Harvest Moon franchise is one that I’ve enjoyed playing up to Trio of Towns without so much as a blink, even though the games have always been very uneven. The main appeal has been caring for nature and charming world. As Marvelous forays into more neutral territories in Olive Town, what has happened to the storytelling? Olive Town is a very polished and pleasant experience in which farming keeps you fairly busy, but it lacks the gameplay immersion of the past titles. Indeed, gameplay is simplified to a pure grind, and penalities that strengthened the message of caring for nature (like littering) have been removed, making the newer games more of a shell of the past titles. In turn, Natsume lacks technical and visual experts to make their game looks appealing but “One World” retains some of the feeling of past Harvest Moon games. I feel like it would be beneficial for the games to return to one world of natsume and marvelous. For the time being, here’s what I thought about the games.
I get excited when I see a Harvest Moon / Story of Season game. I love them because the world tends to be charming and they used to combine good premise about caring for the land (they used to even penalise littering!)- which couldn’t be more timely nowadays – with fun activities, such as foraging, farming fun crops, and dating sim elements. Between Olive Town and One World, Story of Seasons, for me, is a bit of form over content – farming is engaging but questline not so much, and the lack of little details that made older HM games special (littering, husbands with functions like helping at the farm, cooking and eating with the family) make Olive down a dumbed down version of what HM games can be. I prefer games with complex gameplay and mechanics (Draqon Age), so I prefer HM games that have richer gameplay (Trio of Towns). Gameplay in Olive Town is very simplistic – it’s pretty much pure grind.
One World has a bit more of the charm and feel of older harvest moon games. I was struck by how little I found myself engaged and invested – in contrast to previous games in the franchise.
Story: Put on your motorbike boots and head to Olive Town that your grandfather pioneered. Help redevelop the town to make it more attractive to tourists. You also take over a farm that’s been neglected for years and has become completely overgrown.
- Production values are great. Very enjoyable day/night music and sound effects, lovely colour palette – they definitely know how to make their game appealing! I like winter music. There is a lovely weekend variation on daily music too.
- Customisation options are pretty extensive. You can shape the look of your character, dress them how you like.
- Controls are better adapted to PC experience, making the game pleasant to play
- The sprites look very nice, the textures and art are smooth and the colours and shading are really pretty! Adorable.
- You start in a tent. That’s new.
- Mining is quite nice, marking a return to old type mining in mines, even with whack a mole that can bring rewards (this feature was present in Animal Parade). There are three different mines, between 10-50 levels and whack a mole in them. I still prefer “mining points”, like in Trio of towns, but this isn’t bad, either. There’s some challenge because the moles can drain your stamina when they pop up and you’re too close.
- Tool bag to hide your tools when you run out of space for collectible items.
- Heart events for every level, romantic type festivals in each season.
- Farmland is very nice and there’s quite a bit to unlock. The farm keeps you busy because trees, grass, rocks respawn fast. You can craft various items to decorate it as well.
- Upgraded tools are fun to use – chop several trees within a square, or smash several rocks.
- Makers are a good system. You need to work hard to get best results later on. I like it.
- There’s a nice reward system for getting new titles and some titles are very fun.
- There are a few nice lands to unlock, including seasonal gardens.
- Flowers as always are a pleasure to find and plant. Some varieties include black roses, primroses, petunias.
- You unlock a sprit shrine that gives you various blessings, including raising your stamina.
- skills with perks – once you raise the skills, you get bonuses, a bit like in Stardew Valley.
- You can collect puddles, drain ponds (which clears them too!) and find treasures underneath – this is fun
- new crops can be foraged around the farm and they are later added to the stores
- farm animals can be tamed because they are wandering around
- earth sprites to help. A backstory with your grandfather.
- board request quest system. You can also help the sprites (with the expansion pass). There’s a gourmet in town – you will find requests for dishes in his house.
- the photo system combines critter catching and wild animal taming. The caemra is not a new feature to HM games. It was previously incorporated in Animal Parade.
But to me, the game isn’t enjoyable in the same way older games used to be. I feel like they lose sight of the game’s charm, feel, message. The dialogues and quests have lost their spark.
