At first one would think that a Mincraft themed Harvest Moon title would be a winning recipe. In fact, it should be but unfortunately execution is severely lacking in this novel concept. There could be various reasons for this, the most blatant of which would be the state of the licensing and disarray throughout the development studio itself. The series was originally created / developed by the now redundant studio, Victor Entertainment Software, until 2003 that is. The series then moved on to Marvelous AQL for development while the publishing shifted to Natsume for American territories and Rising Star Games for the PAL regions. When this many fingers are in the pie something is bound to go astray. Intellectual property issues prevailed and now Natsume own the rights to the Harvest Moon name… in a nutshell this is how Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley was born. A rebirth, if you will, of a classic series completely disconnected from Marvelous AQL. I know, it’s a bit of a shamble… and it shows in the final product.
The Lost Valley continues with the standard concept of the series; refine a productive farm to enlighten and uplift the surrounding village and its populace. Somewhere along the line this model has acquired a paranormal, mythological element which simply doesn’t fit. Soon on you are given the task of rejuvenating the Harvest Goddesses’ powers in order to bring the four seasons to the village. Sure, this is a new take on the franchise but it’s this fresh premise that simply reiterates the idea of “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
The controls are clunky. You quickly adopt the camera rotation notion using the L and R trigger buttons and to be fair it works quite well in the 3D environment. This isn’t the reason for the controls’ downfall though. The actual farming mechanic, the key objective to the game, is frustrating at the best of times. To initiate the activity menu or ‘Cultivating Mode’ you press Y and a number of options become available to you. Your tools are essentially selected for you resulting in monotonous button pressing until you’ve covered the required surface area. This also allows you edit your terrain to your liking which is easily the most time consuming yet rewarding aspect of the game, especially if you have to have every block precisely symmetrical to the next.
After a laborious tutorial section, engraved in a ridiculous plot, you eventually get to start a family. This acts as a way for you to obtain new objectives. The supporting characters also act as your assorted shopping points where you can buy and sell seeds, lumber and other necessities needed to complete your repetitive day to day chores. All this provided you have enough stamina to complete your errands. Unlike the Animal Crossing series you aren’t interacting in a real-time manner. After a brief session of gameplay you are required to retreat home in order to rest after a ‘hard’ days work. You do level up along the way which makes this predicament slightly more bearable. Unfortunately your sense of reward remains absent.
Overall, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is paved with good intentions along with various terrains. If you have yet to play a Harvest Moon title and enjoy some basic Minecaft-ing then perhaps you’ll get some joy from The Lost Valley. Implementation throughout the game is poor and fans of the series will have very little reason to embrace the change in formula. The Lost Valley is a Harvest Moon title by purely by name and a general hypothesis only. Be wary of this entry to the series even if you are an overenthusiastic fan at heart.