This is technically not part of a series of articles I’m doing that covers the entire Harvest Moon franchise, but you can still read what I’ve covered over here.
I keep meaning to add to my Harvest Moon coverage, but the next game I want to talk about is Rune Factory Frontier, and that game is a serious time sink. I’ve played 60 hours and am only in my first fall. Each in-day game takes me an hour of real time, and of course I need to be able to play about a week in one sitting to make progress. It’s an ugly cycle, but RFF is worth it.
That game is old news to Harvest Moon fans at this point. Brand spanking new, however, and completely unexpected, is Harvest Moon: Pocket Ranch, available for iOS devices. Ushi no Tane was the site that broke the news and provided the links where Harvest Moon fans can get in on the beta version.
I suspect this is the US adaptation to the recent Japanese release Minna de Bokumono, an online Harvest Moon game that is browser-based. The two aren’t very similar, at least at this stage in Pocket Ranch’s development, so maybe this is an independent game and there’s still a chance of the browser-based version coming out here. Minna de Bokumono seems to be driven largely by farm-based quests assigned by the Harvest Goddess and carried out by a team of harvest sprites in a large island farm, whereas Pocket Ranch is more about maintaining your little plot of land by your lonesome with your harvest sprite avatar and occasionally getting a little help from your friends.
I didn’t write this up as a full article because the beta version is still… well, beta, with a lot of the features currently turned off and some things not working. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems unfair to review it when all the features aren’t up and running correctly. But I do think it’s cool, and there’s nothing wrong with hyping something I’m a fan of, thus the blog post.
The game is pretty underwhelming at first. You get a chick, three types of crops (turnips, carrots, and onions), eight plots of land, and four patches where you can plant trees later. When you first start the game, you can water your plots of crop land, plant some seeds, and pet and feed your chick. There’s also a shop, but only the initial three crops and an additional chick are available for purchase there, everything else is locked. You can’t feed or water your animals unless they need it, and you can’t water your crops unless the land is dry. So you quit, wait for two hours, and the game “updates.” Then you’ll have some young plants. Water them again, and two hours later, you can harvest your crops and plant more.
This is basically all that happens until you “level up.” Watering crops and petting your animals gives you seven points of experience, and when you get enough experience and level up, more items become available to you in the shop. Flowers open up at level two, sheep and trees at level three, and more crops, trees, animals, and flowers with every level after that. The variety included with the game is staggering, with 46 types of flowers, 42 types of crops, and 38 types of trees. Do you like animals? There are 7 types of chickens, 8 types of sheep, and 6 types of cows. Some of this stuff requires quite a bit of levelling, up to 50. I’ve been playing for about a week and am currently level 5. I can’t say too much on the “points” system since it looks like that’s not been finalized yet, but perhaps you’ll earn them a bit faster in the final version. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
The friends list, still not active, is what is most interesting to me right now. It looks like you can add other players to your friends list, and they are notified when you experience an “emergency.” Emergencies are things like crop disease, downpours, hurricanes, et cetera. You call for help when it happens on your farm, and it looks like a bulletin is posted to your friends so that they can opt to come and help you hold down the fort and get you through the emergency. The more friends you have helping, the less damage your farm takes during the emergency (which can destroy crops and kill livestock). I can’t say how the bulletin will be posted since the friend system is one of the elements that hasn’t been turned on, but it should be a lot of fun to check in and see if any of your friends are currently in need of downpour assistance. No friends? Don’t worry, the emergency will be over the next time the game updates. You will have sustained some damage to your farm, however. Nothing you can’t replant, though.
It’s not terribly deep at the moment, but the update system makes it a fun game to check in on throughout the day, and unlocking things through levelling looks like it will prove to be a massive challenge in the weeks to come. The developers also hinted there should be more content, including in-app purchase stuff, by the time the game officially launches. I can’t wait to see what some of these crops and things look like. The only downside so far is that you have to be connected to the internet to use it. No problem for iPhone 3G/4G users, but problematic for me on an iPod when I have no wireless access at work and no way to sneak in the brief update throughout the day.