Harvest Moon: A New Beginning
E3 2012 Hands-on Preview
"Now you will be able to customize your Harvest Moon to match the way you've always envisioned it in your dreams."

Appropriately titled "A New Beginning," the newest installment for the 3DS in the Harvest Moon series is just that. See, unlike A Tale of Two Towns, which was ported to the 3DS, A New Beginning was built specifically for the hardware. But don't think that's the only strengh for this title – it's adding another extra spice to the series: customization.

This is a nice change of pace, considering that for years we've played the series using the same generic avatars. A New Beginning is now ready to change that by giving you complete control over the look of your avatar. Get ready to experiment with sassy hairstyles and wild colors. But the customization goes beyond just looks – it also adds a touch of convience for your playstyle. Now you're also able to completely customize your farm and town by being able to move around objects to anywhere you please. Not happy with the location of your watering hole? Want to be closer to the character you're romancing to up your affection meter? It can all be done with a click of button – no long more unnecessary treks that kill your clock.

In addition, the customization allows every player to have a distinct look to their game – it even goes so far as to allow you to landscape the town as you wish with benches and shrubs. But it's not simply about placing decorations and items where you want. You'll also create them. Gathering items becomes advantageous, since you can combine them to form new objects. Psst... you'll even get a bonus rating for pleasing aesthetics.

Of course, customization is the big hook, but that doesn't mean the series isn't bringing gusto to its regular formula. Once again, a town is in peril – no longer thriving and completely desolate, it's up to you to get it back on its feet. But how, you ask? It's all a simple matter of restoration; once you help rebuild various items across the land such as benches and tents, the land opens up with new areas... that also need your help to get back in shape. Expect Harvest Sprites to return to the mix, the Witch Princess to say hello, and of course the famed Harvest Goddess is back. Somebody has to coach us in our town saving endeavours!

A New Beginning also knows that romance is a large lure in the Harvest Moon realm. Thankfully, we're in luck with the five bachelors and bachelorettes that are just begging for our attention. There are also some interesting personalities in the mix; a kindhearted butler who's hoping nice guys don't finish last in your heart, along with some more challenging and arrogant romance options, such as Allen, a hair stylist who plays hard to get. Who can resist the chase?

As always, the addictive farming gameplay is back with some finesse. It even allows you to grow new crops, such as cottons, which the tailor can use to create you some new duds. A lot of our favorite animals are back as well, including A Tale of Two Towns newbie the alpaca. A New Beginning is also adding not one but two new animals to your field: the llama and yak.

Activities like bug catching, mining, and fishing are still a part of the formula. You can even set fishing traps to collect fish and items that inhabit the sea. This is a nice break, because you can walk away from a trap and then come back later to collect the prizes. This, however, doesn't eliminate standard fishing, where you stand with your fishing line and wait for something to bite. You'll also catch different fish if you use a line rather than a trap.

Those interested in online player are in luck, as A New Beginning features local wireless to meet up with friends. Here you can exchange items and get bonuses like causing your animals to be less stressed by engaging with others. Right now, we're looking at early 2013 for its release. Now you will be able to customize your Harvest Moon to match the way you've always envisioned it in your dreams. And if that's not enough to keep your anticipation, it was hinted that some characters from past games wil make an appearance in A New Beginning. Are you ready to find out who's still around?

© 2012 Natsume, Marvelous Entertainment. All rights reserved.

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