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First Impressions: Hometown Story

Posted by Ron DelVillano

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.

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User Comments (18)

Pixel-Perfect

#1

Pixel-Perfect said:

Ehh... I dunno about this one, but I guess you guys didn't see anything overwhelmingly awful from what you played.

manpretty

#2

manpretty said:

I'm curious about it. The creator of the game, Yasuhiro Wada, kind of made it in response to the Harvest Moon series focusing too much on the social aspect of the game, and losing the balance that he originally intended between working and playing so to speak.

unrandomsam

#5

unrandomsam said:

Only game of this type I have enjoyed in recent years was :

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

(It probably couldn't be released on Nintendo easily though due to the policy for Japanese indie's).

I didn't expect to like it but I did.

Windy

#6

Windy said:

I'm going to pass on this one. No matter what I do cannot bring myself to like the Harvest Moon Games. I have 4 of them and only finished 1 which I enjoyed quite a bit on the Nintendo Gamecube (Harvest Moon Wonderful life) Ever since that version I've had the hardest time getting into them. New Beginning Is pretty much Identical in gameplay yet that Clicking clock drives me nuts. Harvest moon fans should love this game and future Harvest Moon games but I cannot help feel that it's the same game, Same Storyline, Over and over and over. I will pick up Fantasy Life if announced and Disney Magic Castle: My Happy Life if announced for North America but I think for me Harvest Moon has run its course. If Hometown Story offers a full online co-op play I might change my mind but that's asking alot these days

Suicune

#7

Suicune said:

@Windy
Wonderful Life is my favorite too so i only pick ones that are similar (Tree of Tranquility, A New Beginning) to play. I didnt really enjoy Mineral Town or Harvest Moon DS

supermage65

#8

supermage65 said:

This looks interesting. I've never really enjoyed the Harvest Moon games though, so I'm not sure if I'll end up picking this up.

NorthLightSuplx

#9

NorthLightSuplx said:

Well trees grow and bear fruit in 3 days on animal crossing. I would prefer this game and HM to follow in AC footsteps.

Windy

#10

Windy said:

@Suicune I have new Beginning but really shouldn't have bought it and I downloaded it....my only retail download :( I really wish I had not spent 39.99 on it. Maybe I will get to it later and enjoy it. I also have Tale of Two towns and was enjoying that but got bored and stopped after Animal Crossing came out. I'm really hoping The Harvest Moon series might take off into an online co-op type of play. I mean they really seem to be doing the same game over and over just change the names or add that you can play a boy or a girl. Hometown story doesn't seem any different other than a title change

Icefreak45

#11

Icefreak45 said:

@unrandomsam Recettear came to mind immediately after hearing the description. If it's anything like that I'll be fine as I absolutely love that game (even if I can never pay the rent Q_Q).

Klinny

#12

Klinny said:

I'll definitely be getting this XD I love Harvest Moon, and although I haven't enjoyed the newer titles as much, I'm always willing to give a new installment (or similar style of game) a shot :)

RedRocBoy

#14

RedRocBoy said:

Wish they had these types of Animal Crossing games on the Wii U. Would definitely suck hours of my life away.

LordGeovanni

#15

LordGeovanni said:

How do you get the items to sell? Will it be something like Neopets: Treasure Keepers on Facebook? (It is now gone, but it was great for the little while it was around!)

GameCube

#17

GameCube said:

That mascot critter looks exactly like Minccino from Pokémon, I think Nintendo could easily sue for copyright infringement.

LattePrince

#18

LattePrince said:

Is it just me or is Wada's work getting worse by the game? I grew up with Harvest Moon - been playing it before I could even read (about 15 years ago now). While growing up, it seemed that the games only got better and better... that is until A Wonderful Life (and Another WL) had been released. Seems that any new title after that just couldn't compare in my opinion, even though both AWLs could have used some work. After AWL, I think the game's art, graphics, and sound went downhill (fast), the soundtrack became more obnoxious and distracting, the potential spouses became flatter, so on and so forth. What other HM game has you (the protagonist) age along with your spouse and child? Don't know about you guys, but I LOVED that element.

Over all, Harvest Moon has become a disappointment to me... and just looking over Hometown Story, I have absolutely no urge to try this game. Personally speaking, I'm not a fan of handheld consoles (even though a majority of HM's games /are/ such); I think the graphics are... decent... to put it nicely, but the art itself is mediocre. The game's plot seems too stagnant (you have to stay inside... in a rather bland store... for how long, now? Just selling crap like on Grand Bazaar? What's the appeal in that?). I just... I don't know, I'm very disappointed. I've been really hoping an HM game with great graphics that is more console friendly (released on multiple systems like Assassin's Creed or Final Fantasy) would come out, but nope. Guess not.

Change is good, but the wrong changes are being made...

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