Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Release Date: June 28th 2018
Price as of Article: $39.99 USD, £34.99 GBP
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope begins with your character washing ashore an unfamiliar island. Without seemingly any care to get back home, you take the kindness of a stranger, who offers you the opportunity to stay at an abandoned farm just outside of town. I guess the main character has no friends or family who will miss them while they have disappeared off the face of the planet.
You find out that the lighthouse on the island has gone out, and after a massive storm hit that destroyed the villagers houses and shops the locals all moved away. It is then that you start seeing weird harvest sprites, find out the lighthouse is powered by magic stones, and set about slowly restoring the light to the lighthouse, as well as the townspeople’s houses and shops.
Can you bring the island back to its former glory? Will anyone ever miss you? Will you ever miss them? Who’s to say.
Harvest Moon is an isometric farming sim, where you look after a farm, grow crops, keep livestock and help rebuild an almost completely abandoned town in disarray. The story serves as a way to set you small goals to work towards, and the townspeople will request things for you to grow for them. Because of this, there always seems to be a goal to work towards, be it big or small. You will also naturally set in place your own goals, which is where a lot of the games fun comes into play.
The game has a very simple control structure that will allow a wide range of people to be able to play. You can use the left stick or D-pad to move your character. Pressing the Y button brings up your bag menu, X brings up your main menu, A is an action button and B is a cancel button. The action button is used to do a wide array of things, such as talk to NPC’s, plow the ground, water the plants, plant seeds, pick crops, wash animals, weed the farm, chop down trees etc.
The massive amounts of actions tied to the action button is a huge improvement over games in the past. In previous iterations you would have to change your equipment, lest you try and cut down a tree with a watering can. Now your character will switch tools without you having to sift through menus, which saves you a lot of time and get you farming quicker.
Speaking of farming, it couldn’t be any easier. We will begin with crops. First off you need to decide where on your farm you want to plant your crops. You will then clear the land by cutting down trees, busting up rocks and plucking weeds. Then you will plow the parts of the land you want to plant your crops in, followed by planting the seeds you have purchased onto the squares of land you have readied. Finally, you water the seeds and you are done for the day.
After you have planted your crops, you then have to look after them. This entails you making sure they are watered every day until they are ready to be picked. When they are ready, you just hit the action button to pluck the plants that are ready, sell your wares, and begin the process again.
You can also keep livestock, which is very simple to do. With animals you must clean the barn, make sure there is enough feed for them in the morning, give them a pet or a wash, and you are done. With chickens you must collect their eggs every day, and cows must also be milked daily. Sheep and donkey’s will give you wool and fur. The animals droppings that you collect will become compost, which you can use to create fertiliser for your crops, and thus is how all your farming ties together.
Beyond your farm, there are other things you can do to make some money. First up you will gain access to a mine, which is where you will find rare gems and materials. Mining is necessary to gather ores as well, which is to help you rebuild the town. Anything you collect can be taken to the refinery, where they will turn your raw materials into either building materials, or rare stones like diamonds and emeralds. This seems to be the quickest way to make your money, as those rare stones sell for thousands of dollars each, and you come by a lot of them as you venture further into the mine.
You can also go fishing, which is also a great money making job to have on the side. It’s as simple as finding a good spot to fish, baiting your rod, casting your line and collecting your fish. There seems to be a common complaint that these side activities earn you far more money than farming ever does, thus rendering the farming pointless besides pushing the story along. This is true in the beginning, but as you get better farming tools and utilise every part of your farm, you will actually end up far better off sticking with your farming. It is also a lot more fun to do so.
Marry Me Waifu
And then we get to the end game content. You can slowly woo whatever man or woman you want on the island and try to make them your partner. There are some restrictions, but for the most part you are free to seduce whoever you want. This mechanic is rather shallow, with you essentially giving the person gifts they like until they want to marry you. There will be a big marriage ceremony which is fun to see. Everyone from the island is there, but I still worry that nobody you knew from before you were stranded was there. Did your character even invite them? Where is their family?
The audio in this iteration of Harvest Moon is, to put it bluntly, quite poor. Starting with the music, it ranges from extremely annoying to barely noticeable. Essentially, if you are noticing the music then your ears are likely not having a good time. I feel games like this benefit more from having a relaxing ambient vibe to its music, and previous Harvest Moon games have been better when it comes to their musical offerings. Basically, you will want to either lower the music or just turn it off in the options.
Then there is the sound effects. The sounds are fairly unimpressive, but most don’t tend to be too offensive. The watering can can be a bit too much, like someone is swishing around in a bath rather than watering their crops. Picking crops, toiling the fields, petting the animals, pulling weeds and ambient noises are all fine. There is one sound though that will drive you mental. When you want to water, pick or plow more than one space, the game makes this weird flickering noise that rises in pitch, and it is one of the worst noises I’ve ever heard in my life.
In terms of the visuals, let’s just say it’s not the prettiest of games, and brings with it thoughts of mobile titles. The characters are low quality 3D models that are covered in jagged edges. They have anime-style faces which looks odd on a 3D model. What is even more bizarre for 3D models is seeing them traverse over a 2D environment. Besides the characters and animals, the rest of the game is 2D. Because of this, your character looks like it is gliding over the ground, never actually touching anything in the environment. The game would have definitely benefitted from picking either being all 2D or all 3D.
As for the performance, there are some issues here. The loading times are very long, and there are a lot of them. Anytime you enter a house or a different area there is a load screen. Because of this, it can take a frustrating amount of time to get around. Also while playing, I’ve had the game crash out to the Switch menu on a few occasions. This led me to saving before any load screen, as I feared losing a days progress again.
Is Harvest Moon: Light of Hope worth your hard earned cash? That is a very tricky question to answer. Harvest Moon is no longer in a genre essentially by itself in terms of relaxing isometric farming games. Story of Seasons is around, which is made by the proper Harvest Moon team, but that is only if you want to shell out for a 3DS game. As for Switch games, we have the much cheaper Stardew Valley, a game that also has much more content, better music and more cohesive visual style. With all that said, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope still has a piece of that Harvest Moon magic. It is addicting, relaxing, and just plain fun. I think it is worth the money, but as it has competition now you may want to consider the other cheaper options.
Ease of use
Terrible sound design
Long load times