I have an unnatural love for Harvest Moon games. As soon as they’re announced, I squeal like a little girl and then Google the Bachelors/Bachelorettes to try to pre-determine which person I am going to harass the most; tolerate their boring and repetitive greetings in hopes that one day they will just accept that damn blue feather.
When it was announced, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley was being hailed as the first truly 3D installment in the series and the first to offer fully customizable fields. Sounds awesome, right!? Here’s the truth: It IS pretty awesome. What I mean to say is: it’s a start.
The game begins like most Harvest Moon games. After you create your character, you’re rewarded with a cut-scene of them wandering aimlessly; this time in a blizzard. You’re dressed inappropriately, you’re lost, you’re tired, you’re cold. You do what any rational, sane human being would do and you jack the nearest cabin you come across, decide to move in, and become a freakin’ farmer. A FARMER. I swear, the next Harvest Moon game should have an option for your character to write a manifesto, because that’s some straight-up unibomber shit right there.
Did I happen to mention that there is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Your character resides in a shack in the middle of nowhere. The Harvest Goddess’ powers have weakened and the valley is lost in a perpetual winter. People come to visit you, they loiter outside your house, they sell you things, they will buy random things like 99 soil from you. I have no idea where they store it; I don’t ask. They all come from a mysterious town called Hillsville. If you try to visit Hillsville, you will run into an invisible wall. Thus, it becomes apparent that you live under the dome.
All joking aside, the latest installment of Harvest Moon has some delicious new features. I love being able to customize the look of the terrain and the ability to place buildings and fields where I want them is a plus. Of course, the downfall to having a customizable world is that you will spend your first few months on the farm digging and filling in holes. It makes for a repetitive, Groundhog’s Day existence and tends to suck some of the fun out of the game. Another nice feature is that the seeds you purchase can now grow into whole new crops by meeting certain requirements – neighboring crops, altitude, location. This is a really cool addition that helps to keep the game fresh and keeps you experimenting.
The Lost Valley’s biggest drawback is its characters, and for me, characters are 70% of a Harvest Moon game. Let’s take a look at our lineup of bachelors/bachelorettes: From left to right we have overenthusiastic foodie; dumbass trucker old enough to be your father; albino rabbit bitch; poor man’s link; asperger’s girl; and whiney miner. Seriously, I don’t want to woo any of these people. The rest of the townsfolk are equally boring and unappealing.
Overall, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley feels sparse and uninspired. The ideas are there to make a really great game, however, the who game feels just like a shell of itself. DLC has been announced for this title. What has me worried is that the DLC will be necessary to make the game feel whole.
Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is an installment best skipped. Harvest Moon fans can hold out hope that Story of Seasons (being released in North America on March 10, 2015) will help to fill the farming void.