This year is undoubtedly the year of the anniversaries of many games. For example, Zelda is celebrating its 35th anniversary on screen, Sonic is turning 30, and Pokémon is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Well, another anniversary that might be overshadowed a bit by these giants is Harvest Moon. This farm simulator debuted on the SNES in 1996, and we can still appreciate the impact it had on the gaming world in titles like Stardew Walley and Animal Crossing that have followed suit. On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, Natsume has published the new title Harvest Moon: A Unique World. This new episode aims to revive the series and is therefore committed to research. However, will this new installment manage to divert Harvest Moon from the brush and stubble path it has followed in recent years?
Well, right after creating your character, you find yourself in a pretty depressing world where potatoes are the only source of food and the rest of the vegetables are only found in books. Come on, now your village is nothing more than a shadow of what it used to be, because long ago it was blessed by a mysterious deity known as the Harvest Goddess, and the land was full of delicious vegetables. Now, however, the goddess of harvest has disappeared and the situation is devastating. In this story, your mission will be to revive the harvest goddess and try to make the world back to what it was before people lost respect for nature.
A Unique World’s launch momentum is based on two fundamental factors. First, the social factor: interact with the villagers and do the tasks they send you. Second, the agricultural factor: expanding and maintaining your farmland. As the story progresses, you will find that these two factors are intertwined as you need to make certain products to help the villagers with the various problems they face. One thing I really liked about this title is that you can complete the story at your own pace, with complete freedom to farm, expand your farmland, and even do chores whenever you want.
Another aspect that I really liked from the start was how easy it is to grow. Now all you have to do is select the area of the field you want to work in and press the A button (on the switch). The game will automatically take whatever action is required at that moment, either planting a seed, water ing the plants, or adding fertilizer. The same thing happens when you dig in the mine or when you want to cut a tree. This time, you don’t have to search the menus to select the tool you want, but it will appear automatically.
As you may have guessed, Un Mundo Único offers us a different approach to agriculture. If we are to get seeds in this new edition, we must explore the world. That means we can no longer buy them on another farm, but we will earn them by interacting with the harvest elves scattered around the map. These goblins are always in the same place and give you one seed a day, which personally doesn’t convince me. Let’s see it’s true that the gameplay is a bit animated this way, but I’ve missed the convenience of being able to buy seeds by going to one place. Also, a lot of the routes in the game are boring and boring, so I didn’t feel like taking them again.
Another interesting aspect of agriculture is that the plants change depending on the time of year and the environment in which they are planted. There are five different regions on the map, and each has their own climate, fauna, flora, and even their own neighbors. In addition, we can always relocate our farm to any of these regions as it is a portable farm. Back to mutations: a watermelon that grows in the sand on the beach is yellow, and a white berry that grows in a snowy terrain becomes a magical berry. Anyway, that was pretty cool as I was wondering where it was best for me to plant certain plants and it was fun to experiment and see what results I could get.
However, what I think screwed up the experience were some bad design decisions. Apparently, there isn’t an option to throw items away, and you can’t even swap items in your inventory for on-site items. Also, walking at the same rate as you cut a tree and then harvest in that field will wear out your resistance. I think we all agree that if you’ve been doing things for a long time it makes sense for your stamina to wear off, but what doesn’t make sense is for it to go as quickly and with little effort as it happens in this game in which long journeys between different zones seemed almost impossible to me unless I replenished my supply.
As for the visual finish, we can say that it is not very refined and its quality is similar to that of other lower caliber productions. Many of the regions you enter feel completely uninhabited (even some houses are completely empty) and there is nothing that distinguishes the routes that connect one and the other other than a simple change of shades. On the other hand, dialogue sequences are also a bit confusing as your character’s body often appears in the background, caught in a running animation or looking away.
Some of the ideas that went into One World may be good, but the execution is lousy and lacks a lot of polish. In short, it doesn’t match other titles we’ve seen on this series. Of course, I liked how easy it is to cultivate, and how hard the studio went to include exploration as a basic element of gameplay, despite having its shortcomings. However, I found some design decisions to be quite questionable and the graphical interface could have been significantly improved. Anyway, hopefully the developers can refine some of the ideas they experimentally incorporated into this game for future releases. Let them grow so we can reap better games.