Living The Agricultural Dream
Farming sure is getting popular in games as of late. Between Stardew Valley becoming a hit and the continued success of games such as Farming Simulator, there is no shortage of well done games based on your hidden love of agriculture. And while I don’t necessarily fantasize about farming, I absolutely love Harvest Moon. Hell, it’s written on my writer bio for this site as one of my favorite game franchises. So I was very excited to try this new entry, mostly because it is the 20th anniversary of the series. I haven’t played a Harvest Moon game since Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning. So right off the bat, I will say the game shows a lot of promise – but I do have concerns. Harvest Moon: Light of Hope has some farming tricks to learn.
Let’s start off with what’s the same: the story. Harvest Moon games aren’t known for having an astounding narrative. It’s usually the same plot of being coerced into being the dying town’s farmer, then managing the duties of maintaining the good ol’ farm while having a social life with town citizens. Because what is the point of a farming your way to wealth if you don’t have any friends? And let us not forget the wonderful and precious bachelorettes and bachelors, who have made have indeed made my Harvest Moon experiences all that much brighter. This iteration follows that formula almost exactly, which is either good or bad depending how much you risk you wanted this game to take. From what I’ve been told, the game is taking the franchise back to basics for their 20th anniversary, and it does feel very similar to the original game.
It’s about what I expect from a Harvest Moon game, but as of right now, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope feels like nothing more than that. This may have been fine a few years ago, but the environment for this genre has expanded and progressed a lot. Whether it’s something as introspective as Stardew Valley or as realistic as Farming Simulator, there are many farming games that just do something interesting or new. Harvest Moon, for better or worse, is the same charming franchise, but the recent games are starting to blur together now. I don’t know if the series can keep this up for much longer. This is super evident in what I feel to be the demo’s weakest aspect, the visual polish.
Don’t get me wrong; the art of the game looks as good as it’s always been. This might change since the game is still in development. But I can’t help but see how flat and low quality everything looks, like when your character is gliding on what looks like a flat background. Or how few animations there are for characters when they are interacting. There is no excuse for how little is going on in terms of visual fidelity when this game is going to be released on platforms that are more powerful than what previous iterations were released on. Again, there is time to polish the game, but as of right now the game is not impressing me visually.
There is improvement in how the actual farming functions, which needed to happen for the franchise. Farming has always been as enjoyable as it could be, but they have taken steps in this game to reduce the tedium. When farming in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, you automatically react appropriately to whatever the task might be, all without having to swap out equipment or items. Long over are the days of swapping to your watering can after putting fertilizer. In this title, you take actions based on what is the most logical given the situation.
For example, when you go to an unwatered crop, pressing the action button will water it even if the watering can is not equipped. If the crop is watered, you will just harvest it outright, if it’s ripe. There is no need to micromanage to do certain things. It lessens the need to go through menus to swap items. So while farming is still very much a chore, it shouldn’t take as much time to execute very basic tasks. If the game can do more little things like this to make the basic tasks more intuitive, than farming will be less tedious than in previous games. Also the Switch version does include some cool touch screen controls. I respect the use of the hardware.
I didn’t try too much of the game – again, it was a small demo. I like some of the direction they are taking mechanically, but I am legit concerned about the visual style and animations. This looks to be a very iterative entry into the franchise. With it being the 20th anniversary, I wonder if that is truly enough for newcomers and fans. Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is still in development, with a release for the Switch, PS4, and PC in mind. Also there’s still waifus – so there’s that I guess?