Game: Harvest Moon: The Tale Of Two Towns
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Available on: Nintendo DS & Nintendo 3DS (DS Version Reviewed)
It’s time to get in tune with nature, with the latest in the long-running Harvest Moon series. Can a game that offers such serene calmness, offer a compelling experience?
Allow me to preface this review with a confession. In my early teens I experimented with weird stuff, like the original Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo. Somehow I got addicted to the game and I played it solidly for months, taking charge of a rundown area of farmland and turning it into a profit-making farmyard and family home. After a long session of rehab (playing a ton of Super Metroid and Final Fantasy VI), I finally kicked my Harvest Moon habit. A few years later I relapsed a little and dabbled with some Harvest Moon on GameCube and GBA, but I didn’t get the same kick out of those that I did from the SNES original.
Over a decade later, here I am with The Tale of Two Towns on the Nintendo DS (also released for Nintendo 3DS. The two towns of the game’s title are Bluebell and Konohana, the towns have been divided for some time because of an argument over who has the best cuisine. As a result the Harvest Goddess has shut the tunnel linking the two towns.
This is where your character comes in, a plucky young farmer wannabe who wants to live in the area. You are given a choice of farms at the start of the game; do you pick the livestock-focused Bluebell, or the crop-obsessed Konohana? You are free to interact with the citizens of the town you didn’t choose, which comes in handy when acquiring items that aren’t available in your adopted home town. You are even able to move to the over town every once in a while, if you feel that the grass is a bit greener.
As in all Harvest Moon games, the game is split into several years, consisting of four seasons of 31 days. After a few days of lengthy tutorial, you are pretty much left to your own devices, to run your farm however you want. If you have crops, you’ll need to water them and if you have have livestock you will need to feed them. Money can be earned by selling your crops and produce, or by finding items in the mountains to sell.
A big part of this new Harvest Moon, is the noticeboards located in each town. From these noticeboards you are able to accept requests from your fellow townspeople, which range from obtaining items to paying for goods. Completion of these time-limited tasks is optional and you are not penalised for failure, but you will be rewarded with all sort of items, some of them are practically essential, especially requests that reward you with some important tools.
Cooking is also another focus of the game, as there are a number of occasions where you must use various ingredients to create delicious meals. A weekly cooking challenge requires you to make a certain type of dish (like soups or desserts), but every season a bigger cooking challenge takes place, where the best dishes from Bluebell go up against the best dishes from Konohana. It’s participating (and hopefully winning) in these competitions that helps build bridges between the warring towns and eventually opens up the tunnel, allowing for easy access between the two locales.
The problem I find with Harvest Moon games, is that although early on you are given a thorough rundown of the basics, the game then really leaves you on your own, and at times it really isn’t clear what you are supposed to do next. It’s the kind of game that requires further reading from the internet to really understand how everything works; the same is definitely true of Tale of Two Towns.
But once you get past the slowness of the first couple of in-game weeks, the game definitely improves, with tons of things to occupy your time. Harvest Moon has always been about juggling work and a social life and the social aspects have definitely been expanded upon with the two different towns, and message board quests.
Something that did annoy me with Tale of Two Towns, is that everything happens so damn slowly. The in-game cutscenes go on for so long, while NPCs natter on about unimportant things, which is especially irritating during Festivals. Considering this type of game runs at quite a slow pace, it is rather frustrating to have to sit through so much waffle when you just want to carry on with the working on your farm.
But the biggest issue I had with the game, was a freezing bug that occurred way more than a retail Nintendo DS game should. The game was originally released in Japan on July 8th 2010 and in the US on September 20th 2011, and a few internet searches informed me that users were experiencing the same problems back then. My copy froze three times in the space of an hour, on both my Nintendo DSi XL and Nintendo 3DS systems. For a system which games aren’t patched, it’s pretty inexcusable to see freezing issues creep in, especially in Harvest Moon, where the game can only be saved at the end of each day, meaning I had to replay whole days, which can take a considerable amount of time.
Graphically, Tale of Two Towns is suitably twee for a Harvest Moon title. The game’s bright 2D backgrounds and cute 3D characters look okay (even on the larger screen of my Nintendo DS XL) and I never experienced any slowdown, mainly because there really isn’t that much going on with the visuals. As is quite typical for Nintendo DS titles, dialogue is accompanied by anime-style 2D cutouts, which are pretty generic but functional, much like the game’s audio.
VERDICT: Tale of Two Towns is a standard Harvest Moon game, with very little reason to recommend if you have are not a fan of games like Animal Crossing, or the Harvest Moon series. It’s not a terrible game, it just lacks imagination and only the most dedicated of fans will find enjoyment and motivation in the sluggish pace and irritating narration throughout course of the game’s admittedly long length. But for those who do love Harvest Moon, the new features to the series are potentially welcome ones, just don’t expect a drastic change from the norm and be wary of the infuriating freeze bug that happens far too often.