- Despite marketing it as a game with “unprecedented freedom”, I feel like there is actually less freedom than in older games. While you can do whatever at the farm, foraging and exploration are limited. You no longer walk to town, you just sort of teleport, it’s not an open world – it feels very hermetic, there’s little to explore. The lands you unlock are mostly for raising skill levels, seasonal farming or playing minigames. The added islands with characters from past games are boring places with nothing to do.
- There’s little flexibility with how you decorate your house.
- Everything is available in shops
- Although I like quest board quest systems, they could be a little more involved or rather I’d like to feel more urge to do them. It helps when I like the characters and want to do things for them. Here, I don’t get that feeling.
- Too few festivals and they are mostly cutscenes. There’s no use for higher quality crops, you won’t need them for much, it seems. I like the fact there are romantic festivals but because characters and writing are generally bland, they are not very enjoyable.
- Seasons are no longer detailed. I used to love autumn and winter in older games because whole maps changed. This was a potential idea to use – the impact of climate change, to forge a game similar in feel to the lovelier hm games.
- Animal interactions are limited, we no longer speak to them, brushes and milkers have been done away with, they just sort of pop into your hands when you need them.
- I can’t seem to get the look exactly how I want because of how the female model looks. Personally, I identify with more curvy body types and bettter endowed chests. Models in older HM games were great. I think this could be achieved by a slider type customisation.
They advertise the game as having over 200 events but the events and plotlines lack charm. Even the story: make the town a tourist attraction, and the goal is to bring in a cruise liner? It departs from the spirit of older Harvest Moon games, the spirit that I feel Natsume actually manages to keep in their releases. Town quests really amount to making the town hall pretty, laying golden tiles (they don’t even look that good), and it doesn’t take all that long, the quests don’t require you to do much, you mostly have everything ready anyway, the questline is perhaps too simple.
The bachelors / bachelorettes are not as interesting or likeable as I found them in older games, there’s little I want to say about them. The interactions are boring and lacklustre. They tell you their stories, their lines are a little boring, I don’t feel like they care so much for my character. I feel like interactions in older games were more lovable and enjoyable. They no longer care if you run around in snowstorms or typhoons, a detail which added warmth to the bonding overall. There are heart events for every level (great) but they are mostly uninspired, I only like one or two but the early ones do not really mae me invested, The wedding felt lacklustre (I guess nothing will beat Trio of Towns in this repsect- that wedding was absolutely the best ever). Prgenancy event is also forgettable. The romantic festivals are cute though. Though I wish there were more of them and with longer cutscenes. Cooking or crop festival would have been nice. Or at least a decorating contest.
I do appreciate and like how the gender identifier is accomplished (talking to the Mayor at the start, right after customising your look), and some narrative branches seem to have opened up, but the writing feels off and I feel like it could still use some work. Plus, I am straight through and through, I guess. I want to read characters call my character their wife / girlfriend and give my character attention in the same way characters in older games did. It was sweet and I had more of a sense of mutuality in those older games that I miss in this game. It just feels empty here.
- Dating is no longer the same commitment it used to be. The confession and reverse confession in older HM games felt special and it was lovely. It’s no longer the case in newer games, and I find that it bothers me. I also prefer and miss reverse confessions – but they aren’t strictly necessary. Animal Parade didn’t have them and yet it remains one of my top favourite HM games in nearly all aspects (I still prefer request board quest systems though).
- Much like marriage candidates, the townsfolk may be diverse but they lack charm, flair, there’s nothing fun about them. The mayor and his quests are vapid. I really love characters in older games. Here, they are easy to ignore, I really don’t have a reason to talk to them. Maybe Clemens or Lars are better rounded, and they should have been marriage candidates.
- Lack of special candidates also makes it boring for me.
- Plus, I miss the anticipation connected with some characters appearing later in the game…here you get everyone and that’s it.
- The expansion pass bachelors from older games…it doesn’t feel right to have them here, even if it is a what if. Their writing feels off. And anyway, they are useless because they can’t leave their islands, they don’t go to town or festivals, while their islands are empty places with nothing to do.
