Aah, Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns 3D. Many people reading this would be forgiven for feeling like they’re seeing double with this game, and not just because of the double 3DS screens and the two titular towns. Anybody who has been keeping an eye on the release of this game will know that there is already a DS version released alongside it. So, what may the differences between the two, and what makes this game stand out compared with the Harvest Moon series as a whole? Not much as it turns out – on both accounts. Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns 3D is very much a take it or leave it title of the series – veterans will either be repealed or delighted with the general reverence for tradition that The Tale of Two Towns 3D has for the past, while some newcomers may find it difficult to take root with the series, much like the pesky potatoes and other crops you’ll grow in the game.
The main shake-up of the series which The Tale of Two Towns brings is, of course, the choice of where you start your agricultural journey. At the beginning of the game, players must decide which town to take up residence in, each with their own specialist areas of farming: Bluebell is the best place in which to raise up livestock, while Konohana excels when it comes to growing produce. The two mayors of the towns both plead their cases to you and compete for your citizenship: as it turns out, the two towns can’t stand one another due to a feud going back several generations. With your arrival, you not only have to do the usual Harvest Moon agricultural activities – it’s also up to you to bring the two towns close together again so they can be friendly with one another once more.
And uniting the towns is pretty much it, as far as any guiding story goes – the rest is very much up to you. Which relationships you build, how much time spent in each town, it’s all down to the player’s input by and large. The basics of animal husbandry and tilling the fields, by and large, remain largely unchanged from previous games of the series. The Tale of Two Towns does throw in a dash of new mechanics, however, such as making irrigation trenches that can result in several crops being watered with a single squirt of your watering can. There is also a noticeboard in each town that gives you quests to complete for villagers in the hopes of gaining new items or upgrading your existing ones, which you will definitely need to do.
All of these new features, as well as the old ones, are signposted and explained in text. Lots and lots of text. There’s the option to skip some explanations, but each character you encounter will often talk around your skipping. This can get very tedious at times, especially at the beginning of the game. As any old hand to the series will know, you can do quite a lot of tasks in the game, but with all of the explaining and mandatory dialogue that goes on it can take a long time to actually get stuck right into it. There’s a big chance that novice players may be turned off by the long stretches of dialogue and the quick succession in which these come. It becomes all the more pronounced with the way saving is set up – whenever you go to bed to finish the day off, you save the game and upon waking up, a character will often barge into your lodgings and subject you to yet more walls of text. For a portable game where a person may need to save quickly, it can be a bit of a turnoff to be confronted with conversations upon each waking. Most of these long waking convos occur towards the first hour or so of playing the game in real time. However, if you’re constantly saving and coming back to it, such as on public transport, it has the effect of drawing out the game until you wonder just when you’ll get a chance to actually put into practice what you’ve been told about for extended periods of time.
Another disappointing aspect of The Tale of Two Towns is the lack of stylus utilization. The touchscreen is mostly relegated to menu and mapping functions, rather than anything new. It’s not a drawback in of itself, but it does seem like a bit of a missed opportunity, and something that could have helped make the game a bit more distinct and less samey than other Harvest Moon games. Likewise, the 3D qualities of the console aren’t tapped into much at all. For a game like this, it’s of course not necessary to make them an integral part of the gameplay, but the 3D effect is barely noticeable and doesn’t really add more charm or wow to what are actually quite pleasing, if simple, visuals. When it comes down to it, having the game in 3D doesn’t really add anything to the playing experience that you can’t find on the DS version of The Tale of Two Towns. One thing that the 3DS version does have that is unique is the ability to swap items via Streetpass, but it can be a long time before you’ll encounter anybody with something tough to obtain otherwise.
If you’re able to get past the extended conversations and the lack of 3D uniqueness, Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns, is a respectable introduction to the series for the novice player – it does what Harvest Moon is known for and what fans expect of it – but that in itself is an acquired taste. Should you be an experienced farmer then the familiarity may be either a blessing or a curse if you’re hoping for Harvest Moon to go into a new direction in 3D.