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Since the first Harvest Moon was released in 1997 for the Super NES, there have been no fewer than a dozen sequels for the GameBoy, PS1, GameCube and more. When I first played the original game, I thought I would be bored by the repetitive tasks of planting and watering crops, milking cows, and gathering eggs for hour after hour. Yet, for some reason, I was drawn in to the game...aware that just a few more crops would afford me another cow, and a few more bottles of milk would let me buy the blue feather that I could give to the little pink-haired girl at the flower shop so she would marry me. There was a sense of achievement even in the mundane actions, much like I assume any good farmer has when working the field.
However, innovation is not Harvest Moon’s forte. Even though the entries have been well-received over the years, the basic game has remained pretty much the same in the past 10 years. This is not a bad thing per se, since the most recently released remodel was Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon which introduced an exploration feature at the expense of the much beloved
datingfeature. This game lacked some of the draw of the other entries since you didn’t have to discover what kinds of things your girl of choice liked as presents.
Due out today is Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, which actually adds a fighting element to the game. Beasts are attacking your farm and, using your handy hoe, you beat them back into submission. Can this be excellent? Sure it could, if done properly. But I think Natsume may be missing the boat with this one. Harvest Moon fans don’t necessarily want fighting in their town. What they want is a more immersive story and game style. Perhaps the people in your town could mean more than just an obstacle between you and the river. A formation of relationships could mean more than just an NPC repeating a less-formal line of dialogue over and over. Maybe friends you make could actually help you on your farm. A farming mini-game that could water all your crops if you do a good job would be a fun addition and make the tedious parts a little less so.
Harvest Moon will always be a beloved game, even ten years from now. But what could make a new iteration of the game more fun probably isn’t hitting beasts with your hoe.