A New Beginning was the first Harvest Moon release which was exclusively for the 3DS. In a slight change to the standard formula used for Harvest Moon games, your goal in this game was not only to work to restore your derelict farm, but also to restore the local town, which had seen a mass exodus of residents in recent times.
To be fair, I never really rate the Harvest Moon games for their depth of story, and this game is no exception to the usual bland fare the games offer. You arrive in town after being sent by your father to run a farm which he couldn’t be bothered with. During the introduction to the town Mayor, you witness a couple of residents packing up their business and leaving. It turns out this has been common over recent years in the town, and there’s now only three other residents beside yourself living in the town.
The Mayor then tasks you to try and find a way to revitalize the town whilst working on the farm. The game is rather slow paced during the first spring, as it is tutorial after tutorial, but once you open up the open of building and the Town Restoration plans in the first summer, the game really does open up.
However, the main story falls a bit by the wayside at this point, and the characters feel a bit flat. If you make the effort to befriend the villagers, then okay, they do start to open up to you, but overall, the game just feels like there could be more to it – maybe if the villagers had a set of random phrases and things to say when you spoke to them, rather than repeating the same things in between friendship levels going up? At least the acknowledge changes in the weather and seasons, I guess.
I will say though, as seems to be the case with the more recent Harvest Moon releases, this game has a fairly decent translation, and there are no really glaring errors in the translation, as was the case with Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, which was nice to see.
The music’s alright, nothing that really stands out for me, but none of music is unpleasant. The seasonal themes are of high quality, if a bit repetitive.
One thing that does seriously disappoint me about this game though is the fact that the seasonal themes seem to be it, apart from the odd bit of event music, such as during the festivals or in cut scenes. There’s no separate theme for the town or the forest/river area, it all uses the same season music as you have when on the farm.
Surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult to at least include something different for the town? They managed it in previous games, so it was disappointing to not see that as a feature in this game.
The various sound effects used for tool use and the noises the animals make are all fairly standard fare, I would say. Nothing amazing, although I’m sure the noise of the crickets that you can hear in the background in the forest area is the same as what they’ve been using for a couple of years now… Suppose if it ain’t broke…
The graphics, although somewhat blocky, work reasonably well, the game looks akin to some of the older console games, however with a slight more polish.
The backgrounds are fairly well detailed, and do look quite good. You can distinctively tell the differences between the four seasons, and they all have their own unique feel to them.
The crops are good – when looking at a crop, it’s easy to tell what stage of growth it’s in, and whether or not it’s ready to be harvested.
Same goes for the animals, even though there are different breeds of the same animal, they all look distinctive to each other. Something else I quite liked was the fact that there are different patterns available for the same breed of animal – and you can see the difference between the patterns. This I quite liked as it did change up the animals slightly, so it wasn’t just a case of owning eight generic looking cows, it was a case of owning two different cows, two different Jersey cows, alongside some yaks. I quite like this.
Character portraits are also very well done in the game, with each character looking very distinctive and extremely detailed, with various expressions to be seen during conversations and events. Overall, the portraits are definitely an area where this game shines, graphically.
As far as the 3D effect goes, I admit I don’t have it turned on for most of the game, given I dislike viewing games in 3D, however, I will grant it, the 3D effect is quite pretty when seen with stuff like leaves blowing across the screen.
I know there is the ability for trading items and seeds between players, but I’ve honestly never had the chance to use it. I can imagine it comes in handy for tracking down the rarer seeds and such like.
Well, the main challenge I found in this game was getting through the incredibly slow beginning. It takes until around the 25th Spring in the first year before the real meat of the game opens up, and even after that, it is extremely slow going to progress.
I admit half of the reason it took until my fifth year in-game to finish the Town Restoration plans was because I was more interested in levelling up crops, and so completing those and gather items fell by the wayside slightly, but I still feel the game took a very long time to feel like any progress was being made.
Another issue was how long it takes to begin upgrading the different tools, with needing to unlock the different blueprints for tool upgrade separately from one of the characters, and then gathering the items needed to upgrade, some of which can’t be done until the mines are unlocked, around the 3rd or 4th restoration plan. It felt a lot like artificial difficulty, and if there’s one thing that deeply annoys me in a Harvest Moon game, its being artificially stopped from upgrading my tools.
Another thing that adds to the challenge slightly is how difficult it is in the beginning of the game to turn a profit on items being sold, and this then compounds the difficulty of buying items which are then necessary for crafting items needed to progress in the restoration of the town. Again, it felt a bit like artificial difficulty, though.
Gameplay is usually the area where the Harvest Moon games shine, and this one is no exception. The game builds on the standard formula of your being given a farm, of which it is then your duty to fix up and turn around in order to start making money.
From this front, the game doesn’t really build on much from previous games.
You can sow seeds after buying packs from the local shops, or after winning them from festivals, and then plant the seeds into tilled ground. This is something where the game began to irk me, as packs of seeds now only cover four plots of land, rather than the more traditional nine plots. I can understand this was possibly done as a way to make the game more challenging, as the prices of seeds haven’t decreased to account for this, so it makes It somewhat harder to turn a profit from seeds alone.
