I feel as though I should preface this impression with an apology. I feel horrible that it's taken me to the beginning of June to finally sit down and play Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn't able to start this right away. I'm aware that the game is already out and folks are enjoying it, but I felt it was my duty to write a little something about this title, as we may not see a review until closer to the end of this month. I'm sorry to those who have been waiting for our review. Apologies aside, let's get into the meat and potatoes of Hero of Leaf Valley.
" Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley really is the perfect little addiction for those who want to get their farming-sim on. "
Contrary to popular brief, Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley is not a remake of the 2001 hit Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. While it shares elements of the game, Leaf Valley is more like a spiritual successor, as it adds to a lot of what Save the Homeland lacks, such as being able to get married and the various paths that one can choose to save Leaf Valley. The premise of Leaf Valley is that the evil Funland Corporation is out to tear the village down if they cannot get 50,000 gold within two years. If the goal is not reached, then the town is demolished and the player will be forced to restart the game.
There is no right way to play this game, as there's many different means to save the town. Yes, there's the 50,000 gold option, but you can also save it by performing different actions. Farming is not the highlight of this game, but it's one of the many ways to make money. There are also an ample number of part-time jobs such as wood-cutting, mining, becoming a part-time chef at Clove Villa, taking care of cows and horses at Starling Ranch, or helping Ronald out with his chickens. You can also mine, fish, pluck items from the ground or knock them out of trees in with your hammer. There's so many different options on how players can opt to make their fortune.
One thing that might confuse those who have played other Harvest Moon installments is the lack of shipping box. Rather then just tossing items in the shipping box to make cash, Hero of Leaf Valley expects players to really interact with the townsfolk, as you'll find yourself doing a lot of selling and trading from store to store. Sometimes the town can feel disorienting, as without a map in plain sight it's often tricky to remember where certain places are. I have actually kept out my instruction manual just so I can quickly reference where I need to go, because I find constantly clicking onto the in-game map isn't as helpful. One nice feature the in-game map does have is the ability to instantly go back to your ranch to get some shut eye when you're ready to call it a day.
One thing that is jarring about the game is the controls. The camera is controlled using the D-pad, while the farmer is moved with the analog stick. Items are accessed holding down the right shoulder button, while calling your pets is done with the left. These controls do take some getting use to, and while they are clumsy at first, it's pretty easy to get use to them, though it does offer some awkward camera angles on occasion.
At this point of writing this impression I am mid-way through Summer of Year One. I currently own a dog named Mr. Wiggles, and a horse that Bob gave me to borrow named Nelly (her actual name is Whoa Nelly!), both which have given farmer Pumpkin an immense amount of joy. I'm also slowly working my way into wooing Katie who works in the Cafe. She's totally adorable. I'm also working towards trying to complete the money goal of 50,000 gold, but I seem to be hit with small road blocks such as building Mr. Wiggles a dog house so he won't be upset with me. To fund for that dog house, I've been working at Woody's Carpentry every day that I can. Who knew building a dog house could be so expensive?
As it stands, I can safely say I'm adoring my time with Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley. I love that there's no one way to work towards that 50,000 gold goal, and I love the amount of freedom that game provides. Don't feel like farming? Fish! Don't like fishing? Learn to cook with Martha. Don't like cooking? Collect bugs with Tim. The sky is really the limit in Hero of Leaf Valley, and I can say with certainty what a great and positive experience I'm having. I swear when the Harvest Moon craving hits me, it hits me bad, and Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley really is the perfect little addiction for those who want to get their farming-sim on.