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Game of the Month: Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley

By James Page

theplayerspage@yahoo.com

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Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley
Developer: Natsume
ESRB: Everyone
Release Date: 11/04/2014
System: Nintendo 3DS

Rating:
Graphics: 3.0 out of 4.0
Game Play: 3.0 out of 4.0
Personal: 2.0 out of 2.0
Total Score: 8.0 out of 10.0Player’s Page: Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley

Welcome to the Lost Valley, a fertile land located high in the mountains far from civilization. This secluded paradise is perfect for growing crops, planting trees, and raising livestock. At the end of a hard day’s work the valley provides the opportunity for relaxation with its numerous fishing spots. Truly, the valley is a slice of heaven on Earth, or at least it used to be, but perfection has faded from the land.

The lush valley full of life has had everything stripped away. In a short period of time the valley has seen the seasons disappear, witnessed the verdant green grass covered by a deep blanket of white, and lost the spirits that watched over the land. After everything has been taken away, one thing was left behind, a perpetual state of winter. Now the once lively valley has become a barren land of snow, trees, and rocks where the only movement is from the drifting snow, the biting wind, and the babbling of the stream.

In this frigid land of snow and ice, a lone figure stumbles through a fierce blizzard. The wind whipping from every direction, mixed with the white frozen haze obscures the vision to the point where one cannot see the hand in front of his face. By pure chance the lone figure happens upon a cabin in the woods, a sanctuary from the harsh elements. While the traveler recovers in the cabin, a faint voice echoes through his head, crying out from the land, beseeching the traveler for help restoring that which has been lost.

The traveler must now set out into the cold in search of a trapped voice. Finding the owner of the voice will be the first step of a long journey that will traverse the heavens and the underworld. By cultivating the land and working with the spirits, the traveler will be able to revive the dormant Harvest Goddess, restore her powers, and return the seasons to change the valley back into a paradise.

HarvestMoon_images“Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley” is the latest installment in the long running Harvest Moon franchise from Natsume. However, this title is vastly different from its predecessors. Up until this point virtually any game branded as Harvest Moon was developed in Japan, currently by a company known as Marvelous and localized to North America by Natsume. However, due to a number of issues, a split occurred between Marvelous and Natsume, resulting in the companies taking their respective intellectual rights and going their separate ways.

This split resulted in a great opportunity for Natsume. The company could take all the knowledge of its North American consumers and develop a game completely tailored to the desires of the Harvest Moon fan. The growing complexity of the games was one of the major complaints about the direction of the Harvest Moon series over the past few years. Listening to the feedback from the fans, Natsume decided to develop a new title that did not focus on things such as city planning, selling products to specific vendors, or raising a plethora of different animal species but instead returned to the basics of farming, caring for the land, and raising a few beloved animals.

The return to basics begins with a simplification of the control scheme. The game takes the approach of “what action would a player logically perform at a given time.” As a result, one button can perform all of a players action commands. If a player is standing in front of a tree with a hammer, hoe, and ax and chooses to perform an action, the game evaluates the inventory and decides the only logical action the player can perform is to use the ax on the tree. The new system works well to speed up a player’s actions, but it has a few downsides. The most notable is restricting a player to interact with only one square of land at a time, resulting in the player needing to water each individual plot of land. Another restriction on the control scheme is that players may not choose the order of their actions.

The approach to crops and livestock has also seen a return to basics, but it has introduced a few new elements. The player may grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and trees anytime during the year and has a manageable selection from which to choose. The crops will grow differently, and potentially change into a slightly different version, depending on where they are planted and how they are tended. The game also offers a modest selection of animals such as cows, chickens, horses, and sheep. The player will be able to care for these creatures and they will develop unique traits depending on the treatment they receive. Although the overall number of animals has been reduced from previous titles, the new trait system helps to create a unique selection of animals in which players will be more invested.

The traditional village seen in previous titles has been removed, but the residents will now visit the lost valley, thus removing the need for the player to travel into town. Although the village is gone, it has been replaced with a new system of working the land. The player will be able to interact with the land by altering terrain elevations to create hills and valleys. In this way a player will be able to change the flow of the river to create irrigation canals and create fertile plots of land.

This new system gives the player the ability to interact with the land in ways that were never possible in previous titles.

Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley is a terrific entry in the long-running series. The fresh start has allowed Natsume to make some long awaited changes to the series while retaining the classic elements people love. Natsume has invited anyone who plays the game to provide feedback about it on their forums at http://www.natsume.com/community/showthread.php?t=3367. Anyone who picks up Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley will be amazed at how many hours of enjoyment can be had by playing this simple farming game.

Remember, like all games if you play them just to have fun there will never be a bad game.

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