|Dev: Marvelous AQL|
|Release: November 6, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief, Use of Alcohol|
Graphics-wise, A New Beginning concentrates on the ability to display a ton of objects on the screen at once, so while the game's style is nothing special and nothing special was done with the 3D graphical display, the detail is fairly impressive. The crops look nice as they mature through several stages of growth, an increasing number of bees buzz around the hives as they produce honey over time, and the player can cram an impressive number of objects onto the town and farm lots.
The two major areas in which A New Beginning doesn't shine are its music and its sloppy localization. There's only one major musical piece per season, which plays in every area the character visits. These pieces are a bit too peppy to listen to for extended periods of time, and most players will probably want to turn the sound down. The music could use to be both mellower and more diverse, with different tunes for the farm, town, and wilderness (as is usual for the series).
The game's English localization isn't bad, per se, as it does a good job conveying the personalities of the townspeople and generally gives the player accurate information. It's just sloppy. Players will frequently run into minor spelling errors or issues such as a character's name being spelled in different ways. Many of the letters found in the player's mailbox are written in straight-up garbled Engrish, causing me to wonder if placeholder text slipped through into the final product. Between the poor translation job done on Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny and the sloppiness in this game's English text, Natsume's editorial quality has been slipping lately. It's a shame, as it causes the work of the game's Japanese developers to look more amateur than it actually is.
Fortunately, the overall quality of the game more than outshines the mediocre music and localization issues. After the end of the spring tutorial, the pacing of the game's day feels just right. There's enough time to do plenty of things every day, but not so much time that the player feels bored. Travel time is swift, fixing an issue that a few recent Harvest Moon games have had in which the player spends too much time simply running from place to place. Most importantly, the multitude of available activities and the customization aspects of the game provide a fresh and enjoyable experience.
Harvest Moon: A New Beginning feels like a true reboot for the Harvest Moon series, and a good one, at that. The game cleverly works its addictive building and customization aspects on top of the basic farming, fishing, and ranching framework that have defined the series for so long. The “numbers game” has been dialed back a fair bit, making the game more accessible for new players and placing the focus on a custom rural living experience instead of on keeping track of a million complex systems. Rebuilding Echo Town feels satisfying, and the many different activities available to the player keep the game fun and interesting over the long term. With just a bit of patience in getting through its tutorial month, players will find themselves settling into this Harvest Moon experience for a good, long time.
Date: November 7, 2012