"It's going to be one long summer, but we're betting that fall is worth the wait for The Tale of Two Towns."
A little rivalry never hurt anyone, right? And you know a feud means serious business when the towns are competing about who has the better food. That's exactly what's at the forefront of Natsume's latest Harvest Moon title, The Tale of Two Towns. But instead of calling it a tale, maybe the better word is a war. See, the towns of Konohana and Bluebell just can't get along when it comes to matters of the pleasing the stomach, but as with all Harvest Moon games, you just might be the saving grace to restoring peace between the two towns.
At the start of The Tale of Two Towns, you choose between living in Konohana, a farm with an Eastern flair, or Blue Bell, which gives off a European vibe. Beyond each farm having its own unique style, they also have their own benefits that specifically cater to different play styles. Adopt a lifestyle at Konohana and it's all about your cash crops, you'll have extra fields that are just waiting for you to sow them with love. However, if you're more interested in banking off your livestock, then Blue Bell is the place for you! Blue Bell has extra barn space to house more animals, including the newest animal addition to the Harvest Moon family: the Alpaca! Of course, the extra animal space means less farming fields, but it's all up to you which town suits your Harvest Moon needs more. Each distinct village also features its own unique shops, villagers, and festivals, so they will be completely different experiences. If the choice is just too difficult, don't worry too much as you'll have the option each month to change which town you reside in. You can actually continue to alternate depending on which lifestyle you crave more.
The Tale of Two Towns carries all the basic Harvest Moon staples, but refines each of them to a deeper degree. Not only will there be a wider variety of festivals, but other activities, such as fishing, are no longer static activities. For instance, if you go into shallow water, you'll be catching fish with your bare hands; if you want to catch fish in deeper waters, you'll be casting a line to the vast sea. And for those of you who dug the request system from Rune Factory 3, The Tale of Two Towns will also have a similar system. The request system will not only give you something new to do in your day, but also give you item and friendship incentives. The requests can be as simple as catching bugs (with your bare hands!) to catching crazy critters that infest the land. In the end, completing requests is more than worth your while, since they'll raise your friendship points, and those are vital for winning over your potential romance partner. The Tale of Two Towns not only gives you the option of playing as a boy or a girl, but it also gives each gender five potential marriage choices. But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here, since the true challenge is all in the cooking.
Naturally, since this game is all about the yummy food, there's obviously a greater emphasis on cooking up the best dishes. And while it may seem like there is a hard fought competition at stake between the two towns, the Harvest Goddess has other ideas. She is, of course, putting the pressure on you to mend the bridge between the two towns by excelling at the cooking contests. Diehard Harvest Moon fans will be pleased to know that Pierre, the kooky all-food loving character who first appeared in Island of Happiness, is back, and this time he'll be judging those important cooking contests. Also making an appearance are Raul and his two brothers from Grand Bazaar, who will be running different shops in each town. Other than those familiar faces, the cast is entirely brand new, so there will be plenty of getting to know you time.
The Tale of Two Towns is also upping the ante in the mutliplayer department where you can host your own special multiplayer field. The best part? You can charge an entrance fee to your friends and profit off of them! What does the poor chum that you're taking money from have to gain? Well, for starters, people can get crops from your special field that are currently out of season in their game. This will especially help them grow items that they desperately need to complete recipes and gain not only friendship points, but also extra income. How's that for beating the system?
In our hands-on time, we noticed that The Tale of Two Towns' graphics and environments are looking the best they ever have in the series. There's such a depth of detail in everything from the trees gently bristling in the wind to the birds flying around the sky - there's a nice touch of realism throughout the game. As with Grand Bazaar, the jumping feature is alive and present and we've never seen the controls run so smoothly. 3DS owners are also in for a treat as part of the backgrounds do pop out at you as you play, and it's noticeable in a non-intrusive way. Also, those playing on the 3DS will have access to the StreetPass feature, where you choose a couple of items to exchange through StreetPass. It's full of surprises, as you'll never know what a random stranger will lend you.
We haven't seen a new entry in the Harvest Moon series since last August's Grand Bazaar, so it's hard not to be stoked about The Tale of Two Towns. It really feels like there was an effort to completely refine systems and add some fresh content to the game. It's going to be one long summer, but we're betting that fall is worth the wait for The Tale of Two Towns. Time to start cooking up those recipes in your head!