Another issue I have with growing crops is now, rather than being given a large plot of land which could be tilled to your heart’s content, the game now forces you to make fields in the design aspect of the game, which can then be tilled. The created fields can be made from different items, such as soil and fertilizer, and what objects are used in the field creation has an impact on the productivity of the field, which then impacts on the rank of fully grown crops. This is all okay, except fields can only be created with eight plots available, so you have to burn through a lot of materials in order to create large areas to grow crops in, which is annoying, if you’re like me and like to focus mainly on crop growing.
Growing crops themselves has no issues, it’s the standard formula of plant seeds, and water them each day until they’re ready to harvest, at which point they can then be shipped, or put into storage. However, this game does throw up a slight change from the normal in that the harvested products have a ranking attached to them, which in turn has an effect on the price the crops can be sold for – the higher the rank, the more profit can be gained from their sale. The rank is easily changed by dosing the crops with fertiliser each day, until they’re ready for harvest, however, the only way to get the rank to highest is to then turn the crops back into seeds with the seed maker machine once it’s been built, and then fertilize the newly ranked up seeds again, and so on.
Something I would have liked would have been to see the option of selling ranked up seeds to the shops, so that ranked seeds could be bought at another time, rather than have them clog up storage space when you’re waiting for the right season to roll around again.
Use of tools is also critical to proper crop management, and upgrading the tools is even more important. It isn’t too hard to upgrade tools in this game; with the only things being needed are access to the design studio, the proper materials and the correct blue prints. I will say however, the upgraded tools make life on the farm so much easier, especially the watering can, which is a real blessing once it starts reaching gold level.
Animal management I think has been improved in this game, with all that needs to be done with animals to take care of them is to make sure they’re fed, spoken to, brushed and had their produced harvested when it’s available. There is a stress rating each animal has, but from what I can gather, the only thing this impacts on is their showing at festivals and impacts on your chances of winning at the highest ranked festival.
One thing I was glad to see the back of gone in this game was the end of the ridiculous touch screen minigames connected to the care of farm animals, introduced in Harvest Moon DS, there are no words for how happy I was to see the omission of the Touch Glove in this game!
As previously mentioned in this article, there were a lot more animals introduced in this game, with more animals being introduced as you progress through the game, with all animals unlocked by the fourth year, I believe. There were also different designs for the animals, and it was quite fun going through the process to collect all the different animals.
There was one final big change related to animals, and this was the introduction of animal productivity levels, ranging from 1 to 5. This levels indicate how many items are harvestable at a time from the animal, and obviously, the higher the number, the better. These levels could be changed through feeding various treats to the animals. However, improving productivity does have one major flaw – the time taken to improve it. An animal can only be fed one treat a day, and it takes anywhere from thirty to fifty treats to level up the productivity, so it does take a while before animals start producing five items at a time.
Festivals are very similar to how they were in previous games, with the exception now of the crop festival being held at the end of every season, and broken down into different categories, such as fruit, vegetable, flower, etc. In order to win the festivals where you enter an item, chances of winning are based on the rank of the item entered, and depending on the level of the competition, (beginner, intermediate, master) items above a certain rank are guaranteed to win.
For winning a festival, the reward usually boils down to seeds or blueprints, which can make collecting all the seeds or blueprints go by quite quickly, especially if you’re diligent at winning in the festivals.
For animal festivals, it is based on the same thing in theory, but uses the affection level of the animal as the basis for whether or not you stand a chance at winning. In the master rank competition, other factors come into play, such as the stress level, the animal’s productivity, whether it was brushed, and the quality of the items it produces. However, once a couple of these are checked off, and provided that the animal has the maximum amount of affection, winning is again, a dead cert.
Finally, the biggest addition to this game was the introduction of the Town Restoration plans, and the options for crafting and customization that it opens up, as you progress further into the plans. The number of items that you can create in this game range in the couple of hundreds, and it is very easy to create your town in the way that you want, with lots of options for decorations and objects. It is also possible to pick up and move already placed buildings, so very customizable.
One potential problem with the crafting side of the game is the fact that it basically forces hoarding of items – when you pick something up, it’s impossible to know whether or not you can sell it straight away, or if you need to hang onto it in case you unlock a blueprint later down the line which requires that material. This does lead to the storage facilities available in the game swiftly becoming clogged up, which becomes slightly annoying after a while, especially with the items which can have different rankings.
However, I did enjoy the crafting aspect of this game immensely, so I can’t knock it too badly.
Considering how long the game takes to take off and the amount of time needed to be invested in the town… I can’t restart after that. Not to mention, if I did want to rebuild my town, the option’s there in the design menu, without the need for restarting it completely.
Replay Value: 4
It was a decent first entry for the Harvest Moon series on the 3DS, and made for a good time sink.
Written by Karen