99 Animal Foods in the bag, 99 Animal Foods...

The ability to raise and lower the land is one of the bigger and more obvious changes seen in Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, but there are some other tweaks to the farming formula worth noting.

In the first of a monthly series of developer diaries, producer Taka Maekawa discusses how the development team has altered the tool system to create a less restrictive experience for players:

When we sat down to design Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, we wanted to really study what made the game fun. We wanted to maintain the core value of hard work leading to great rewards, while minimizing anything that may detract from a fun game. We took a long, hard look at the tool system and decided to go back to the drawing board. We came to the conclusion that gameplay should flow, so we made three core changes to the tool system.

The first renovation to the system is context-sensitive tools that eliminate the need to go into a menu and equip them manually. A player at a tree, for example, will only have to hit the A button to start chopping it down right then and there. We noticed this change in our first impressions of the game and appreciated the way it streamlines gameplay, even if it may not be possible anymore to try silly things like milking a rock.

Tool upgrades are also a thing of the past now, with Harvest Sprites stepping in to offer help with tasks such as mining, watering, and lumber collecting. No specific ores or materials are said to be needed to upgrade tools anymore, saving more time.

Finally, the farmer's bag has received a deluxe upgrade to hold a great deal more stuff. An item can be stacked up to 255 times in one slot, reducing much of the need to run between the house and other areas. This also means that, if you play your cards right, you may never find yourself lacking a potato to give your sweetie-to-be, every day, without fail, forever!

What do you think of the tool system changes in The Lost Valley? Are they a needed modernization, or do you feel you'd prefer the older way of things? Let us know below.