Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning
The Harvest Moon franchise has been around since 1996, and is still running to this day. Despite this, I have never played a game in the series before; my only familiarity with the series is that I recall my cousin playing the original SNES game one time I came over. So when I was given the opportunity to play the latest instalment of the series, I jumped at it!
When you start up the game, you are prompted to choose your gender and customise your character. Although the customisation options are simple, character customisation is a first for the series, and is a welcome addition, although some may be bothered by the six-character limit for names (this applies to all things you can name as well). The story begins with the player heading for his new hometown (where his parents owned a farm) when he sees an old man pass out in the woods, and helps him out. The man introduces himself as Dunhill, and informs you about how people have been leaving the village recently to live elsewhere. He takes you to your old farm, and explains the basics of the game to you, which consists of a lot of tutorials. After those tutorials, you finally get some free time. Too bad it’s just as tedious.
At the start of the game, there really isn’t much to do. All you have to do at the farm is plant and water the crops. There’s a health mechanic where if you do too much farm work you’ll faint and the meter can be restored with food you can cook, but it’s more of an annoyance than a necessary mechanic. Tending the crops takes about ten minutes and once that’s done, all you can really do is buy more seeds at the grocery store or explore the woods outside of town to gather insects and other things to put in the shipping bin to make money. Crops take about five to seven days to grow, so you’ll be spending a lot of time in these woods collecting each and every living thing to sell like a crazed kleptomaniac. Oddly, despite the annoyance of the amount of tutorials at the start, some tutorials show up later than you would prefer; you aren’t taught about how the shipping bin works until Day 3 for example, although fortunately you can still use it before this.
After selling your freshly grown crops for a few days (about a week in), an animal dealer named Neil shows up and gives you a cow. He’s a typical moody anime guy who’s a bit of a jerk sometimes, which I felt was jarring considering the rest of the game is peaceful in tone. Neil shows up in the town from Monday to Thursday, selling animals, fodder, medicine, treats, etc. At first, he only sells Cows and Chickens, but when I tried to buy a chicken the game informed me that I didn’t have room on the farm. It turns out you need to make a chicken coop, but the game doesn’t even tell you this for about another two weeks. Taking care of Cows isn’t too hard; brush them, milk them, give them treats, make sure they have fodder to eat, and letting them graze outside. But even when taking time to do this and tending the crops, you’ll still have plenty of time left over. Back to being a kleptomaniac then.
Other things happen during the month, but again they are few and far between. You are given fishing traps to catch fish at fishing spots (annoyingly, if you don’t place them in the right spot when on the rock you’ll just discard them in the river instead), a blacksmith named Iroha moves into town who will give you upgrades for your tools if you keep giving her gifts (and gives you a hammer and axe so you can finally make use of all those rocks and branches you found in the woods), and meeting the Harvest Sprites; two little elf-like creatures who serve the Harvest Goddess. They teach you how to use Sound Stumps to open up new areas in the woods, but so far all they’ve given me is the ability to take a shortcut in the forest rather than open up a new area to explore. And despite all these events, you still spend up to half the day in the woods collecting bugs to sell.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why play this game when barely anything happens? And I don’t blame you; the pacing is very slow. But after about three in-game weeks in, something wonderful happens. An architect named Rebecca and her son Toni move into town, and you are asked to build her house. After a brief and amusing animation where the player builds a house as if Bob the Builder learnt Shadow Clone Jutsu, the house is built and Rebecca gives you some blueprints as a thanks. Blueprints let you build various things with all that previously useless junk you’d find in in the woods. That chicken coop I mentioned before? Now you can make one and raise chickens! Those building materials that couldn’t be stored in the chest in your house for some reason? Build a storage shed that lets you store materials! Rebecca sells even more blueprints at her house, so you can make all sorts of stuff. Fences, benches, street lights… heck, even houses!
The other thing you unlock when Rebecca moves in is Edit Mode. Edit Mode allows you to place objects you’ve made with blueprints, and move already existing objects in the town. You can move pretty much anything; just walk over to an object and pick up. You can even move houses and farmland. Also, time doesn’t move in Edit Mode, so you’re free to edit to your heart’s content. This level of customisation makes the game much more fun, and handy too. I used it to expand my farm fence and add a chicken coop. Festivals are also held every month, where you can take a crop or animal to compete with other towns for prizes.
So it takes about one month in-game, but things finally pick up steam. Dunhill asks you to build stuff for the town’s revitalisation project to make it more homely and to attract new residents. My countless trips to the woods are now about finding supplies to build things with. I can now catch fish with a rod or build new fish traps with blueprints. I can sell milk and eggs to make a profit. I’m now task driven and it’s fun! It’s just a shame it took three weeks for it to happen.
- Character Customisation
- Edit mode
- Slow Start
- Pacing Problems
- Lots of Tutorials
Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning is a game fans of the genre and series will enjoy, and is easy for newcomers to play too. It has charming, if simple, visuals and some nice calming background audio. Its customisation and Edit Mode are fresh additions that breathe a new life into the series. It certainly lives up to its name, but you’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not three weeks is worth the wait for that new beginning.
By Jacob Getley