For Harvest Moon’s 20th birthday, Natsume is doing two things: It’s bringing the series to new territory while celebrating its very beginnings. The result is Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, the first entry to hit consoles in years. Alongside Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, Light of Hope will also get a Windows PC release, bringing the franchise to PC for the first time. But based on an early build we played at E3 2017, things haven’t changed drastically in Harvest Moon’s move to the platform.
Light of Hope dumps the full-3D perspective of its recent predecessors, which were the first Harvest Moon games developed by Natsume after parting ways with Marvelous Entertainment. (It begs repeating: The series known in the West as Harvest Moon now is different from Bokujo Monogatari, the original farming sim franchise that now goes by Story of Seasons stateside.) Instead, Light of Hope’s cast of aspiring farmers, bachelors and bachelorettes have more realistic proportions, and players view them from the top down.
Producer Taka Maekawa told Polygon that this 2.5D style is meant to evoke the very first Harvest Moon game. Although the 16-bit Super Nintendo sprites have been replaced with 3D-rendered models, the flat perspective and grid-based, limited range of motion are all straight from Harvest Moon on SNES.
This style also recalls Stardew Valley, which currently dominates the farming sim space on PC. But Natsume is emphatic that the studio is doing its own thing with Light of Hope, not borrowing anything back from Stardew Valley. This could be for the better: Innovations include the ability to play the PC version with just a mouse, which felt surprisingly intuitive in our demo. (The Nintendo Switch version will have full touch controls for a similar type of gameplay.) This control scheme makes the game feel less granular and more accessible than these farming simulation titles can often seem to a newcomer.
It could also be for the worse. There still aren’t same-sex relationships available, even after Stardew Valley received wide praise for its open-ended romance options. Maekawa told us that Natsume will introduce these “when the time is right,” whenever that may be.
Whether veterans appreciate these features, new and old, remains up for debate. Bringing Harvest Moon back to consoles after years on handhelds should be a cause for celebration even so — and broadening the genre’s PC presence can’t hurt. Expect Harvest Moon: Light of Hope to launch by early 2018.