Ever since the first Harvest Moon game nearly 15 years ago the series has had at least one title released almost every year thereafter. The basic farming, tending and wooing formula hasn't changed much since its original incarnation but the presentation and gameplay mechanics have evolved over time and are still as engaging as ever for what should be for all accounts a tedious farming simulator. We got a chance to try out Harvest Moon: The Tales of Two Towns at E3 2011 and it appears that fans of the series will feel right at home with this latest entry to the long-running series.
This time around the story revolves around two unique villages, the Asian-themed Kokohana and the European-themed Bluebell. The two villages used to be on good terms until a disagreement erupted between the two over who had the best food leaving them bitter rivals. Playing as a male or female farmer your job is to unite the two villages with your farming skills along with other series mainstays such as getting married and starting a family.
The initial village you choose to live in will affect what kinds of options that are available to you at the start of the game. Kokohana specializes in crops, which nets you free seeds and a larger plot of land. Bluebell specializes in livestock, which nets you alpaca and honeybees. You'll be given the option to switch villages once a month, but you can travel between the two at any time if you wish. Both towns feature a message board with which you can take up mini-quests that yield extra rewards. You can also hawk your crops at the local bazaar instead of directly selling them to help build better relations between the two towns. While Natsume wasn't ready to go into the exact specifics, it does sound like there will be a ton of options available to the player.
The original Japanese version was only available on the Nintendo DS but the North American version will be released on both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo's new handheld, the Nintendo 3DS. Outside of the 3D effect, the 3DS version has an exclusive animal-petting mini-game and utilizes the StreetPass feature by selecting crops you want to give to people and letting StreetPass swap those crops with other players. As for the 3D effect, the 3D visuals aren't as eye-straining as some other 3DS titles due to the effect working more like paper cutouts in a pop-up book. The graphics have also been resizes slightly to fit the larger widescreen screen so it doesn't feel like a simple Nintendo DS port.
Natsume currently has a Fall 2011 release set for Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns.