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Posted July 3, 2017 by Daniel Kizana in Feature
 
 

E3 2017: Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Hands-On


Since its first appearance on the SNES, way back in 1996, Natsume’s Harvest Moon franchise has been regarded as the pinnacle of relaxed, good-natured adventure in gaming. All 26 (!) games in the ‘Story of Seasons’ series have focused on farming, raising livestock, economy and community; a haven from the often violent, always conflict-driven experiences to be found elsewhere in video games, and one that has unsurprisingly become home to millions of fans around the world. Harvest Moon‘s influence over our industry has been widespread; 2016’s most adored indie title, Stardew Valley, is a blatant, but reverent, homage to the perennial franchise. With such hugely successful competition coming to the fore, I was excited to see what Natsume had planned for Harvest Moon‘s latest outing, Light of Hope, and was lucky to visit their booth at E3 for a preview.

The last thing a company selling comfort and relaxation wants to do is to drastically change up the formula, so fans will be delighted to know that it’s largely business as usual, and you’ll be able to jump right back in to your regular Harvest Moon routine, albeit in a new location and with new friends. This time, your character has become stranded in a harbour town, and must work with the locals to return their damaged lighthouse to working order; some semblance of a ‘problem’, but not a road you’ll be forced to walk down at pace, as Natsume reps assure me that it’s more of a far off goal than a time-sensitive objective.

During my preview, I was able to harvest crops and tend to livestock on a pre-built farm, which was a good opportunity to see how the game handles such fiddly, repetitive work. Light of Hope makes it a breeze, with context sensitive buttons and auto-equipped tools that will adjust to whatever plant, animal or mineral you’re facing, as well as other characters and activities around the world. This saves an enormous amount of time and tedious item switching. Imagine; shovel, click the dirt, now seeds, click the dirt, now water, click the dirt, now repeat for every single crop. Instead, it’s just click, click, click. The game is simple enough that it usually knows what you’re trying to do, and removes barriers to you doing it. There’s even a way to highlight multiple tiles and apply the same action to all of them. This is good UX design.

The standard slate of Harvest Moon features will reappear in Light of Hope; from fishing, to a surprisingly deep, seasonal, crop crossbreeding system, to romance opportunities with NPCs, to pink cows that produce strawberry milk. You know, like a real farm. There isn’t a great deal else to say, so I’ll tell you that Harvest Moon: Light of Hope will be shipping in early 2018, on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and for the first time EVER, PC. Gotta claw back a bit of that Stardew market-share, eh fellas?

Natsume haven’t released many gameplay shots of LoH just yet, so the best I could do was a brief, potato recording of Switch gameplay from the E3 booth, thanks to Nintendo Galaxy. Check it out below:


Daniel Kizana