plants and lights placed anywhere. The player is essentially the carpenter of the town, able to buy new shops, houses, and décor by finding and buying blueprints and materials. When the player first comes to the village, it’s only inhabitants are Neil, Emma, Hana and the town Mayor, Dunhill. The player must complete jobs for Dunhill to earn new Restoration Plans and attract new Shop Owners and other characters to the village. There are also several new festivals that are unlocked as the village grows and Restoration Plans are completed. Other new features are the addition of Yaks, Beekeeping, Fish Trapping, and Vacationing for rare resources. The courtship aspect of A New Beginning is also much changed from previous games. The player is now able to present a ring to the desired bachelor or bachelorette, allowing them to openly commit and become a boyfriend or girlfriend before being presented with a blue feather.
However, as with all HM games, there are a few flaws. There are several instances during the day and evening when the player is forced to sit through unneeded cutscenes of Neil and other shop owners in the Market opening and closing their shops, and when pets herd cows and chickens in and out of the coops and barns. The only way to avoid them is to stay inside your house for five minutes before and one minute after the scenes are set to occur. Another sore spot for me in particular is the addition of the Gardening Tour. It is essentially a plot of land which the player decorates for a score and money prize. It is an optional festival that is introduced by Dunhill in the summer of the first year. Getting a bad score causes the player to lose a lot of friendship points with the villagers; however at the stage of the game the tour is introduced, the player does not really have any of the blueprints or materials necessary to create a design that will obtain a good score. Participation in the tour is also required to complete some of the Restoration Plans, and the steps to take to build a high score are never made clear to the player. It took me much research and rereading of the Fogu page on it to even understand the point denominations. The player also cannot use the same layout and items from month to month. Each has to be different from the last, or the player once again receives a bad score and loses friendship points. The whole thing was just really frustrating.
The requirements of the all the Restoration Plans cause A New Beginning to feel a bit slower in pace compared to past games, but the multiplayer feature of trading really gives the player options that more than make up for it. The player can take the time and collect the materials on their own, or easily trade with others for them via wifi. I was eager to progress in the game and discover all its features, so I decided to explore some online forums about the game and see what trading was like for A New Beginning. In addition to being able to trade, the player brings any animals they have with them into a plot of land when trading. This allows both players to interact with each others animals and even shear sheep and milk cows. I in particular was able to get a few higher star wools I needed to make a new outfit in addition to trading for some materials. The pros really outweigh the cons with this Harvest Moon, and overall, Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is a must for all HM fans and the truly 3D version fans have been waiting for.