"Although Hometown Story resembles Harvest Moon upon first glance, a deeper look at the mechanics may yield a depth not witnessed in previous games of a similar nature."
When gamers think of the slow, easy-going life that farming can yield, Harvest Moon instantly comes to mind. Those days may meet their sunset as Natsume ports Hometown Story to America this fall on the 3DS and iOS devices. While not a carbon copy of its spiritual predecessor, Hometown Story borrows heavily while attempting to tread its own path. Wada and his team at Toybox have taken the helm on this project, so fans are sure to leave their seal of approval upon release.
Players choose a male or female protagonist to live through at the onset. Unfortunately, the lead must take over grandma's shop due to her passing. This serves as the core of gameplay (rather than farming), as players stock the humble four-item shelves with items foraged. Intuitively, with continued success comes growth (of which grandma was apparently unable, God rest her soul), and the modest shelving mimics its owner's glory as it offers greater stocking space. Players also have the option to decorate, though these garnishments likely won't impact gameplay. However, simply showcasing one's wares won't attract sales, as players must price items shrewdly so as to neither take a loss nor scare away savvy customers. Of note, although window shoppers may include nameless bodies floating about the store, notable characters may stop by to make a purchase, which may impact gameplay. Fans may wish to know that the iOS iteration will emphasize the shopkeeping mechanic over the more social components.
Like Harvest Moon, Hometown Story's hero doesn't toil at the store (on the fields) alone. Recognizing that life is more than work, Natsume tactfully included a social element to add depth to the avatar's experience, which includes wooing or helping others by offering items and taking on tasks; in this way, items are more than just a means of paying the rent — they pay for a healthy, well-rounded soul. Although Natsume's representative couldn't provide clear details, Hometown Story seems to include a romance component as well. Hometown Story also seems to boast a greater emphasis on immersive dialogue, with varied responses that depart from the typical, "Good morning, I sure love turnips" with each encounter. Of course, with increased complexity in dialogue and decision-making come opportunities for unique endings catered to the player's choices.
Graphically, Hometown Story offers simple animations and player movement, though this may characterize the game's light, family-friendly feel. Each character appears cute, happy, or at very least docile as they traverse the town's well-beaten roads. Fans of its agricultural predecessor may feel at home with this style.
Although Hometown Story resembles Harvest Moon upon first glance, a deeper look at the mechanics may yield a depth not witnessed in previous games of a similar nature. Safely building on a solid foundation in this niche market, this installment may be the perfect marriage of old and new. While fans may wish for another Harvest Moon, with a new title may come new beginnings, and based on the information garnered here at E3, Hometown Story could provide just that.