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Natsume’s booth at this year’s E3 was a farmland oasis from the wider chaos of the showfloor, decked out in pastoral charm and filled with flowers and plenty of plush cows, chickens, and sheep.It’s a familiar scene, but it seemed particularly pleasant this year, and the cause of the celebration was clear: it’s Harvest Moon’s 20th anniversary, and Natsume’s planted the seeds of a brand new entry in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope.Light of Hope puts players in the role of a young girl or boy who sets sail to start a new life, and promptly ends up shipwrecked by a wayward monsoon.All’s not lost, however, and once you wake up you’ll find you’ve been saved by the local islanders — or the few of them that haven’t left the isle for better pastures, anyway.These ‘candy’ products are apparently treated differently from their workaday variants in terms of recipes, shipping, and villager likes and dislikes, and while we didn’t get to unravel the mystery in our time with the demo, we’re determined to find out which villager loves cotton candy wool — and marry them.As the first Harvest Moon to hit a home console (albeit we were playing in portable mode) since 2008’s Animal Parade on the Wii, Light of Hope certainly has us excited.The early build we played showed a lot of promise, and felt especially at home on the Switch, with optional touch controls and portability both ticking some important boxes for aspiring agriculturalists.
Even though you can take her with you into dungeons before you get her to 7 hearts you still cannot take her on a date. To activate a date you must walk into one of the date locations, Vale: Icy Rosebush, Sol Terrano: Star Dunes, Privera: Flower Field and Oddward: Rainbow Falls. After you have done this Wells and Marjorie will show up and and give you the engagement ring's recipe for the Workshop.
The overhead view works very well for farming, meanwhile, and the ability to zoom way in or way out (using the ‘ZL’ and ‘ZR’ buttons) is a welcome addition.
While our Natsume rep used ‘retro plus’ to refer to the art style, that designation felt accurate for the actual farming gameplay we got to try out as well.
The daily grind is very similar to what it was in the original Harvest Moon, but the controls have been streamlined significantly through smart, contextual tools all mapped onto a single ‘action’ button.
The idea is that while your farmer should have full access to their tools, there are sensible defaults that should work most of the time; walking up to a weed and pressing ‘B’ will pluck it, for instance, but pressing the same button in front of a planted seed will water it instead.
Even better, we were blown away by the ability to till, plant, or water a whole section of land by dragging a finger across it — an almost instinctive action that fit in perfectly as a ‘bonus’ to button control.