E3 2015 Hands-on Preview: Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories

Harvest Moon heads back to its roots!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/18/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Last year’s Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley was a turning point for the long-running farming franchise. Series creator and developer Marvelous Entertainment were no longer partnered with Natsume, the longtime publisher of Harvest Moon in the West. Turning to Xseed, Marvelous would now release its future installments in the series through that publisher, but there was a catch: the games would have to be called Story of Seasons, instead. Natsume owned the naming rights for Harvest Moon in the West, and with Marvelous out of the picture, the company decided it would be taking on the role of developer as well as publisher moving forward. The Lost Valley was Natsume’s first shot at its own Harvest Moon game, and by and large it wasn’t that bad. With a robust terraforming feature, players could transform the physical makeup of their farm for the first time, building up the land in three dimensions however they pleased.

Though farming was largely the same as it had ever been, The Lost Valley‘s focus on terraforming was all-consuming, eschewing many of the features of Harvest Moon that fans had come to love. No town, no sidequests, no festivals, and many other staples of the series were gone, leaving players confined to what was essentially a highly customizable island. Though I personally enjoyed The Lost Valley, I felt the loss of these features and wondered where Natsume would go with the franchise in future games. The heart of Harvest Moon is in the relationships and minutiae of everyday farming life, after all. Luckily, I got to sample the company’s newest installment, Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories at its E3 booth, and I was pleased with the new/old direction the game is going in. Though still very early in development, Seeds of Memories is a step back into more familiar territory that should please longtime fans, with just enough carryover from The Lost Valley to keep those players happy, too.

Natsume's E3 booth is always too adorable.

Talking with Natsume’s Anna Marie Privitere, she walked me through the basics of the demo that the company had on the E3 show floor. Seeds of Memories is being prepped for launch on Wii U, PC, iOS, and Android, but Privitere told me that development on Wii U/PC is being handled separately from the iOS/Android version of the game and that the publisher will release the games in whichever order they’re completed (Natsume is shooting for winter of this year). The build I was able to toy with was for mobile, and I was immediately taken by the game’s 2D presentation. Seeds of Memories has been touted as a nostalgic trip back to the style of Harvest Moons of old, and the new aesthetic certainly succeeded in reminding me of the Game Boy Advance iterations of the series (albeit with an HD, highly detailed sheen). Privitere was keen to point out that everything that was missing from The Lost Valley will be present in Seeds of Memories. That includes new festivals, a town packed with businesses and people to chat with, sidequests, mining, animals (including a bobcat!), foraging, and more. Terraforming has sadly been axed, but it’s an omission that likely won’t break anyone’s hearts.

The Lost Valley hasn’t been completely abandoned, however, as Privitere informed me that Seeds of Memories would be featuring a ton of the characters from that game, though some will be playing different roles. She said that Natsume considers Seeds of Memories to be in a separate universe of sorts, making me think of Majora’s Mask, which remixed Ocarina of Time‘s cast in a similar way. There will be five bachelors and bachelorettes, and in a clever marketing ploy, Natsume has released one new bachelor (Luke!) and bachelorette (Andrea!) as DLC for The Lost Valley (available right now in the eShop), each coming with new costumes in tow for the player’s farmer. Privitere was quick to point out that the two games won’t interact with each other, but that the DLC was a nice way of introducing fans to some of the new characters coming to Seeds of Memories. Everything we discussed got my hopes up, but admittedly I didn’t get to taste a lot of the game during my demo.

The demo played entirely on a tablet, with my finger pokes and drags directing where my character walked. For those worried, Privitere said that the Wii U version will have traditional buttons controls as an option, not just touch. Also, though there will definitely be a digital release of the game, Natsume is leaning toward (but not guaranteeing yet) a physical release, too, citing that the particular Harvest Moon fans they’re trying to please would probably be happy to have a box and disc in hand (yes I would!). Seeds of Memories‘ central hub is called Chestnut Town, which the player’s farm rests right on the ouskirts of. Escorted by a Harvest Sprite named Rowan, the town was a fairly large square lined with brick pavers and dotted with small houses and buildings. Sadly, for this early build I could only talk to other characters and not enter the buildings, but Privitere said that the final version of the game will allow players to do much more. Character sprites are handsomely rendered, though some of the animations felt stiff. I also didn’t get to explore any other environments, so while the details of what to expect in Seeds of Memories are promising, it’ll be a while before anyone will get to see more of what the game has to offer. Until then, the premise of Seeds of Memories has my hopes high that Natsume has learned from some of its mistakes with The Lost Valley, and I look forward to giving the game some more playtime in the future.

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