Title: Harvest Moon: The Winds Of Anthos
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Farming, Simulation
Throughout the years, Natsume has made numerous attempts to find the right formula for the Harvest Moon series. With six previous games that yielded mixed to negative results, one might wonder why they keep trying. However, here we are with the seventh installment in the “Harvest Moon” series. While I hesitate to call it the 25th-anniversary game, the fundamental question remains: have they finally discovered a winning formula?
In Harvest Moon: Winds of Anthos, our story commences with the Harvest Goddess. Following a series of natural disasters that struck the land of Anthos, she and her Harvest Sprites harnessed their powers to transform into protective walls shielding the villages. A decade later, the narrative shifts to you, a farmer with a yearning to explore beyond these protective walls. With the assistance of Doc Jr., you embark on a quest to break down the barriers and explore the world beyond.
Regrettably, I found the story prologue to be lacking in detail regarding your main character. There is no proper explanation as to how or why you own a farm in this particular village, or why the villagers are already so familiar with you. While farming games aren’t typically known for their storytelling, the absence of a backstory leaves much to be desired and can cause considerable confusion.
When it comes to farming and foraging, Winds of Anthos employs a simplified control system. Depending on the task at hand, the game automatically equips the appropriate tool and performs the desired action. While this streamlined control scheme is convenient, it can also lead to accidentally triggering actions you didn’t intend.
Now, addressing the glaring issue, Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos runs suboptimally on the Nintendo Switch, especially when compared to other platforms. Frame skips, lag, and severe texture popping are prevalent issues. It appears that little effort was made to optimize the game for this platform, and these problems persist whether the Switch is docked or in handheld mode.
Furthermore, Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos suffers from a frustrating early game. Since actions like walking and running deplete your Stamina, there are numerous instances when you’ll be unable to accomplish much in a given day due to stamina depletion. Some early-game quests also present significant hurdles that can be quite challenging to overcome.
For example, there is a quest that requires you to obtain Tulips and Daisies, yet the game does not provide a way to purchase seeds. Instead, you must search for Harvest Wisps scattered throughout Anthos to obtain seeds from them. While this system encourages exploration and scavenging rather than simply buying seeds, it comes with its own set of problems.
Red Harvest Wisps, for instance, can be located using the DocPad but only provide one or two seeds each. This requires extensive travel, particularly in the early game, which consumes a significant amount of stamina. Time management becomes an issue as well, as the game’s time scale equates to two in-game minutes per one second of real-time, highlighting the early-game stamina challenges.
Money plays a crucial role, and you can earn it by selling crops and processed materials to shops or by shipping them. Items shipped through your Shipping Box receive a slight price increase (about 10%) compared to selling them directly to stores. Moreover, if your farm is situated in one of the many villages, shipping items also contributes to that village’s Cultural Level, unlocking special requests to revive iconic festivals and expanding shop inventories. Fishing proves to be the most lucrative activity for acquiring quick funds, as it consumes the least amount of stamina.
However, one feature took me by surprise. After completing all the initial quests, you gain access to Doc Jr.’s Expando-Farm, allowing you to relocate your entire house and barn. This marked a turning point in the game, significantly expanding the possibilities. The experience further improves once you meet the Harvest Goddess, who grants you the use of Warp Statues scattered across the map, enabling swift travel to various locations.
Furthermore, while the main objective is to locate the remaining Harvest Sprites, the game does not impose a specific order for accomplishing this task. The emphasis on exploration and freedom sets Winds of Anthos apart. The expansive overworld is perhaps larger than in any farming game I’ve encountered, making exploration a central theme. Nevertheless, a couple of minor issues hinder open-world exploration, such as the inability to jump or traverse certain types of terrain easily.
Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos features a diverse cast of characters you can interact with. However, characters you cannot marry appear rather generic in design. Natsume has introduced the option to marry any character you choose, regardless of your character’s gender. Finding the right gift is made easier as the DocPad provides hints about each character’s preferences through their profiles.
Still, I do wish the marriage candidates’ dialogue had a bit more variety to it, because each of the marriageable characters have little to no change in their dialogue unless you proceed to the next major part of the story. This is also combined with the fact that if you enter any of their houses, the characters are just…standing there, unmoving, which almost feels unnerving.
Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos seems to be a step in the right direction for Natsume. The open-world approach distinguishes it as a game you can immerse yourself in, provided you can endure the lackluster prologue and the challenging early game. It stands well on its own, though I would caution against playing the Nintendo Switch version due to its poor optimization, which hampers the overall gaming experience.
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