This release is ok but poorly prepared for PC. They didn’t adapt the controls from console version to PC and I don’t see any way to rebind the keys. You have to rely on XASD and no mouse control. It’s uncomfortable to play. It seems they rushed the release on steam to bring it earlier than Olive Town…I don’t think it did them any service. Still, the game gets undeserved hate. It’s worth giving it a try, but wait for a sale.
Story: The world has forgotten to care for the land, forgotten plants and animals. You run around collecting seeds as you relearn and regain the variety of plants out there
- Keeps more of the spirit and message of harvest moon games.
- The world is very nice – extensive, with different climate-specific regions. You can move your house / farm around and take it closer to plot questlines.
- added challenge: going into extreme climate areas drains your limited stamina. Though in the winter regions, they’ll make you some clothes.
- lots of things to do
- I like the plot and quest lines that focus on caring about the land.
- Mining is similar to Olive Town in that you return to mines. The bit of challenge is that your low stamina may run out before you manage to find staircase down.
- The crops and terrain-dependent mutations are fun. If you buy extra content, you get access to the island with paddies – makes farming certain crops easier. And not just such nice plants like lotus or rice. You can also grow certain types of watermelon and others.
- I like the bachelors and can easily pick someone to marry
- Character interactions, facing each other, the backstories for major characters.
- Day and night music is quite nice, albeit not as polished as in Olive Town.
- Characters have a lot more warmth and charm than Olive Town
- I like the female character model.
- Mythical creatures to meet
- sprite wisps – love the idea of collecting / foraging crops.
- Vastly inferior production values: textures and art could be improved – the first time I opened the game, I was struck by how out-dated the visuals feel. I get used to it as I play.
- too many generic npcs with no name or backstory, the communities and towns are very underdeveloped and not very interesting.
- It’s hard to upgrade tools because you need to speak to a miner in one of the mines until he tells you about the option..it can be random but I think you just need to raise his friendship.
- I’ll repeat: they didn’t adapt controls to PC experience, it’s uncomfortable to play
- too few heart events, but at least I find them rather enjoyable.
- characters don’t seem to care if we run around in typhoons / snowstorms (although Sami will be strict with you for running into snowland in your flimsy attire) – that added a lot of warmth in interactions in previous games.
Story of Season’s Olive Town is a polished game that’s pleasant to look at and play but the writing and questline which I feel depart from the spirit of harvest moon games ruin the experience for me and I don’t feel as immersed as I used to.. I feel like it tries to emulate Stardew Valley for some reason – and that’s not necessary. I also note the lack of such fine details as penalising littering – they not only added to the challenge, they reinforced the meaning of the game, or other immersive little things (cooking for the family, husbands helping at the farm, littering) dumb this game down tremendously. Interactions and heart events are boring and one-sided, no longer as lovable as in the past. This game is like you both want to play it because it;s got this polished look and pleasant controls and throw it out of the wondow because the world is not as open as in older games and interactions are not fun.
I guess Story of Seasons’s glory days are over – they ended with Trio of Towns for me
That said, farming aspects, mostly a grind, do keep you engaged (if you like grinding and collecting only). This game, to me, ends up being form over content because of its uninvolved writing and lack of attention to details. It’s really not as engaging as the best titles in the franchise- for me that’s Trio of Towns, Animal Parade, and Wonderful Life.
One World offers a more traditional approach with no customisation but it also keeps more of the spirit and message of Harvest Moon games (to care about the land, restore it, relearn how to love it, and appreciate its gifts) – which is why despite its inferior production values and other problems, I like it a little more than Olive Town- though I still can’t wax euphoric about it because it’s really not Harvest Moon at its best.
I’d definitely wait for a sale in both cases. Personally, I remain invested in the franchise and am happy to support it, particularly on Steam – HM games still have tremendous storytelling potential when it comes to their gameplay. I love the focus on nature, I think it’s important now more than before (that’s why littering being penalised has always been one of my favourite parts!) I just hope they’ll come up with better ideas next time, because these two releases are definitely far from what I’d call favourite releases or what HM can do.