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Let’s get this out of the way up front: both versions of Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns are functionally the same game. Natsume’s goal here isn’t to make the two versions drastically different from one another; their goal, rather, is to release the game on both platforms so that if you don’t have a 3DS you can still play the game. This was the first question I asked when I was presented the game and informed it would be (they’re hoping) a simultaneous release for both systems, and I was informed at that point that you can essentially get either game and have a mostly similar experience. Granted, the 3DS version will have the 3D effect, a higher color palette, StreetPass support and an exclusive petting mini-game, so there are reasons to invest in the 3DS version if you have the option to do so, but if not, you needn’t feel as though you’re missing out dramatically from one version to the other, as both games contain mostly the same content otherwise.
That said, the game is essentially like any Harvest Moon in general concept, so fans of the series know what they’re getting into here: plant crops, raise animals, make money, upgrade tools, and so on until you’re the best around (and nothing’s ever gonna bring you down). You’ll be able to choose your gender from the beginning of the game, and as with other games in the series, you’ll be able to make friends, find spouses, and generally do all of the sorts of things that Harvest Moon games allow you to do. The 3DS game was the one on display, and it looks pretty solid in 3D, though the effect isn’t especially amazing so to say. As it’s essentially a 3/4ths view RPG/farming sim, though, one wouldn’t expect miracles, and for the most part, it’s nice, but not essential. The top screen displays the world that immediately surrounds you, while the bottom screen is used for the map, inventory, and so on, making tool and item usage a snap, and for the most part the game is easy to slip into if you’re a fan and easy to learn if you’re not.
So what’s new this time around? Well, as the name implies, the game takes place across two towns this time around, Konahana and Bluebell. Konahana is more Eastern in style, and you get bonuses in crop growing as well as a larger field, as their specialty is crops. Bluebell, in contrast, gives you a big barn and animals to start with, as their specialty is animals. The two towns essentially have a big gripe over whether crops or animals are best due to some age old feud about cooking, and your goal, in addition to being the best farmer ever, is to unite the towns. The game also features a message board where people can request crops, bugs, fish and other such things from you that pay out greater rewards than farming, as well as improve your relationships with the persons you do the missions for. The game also offers the normal extras one would expect, including frequent appearances by the Goddess, as well as a horse and cart for travelling between the two towns (and also acts as a storage unit), and you can upgrade said cart with better refrigeration, more space, and so on. You can also jump now, which will come into play in the expanded wilderness areas, which will have you bouncing around on mushrooms and such to move around the area and explore.
The bottom line, of course, is that this is Harvest Moon, love it or hate it, and in that respect, fans (casual and diehard alike) will find the game to be similar in many respects to its predecessor at first glance. However, the expanded game world, starting options, upgradable resources and general additions to the game add a lot more variety than in some additions to the series, and as a first appearance for the franchise on the 3DS, Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns is looking to be a fine debut so far. Whichever version is most accessible for you, however, the game is looking (so far) like a worthwhile game to keep an eye on, as it’s mechanically solid feeling and offers a lot of holdover and new content, and it could potentially be one of the better releases in the series.