First Impressions: Hometown Story

At home in your pocket

The 3DS has been on the market for just under three years and it is already home to two Harvest Moon titles, an announced Rune Factory game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, two entries in The Sims series, and now the upcoming Hometown Story. It seems as though if you’re looking for a life simulator of almost any kind, Nintendo’s portable is the console for you. Though created by Yasuhiro Wada, the mind behind the Harvest Moon series, Hometown Story makes a departure from the farming formula and puts you in charge of a budding shop that is in desperate need of revival.

Following the same basic formula of a Harvest Moon game, Hometown Story puts emphasis on building relationships and reviving your new town. After inheriting a small rundown shop from your grandmother, it becomes your responsibility to improve the storefront and consequentially breathe new life into the surrounding citizens. It’s almost the exact same story that we’ve seen from nearly every HM game, but its general purpose is simply to frame the situation and provide a reason for your arrival to town. After more than 15 years the generic plot is beginning to run its course and thin out, but it remains to serve its simple purpose.

After moving into town and setting up shop, you have full control over customizing the contents and layout of your humble store. Not only will you be able to decide what you want to sell in order to be profitable, but you can also choose the prices at which you sell your products. Depending on your goods and prices, certain townsfolk will be more inclined to spend their hard earned dollars on your wares; pleasing the townsfolk with your shop will help build your relationships, thus making for a more pleasant and fruitful living experience in your new hometown. Being on the opposite side of the counter in this game actually puts you in a reverse role from that found in Harvest Moon games, but we’ve yet to see how this change of direction will play out fully.

When running through town rather than spending time in the safety of your shop, an obvious aesthetic difference is the game’s use of dynamic camera angles. Rather than following behind or above your character, as is the case in the Harvest Moon series, the camera is instead fixed in place, changing with each screen that you pass through, not unlike an early Resident Evil game. This design was jarring at first, but as we played more it began to feel natural, giving a true sense of location on the map rather than feeling as though we were simply running through a wide open space.

The character and environmental designs work well for this game, sharing in the light-hearted feel that the gameplay offers. Drawing much inspiration from Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the character models have oversized chibi-style heads that has become a staple in the aforementioned farming series. The pre-determined character that we played as was a young looking male, but we have been assured that you will be able to choose your character’s gender as well as customize some of your basic features, all standard affair for this type of game.

Yet another similarity between Hometown Story and any Harvest Moon title is the in-game clock. Rather than using a real-time clock like the one found in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, time instead moves at a steady pace, allowing you to squeeze in many days worth of play in just one sitting. It’s a formula that works well in the Harvest Moon series as waiting for crops to grow in real-time would likely be the single most boring experience in video gaming history, so it’s safe to assume that the days will play out similarly in this one as well.

Hometown Story is the type of game that deserves a lot of time to be devoted to it in order to form a proper opinion. Our time with it was short, but our first impressions are indicative of what we experienced: a charming foray into a new life of shop management and relationship building. This is definitely one to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, or almost any life simulator that falls in-between.