Weâ€™ve had a soft spot for Harvest Moon ever since the series made its debut on the SNES, but our fondness for the franchise wasnâ€™t the reason we were eager to play this 3DS endeavour. It was the plot that compelled us to pick up and play it â€“ the story is a novel one, in which youâ€™re required to reunite two towns that have been feuding for decades. As soon as we learned of the storyline our minds started to muster up all sorts of ways that this task could be achieved.
It so transpires that reuniting the towns isnâ€™t anything too taxing or inventive â€“ every season has a cooking festival which you must win to prove that each town is as skilful as the other. The fact that the mayor gives you the ingredients you need and tells you what to cook is one of the many signs that A Tale of Two Towns has been designed to be a lot less laborious than previous Harvest Moon games.
Itâ€™s certainly no less engaging though. Like all Harvest Moon games, you arrive as the new farmer in town and are greeted by the locals who are happy to show you the ropes. You also have to choose a name for your farm and whether to play as a boy or girl. The next decision you have to make is more important still â€“ youâ€™re asked to choose which village to live in.
The two are vastly different, so you need to think carefully. One believes that farming is all about rearing animals while the other thinks farming entails caring for crops and nothing more. The two towns have a distinct style to them too â€“ Bluebell village is very typical of the villages found in other Harvest Moon games with picturesque cottages, while Konohana has oriental-style buildings with Chinese lanterns outside almost every building.
We originally favoured animal husbandry, but found that after milking the cows, collecting eggs from the chicken coop and popping into town to take said goods to the shipping box there isnâ€™t a great deal left to do other than pick up a few quests from the request board. Opting for the green fingered career is a lot more engaging â€“ crops have to be sown, picked, fertilised and watered twice a day.
You can visit either town any time you fancy, thankfully. A trip to Konohana to the blacksmith is recommended â€“ he dresses in a panda outfit and becomes quite enraged when anybody insults it.
The aforementioned request board? That’s to be found in the centre of either village. The first few quests are just thinly disguised tutorials teaching you how to fish, collect bugs and present townsfolk with gifts. Each completed request nets you a reward and more often than not you have a choice of gift. One irritating thing we found though is that before a request can be started you need to find the person who put the request up, and often theyâ€™re not in the place youâ€™d expect them to be – ie inside their own home.
Two Towns isnâ€™t so much about getting down and dirty, but more about exploring and helping others. Your farm doesnâ€™t start out like a barren wasteland that needs lots of attention â€“ itâ€™s luscious to begin with. The stamina bar at the top of the screen now seems to last forever while money is a lot easier to come by as the wilderness contains loads of items that can be sold for fair amounts, such as honeycombs and walnuts. Plenty of stuff can be held in your inventory too, and much like Animal Crossing there are separate inventories for general items, fish and critters (read: insects) that you’ve caught.
As pleasant as it is to play, it’s a game that was never originally planned for release on 3DS; this is just the DS version with enhanced visuals. That’s not to say it isn’t attractive to look at though. The 2D characters arenâ€™t anything too fancy but the 2D backdrops are very nicely drawn. We found that the visuals were sharper with the 3D off â€“ turn it on and the screen automatically has some sort of anti-aliasing feature kick in. The 3D effects are minimal, so you donâ€™t miss out on any fancy effects if choosing to play in 2D.
A full blown 3DS Harvest Moon game has been announced and isnâ€™t too far away, so you could possibly see it as being outdated before it has even been released. Even so this is still a welcome addition to the 3DSâ€™s library. It has bags of personality and thereâ€™s plenty of stuff to discover to keep you playing through those long, drawn out, summerâ€™s nights.