Yes, Nashville has unfortunately been leveled because I experienced an "excitement blackout" over the latest game by designer Yasuhiro Wada, "Hometown Story," set to be released on October 15th for 3DS in America, gods willing. Wada is my idol and beloved King for designing the Harvest Moon series; a Japanese farming/RPG classic that I’ve played religiously on every console since it first appeared in 1996. Yes indeed, the series has still continued to stay fresh and playable even after all those delightful years. My keyboard is destroyed with joyful weeping!
Yasuhiro Wada code-named this new game "Project Happiness" for a while, which sounds vaguely like a sci-fi horror movie. The game has a similar premise as the Harvest Moon series; instead of an inherited farm to save, you take over your grandma’s shop and revive the town. It’s a micro-managing life-simulator kind of game that you can play with any intensity and a trillion variations, which is what makes Harvest Moon such a fun series. Wada has mentioned that he wants the game to revive the original vision of Harvest Moon, with improvements based on his past experience as the game designer. If that doesn’t fill your stomach with a million happy butterflies, you have no stomach I suppose.
So why does the Harvest Moon series and this upcoming re-invention warrant so much drama from me? The series is a perfect blend of cutesy life-escapism and intense micro-managing farm building. You can suit the work you put into your farm with your mood. Do you want to try and upgrade your barn to the largest barn in the entire world before Fall? Awesome. Do you want to try and make every marriage candidate fall deeply in love with you while your farm withers? Sounds wicked. As a gamer, I enjoy being put in charge of every conceivable situation. NPCs don’t sneeze in my Harvest Moon game without my approval. It probably signifies a massive God complex, but no other game makes me slap on a toga and call myself Athena quite like it.
The series has been revived in a wild number of ways over the years. There have been "tropical island" type farms, two warring towns, and a number of different console experiences. Even with its funkier re-inventions, the premise is delightfully consistent. Inherit farm, grow crops, raise livestock, schmooze with locals, give a marriage candidate their favorite gift so they are bribed into loving you, and make money. What I’m most excited to see with Hometown Story is not merely a Harvest Moon Version #120,304, but instead a game that takes the best elements of the series and makes something totally new.
Some test runs and early notes on the game have compared it to other popular console simulators, like Animal Crossing. I think this is probably a bad comparison; the series has always been much more goal-oriented and has increased intensity. Cows die! Also chickens! I’m not sure you can kill anything in Hometown Story, but I will give it my most sadistic best efforts when the game is released. There are also goal dates for "saving" the town/village, which I assume will be utilized here.
As an unhealthily devoted fan of Harvest Moon, Yasuhiro Wada, and Natsume, I will be picking up the series no matter the cost of life or limb. But should a console gamer with no experience of the Harvest Moon series consider buying it on the blessed day of October 15th? I find the adorable graphics, the charming season-based music, and the super cute NPCs, are all wonderful elements of a great escapist game. If you like titles such as Sims or Animal Crossing because you can be the Mega Boss King of All, then you will probably love doing so in the Harvest Moon/Hometown Story world. And if you don’t buy it, my spirit will appear in your bathroom mirror at exactly 3:33 am every morning and go "tsk tsk tsk."
In seriousness, I couldn’t be more excited about a new creation from Wada. It brings back so many memories of staying up all night trying to become the richest farmer in the world. As I’ve aged along with the series, it is still a pleasurable way to spend a few hours a day, scaring friends and loved ones because you’ve left your chickens in the rain and you are screaming about it.
If you don’t want to wait for Hometown Story this October, or you are tearing down a city brick by brick with impatience, I recommend checking out some of the current 3DS Harvest Moon titles. They released the original Game Boy Color version in the 3DS eShop, which is an easy game to master but still awesomely addictive, even without the more complex elements of the newer games. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning and Harvest Moon 3D: A Tale of Two Towns are the latest titles available in the series. You can start playing from any game; they don’t share a threading story.
For a gaming experience that will make you feel like the adorable savior of a quaint little village, check out Yasuhiro Wada’s current and upcoming titles. And also join me in an infinite screaming party that ends on October 15th with Hometown Story.