Harvest Moon’s history has been an intriguing one. The franchise is in somewhat of a proclaimed dispute between fans and developers alike. After a disagreement between development team XSeed and Publishers Natsume, the two entities decided it was best to mutually part ways and continue development of their respective series. While Natsume maintain the “Harvest Moon” moniker, the team behind the original concept have gone on to develop the Story of Seasons franchise. Essentially, the Harvest Moon label has been torn off the Japanese Farming Sim, and slapped onto a new series altogether. It does make for disparity in those that claim the title to be disingenuous, but Harvest Moon: One World may actually be a return to form that many faithful have been requesting for quite some time now.
Re-establishing foundations of Harvest Moon back in 2007, Natsume had appointed Platinum-Egg Inc. as lead studio in development of the “New” Harvest Moon series, which saw its first release on the Nintendo DS. After a tumultuous seven years, the series was handed to Appci, which had their hand in re-invigorating the concurrent Harvest Moon lineage. From The Lost Valley to Mad Dash, the series has seen its fair share of criticism. Trying to lay groundwork on mobile, the simple farming sim found some praise in Light of Hope, a title befitting of the series’ direction. Since then, facets of the original Harvest Moon began to re-emerge, with considerably favourable reception in prior entries. The question remained however, if Appci was able to retain moderate appraisal from the Harvest Moon fanbase?
Which way did she go?...
So I would like to preface this by answering two simple questions; Is Harvest Moon completely restored in One World? No. Is it bad game? Not at all. In fact, Harvest Moon: One World may be Appci’s strongest entry within the reboot. While its story setting may be somewhat confounding and convoluted, it presents an intriguing narrative that I would have never had envisioned part of a farming simulator. Nonetheless, One World presents a proposed plot surrounding the mysterious vanishing of the Harvest Goddess. Without the deity present, the entire planet is laid bare without any vegetation. Her sudden departure beckoned many questions, after the Crop God instilled her knowledge to the Harvest Whisps, with a treasure trove of seeds scattered across the land.
Harvest crops were ensured to grow throughout various seasons, but only if our faring farmers journey across different regions in finding each Whisp, hoping they will divulge this knowledge needed to find the seeds in question. Ryan, the confident youngster enraptured in his daily deed of labouring and caring for his farm pets, loves to grow fruits and veggies. While the teen exclaims his love for farming, he’s not fond of eating the same meal of potatoes every night. Courtney, the lovely young farmgirl is an aspiring traveller that yearns to learn more about unique crops that can be grown and gathered. She dreams to sample rare, international cuisine’s while establishing herself as a culinary genius.
Initiating the title from its Start Menu, you may customise each character, respective of choice in gender. You may also change your farmer’s name from the aforementioned, but in my playthrough I essentially kept everything stock standard – I call this the “Link-Zelda purist rule”; you can only play a Zelda game as “Link”. Upon finalising your character’s favourite features, the plot is explained in a simple storybook fashion with basic dialogue and pictures catching you up to speed. Harvest Moon: One World delivers a sandbox like experience that presents the player with five regions to explore including; the hot and sandy deserts of Pastilla, the snowy valleys of Salmiakki, and mountainous region of Lebkuchen which is also home to a live Volcano.
Player’s may choose to traverse the land on camelback, or utilise the Expando-Farm tool, allowing for fast travel. Building a barn on a plot of land in each region will place specific markers for your farmers to travel towards, ridding the exhausting task of long, monotonous transportation. Sure there’s fun to be had in the journey, but the novelty wears thin after hours of roaming from one town to another. The tedious task of scraping through a myriad of locations in One World, can be quite cumbersome. The farming simulation side of Harvest Moon becomes second nature, as an investigation heavy expedition tends to take a stronghold over the entire gameplay loop. The mythical Whisps can be cornered in various places depending on time of day, and clues of their whereabouts spotted in glowing dots within circumference of each hiding place.
Make it a better place...
✔️Natsume/Appci’s reboot into the new Harvest Moon delivers some hope.
✔️Exploring new regions and territories can be fun.
✔️The Expando-Tool allows fast travel between towns; a feature that becomes imperative.
❌Lacking livelihood, a desolate landscape between worlds.
❌Bland, pixelated textures are prominent across the outskirts of each town.
❌Major crashes upon loading indoor sequences.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. While Harvest Moon: One World does demonstrate a cavalcade of creative mechanics that are staples in farming simulation, calling it lively would be a misnomer. Much of its “world” is barren, and void of livelihood. This is why I made the assertion that the Expando-Farm feature can be quite convenient, if anything a Godsend between towns. While exploring in-door settings, character models and textures aren’t half bad. If anything, this has to be Natsume’s best efforts in remoulding pre-existing assets, and applying a fresh lick of paint to each inanimate object. But it’s the great outdoors that suffers in the aesthetic department.
The first half hour of the game should sell you on continuing this magical voyage across hidden valleys in One World, but manages to plateau expectations within minutes. Objectives and tasks aren’t as innovative or exciting as they used to be; Fishing is a humdrum trudge, Cooking simply bottlenecks the campaign with compulsory ingredients forced upon you, Mining was actually fun but nothing extraordinary, however befriending wild animals to unlock farmyard pets, and allowing players to raise as livestock is a challenge I was fond of. Performance of the game is astonishing. Not to say that it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but runs at a smooth 1080p/60fps.
This was a pleasant surprise to say the least, but the unfortunate side to this is how unfinished the game feels. A lack of items between worlds, less of minimal bugs, more game-breaking sequences, and audio mixing issues that are evident. I mentioned exploring in-door settings of each town as certainly one the title’s highlights, however it comes at a cost of the game completely failing to load by simply hanging at a blank screen. The hard-lock indicates a crash, meaning lost progression in your save to which you must restart from your last existing checkpoint. For some, this is infuriating and I can empathise after experiencing this a dozen times while trying to review the game.
A patch in an attempt fix these qualms would suffice, showing support and appreciation to Harvest Moon’s fervent fans, regardless of which lineage they prefer but to release a game in this state, raises questions in QA testing and why it wasn’t delayed for refining. With its one glaring issue facing major implications on playtime, it makes for a redundant campaign. It can be tough for anyone wanting to return after sacrificing hours of grinding, only to lose all progression and having to restart from their last save point. Yes, it’s always good to manage your save files and keep track of the time you’re putting into these sorts of titles, but it should not be on the player to aggressively pursuit and manage a restore point. This is a bug that needs to be ironed out, more than anything.
Regardless, Harvest Moon: One World is exemplary. I refrain from using exceptional due to its glaring omissions that are now prevalent within Story of Seasons. One World tries to reinstate itself as the industry standard in adventure-type simulation, but lacks a certain heart and unfortunately its charm wears thing after a short period. The objective to journey through multiple territories, regain the ability to harvest crops, befriend wildlife, meet quirky new friends, and dig your way through multiple mines can be quite delightful. But it’s everything else that encompasses Harvest Moon’s lacking quality. Harvest Moon: One World frivolously feeds farming fanatics, while thrusting its hairy pitchfork into an empty haystack.
Trek across beaches, the desert, and even a volcano in the latest entry into the long-running Harvest Moon series! The Harvest Goddess has gone missing, and it’s up to you to help bring her back! Along the way, you’ll come across cows, sheep, and camels.