This is not the Harvest Moon game you hope it’s going to be. This is not the Harvest Moon game you want. This is a Harvest Moon game that will likely make you sad.
When Natsume announced that it was bringing Harvest Moon to the PC for the first time, I decided I had to see it at this year’s E3. It’s a beloved series that seems perfectly suited to mouse controls! What could go wrong? Well, quite a few things.
For one, this Harvest Moon is produced by Natsume in-house in collaboration with Japanese game developer Tabot. Why's that bad? Because Marvelous has been making the Harvest Moon series (called Bokujō Monogatari in Japan; Natsume owns the “Harvest Moon” trademark) for years, and recently split off to make Bokujō Monogatari under a new western name, Story of Seasons. That’s worrisome. But I want to be open-minded about it: Natsume knows Harvest Moon. They've been publishing the games for 20 years, after all, and I think it’s quite possible that a new team could do the name justice. Their first attempt for the 3DS didn’t work out too well.
Concern number two: this new game is coming to PC and Wii U...but also iOS and Android. Is it going to be a port job of a crappy mobile game? From what I saw at E3, that’s what I’m afraid is happening. The short demo on display was running on an iPad; according to producer Adam Fitch, it was only a month into development, with a release planned for this winter. The demo was just a small town square with a few NPCs to talk to and a handful of houses I couldn’t enter.
Planned features for the final game, including farming, dating, getting married, and having a kid weren’t implemented at all yet. Terraforming won't be making a return. There was one other screen available to walk around, with signs pointing to a farm to the east (it’s not built yet) and a mountain to the north (it’s not built yet).
It would be unfair to judge the final quality of Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories based on this limited build. If I give Natsume the benefit of the doubt, maybe those features will all be implemented, and they’ll be good! But here’s the thing: even if those features are fun, this game looks bad. So bad. So soullessly, stylelessly bad.
Seeds of Memories is 2D, and Fitch says they want to go back to the classic 16-bit style of the older Harvest Moon games. But Seeds of Memories does not look classic, or 16-bit. It uses ugly, low-res 3D models with muddy textures flattened into 2D objects. Remember the ruined sprites of Final Fantasy VI on mobile? Cross that with a garish 3D render look and bland art direction, and you’ve got a game that looks more clipart than Super Nintendo pixel art. Harvest Moon has never been an especially pretty series, but I'd say most of its games had a stronger sense of style and identity than this.
I asked several times just to make sure, and Fitch said that this is the art style for the final game, and it’ll look the same on PC as it does on mobile. To Natsume’s credit, they are planning to add features to Seeds of Memories for the PC and Wii U releases over mobile, to go along with higher prices on those platforms. He said the developers are still discussing what those features will be.
And maybe the farming and other features will end up being great. But from the looks of things, Seeds of Memories is an ugly mobile game that’s going to be rushed through development for a release this winter. If you were ecstatic to hear that Harvest Moon is coming to PC, it’s time to temper those expectations.
Update: Commenter kurosame posted this video showing off the demo that was at E3. You can see the art style for yourself!