Thank you Natsume Inc. for sending us a review code!
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope was originally released in 2017 for PC and a year later PS4 and Switch versions came out. This is the first Harvest Moon style game since the breakup between Natsume and Marvelous. Natsume kept the Harvest Moon trademark and Marvelous’ offshoots go by Story of Seasons. After the breakup, I must say that the Story of Seasons franchise has a little more polish, but all of the core mechanics are still present in this title.
The special edition Xbox version has all of the DLC which unlocks even more bachelors and bachelorettes to court and marry. Though I must admit that some of the options available are not attractive in the least bit. If anyone has dated or married the king of the underworld, please let me know. He’s the equivalent of dating Jabba the Hutt in my opinion.
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope begins with a terrible thunderstorm that devastates Beacon Town, which resides on a small island with a lighthouse. After the storm, the lighthouse stops working and your character washes up on shore with no recollection of how they got there. The island’s doctor, Jeanne patches up your character and lets them squat at an abandoned farm. In fact, there are many broken structures and abandoned buildings that fall on your capable lap to fix. As you repair the buildings, the townsfolk will come back and provide new goods and services.
In the beginning you’ll only have farming tools. The repairs will require resources like wood and stone which can only be obtained if you have an axe and a hammer in your possession. Once you earn the trust of some townspeople by completing quests, they’ll be happy to provide you with the necessary tools.
Ores are plentiful in the mines, but you have to use your hoe to find and locate the hidden entrance to the lower level. The really good ores will require you to upgrade your hammer at the blacksmith a couple of times. The blacksmith can refine the ores for a fee and the crystals and gems can be sold for a nice profit.
There are four thirty-day seasons and many of the crops grow best in particular seasons. It is possible to grow crops out of season, but you’ll have to fertilize them daily to lower the chances of them randomly dying. Some crops like blueberries, corn, and strawberries have multiple harvests, but most of them only provide a single crop. I like how each season has its own background music.
Throughout the year, there are several fishing, cooking, and dog racing contests to compete in. As you compete you’ll be able to participate in various classes (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Participating and talking with the townsfolk afterwards helps you earn their favor.
The townsfolk are rather quirky and they all have different backstories and gift preferences. I found it humorous that a couple of the bachelors I pursued enjoyed receiving stones as a present. The other guy I gave regular gifts to loved flowers. In fact, he was rather obsessed with them. As your bonds with the townsfolk increases, you’ll unlock story sequences that will add to their back story. For example, Dean the guy obsessed with flowers was sickly as a child and beautiful flowers lifted his spirits in bed. His love for flowers gave him strength as he hiked in the mountains to view them in their natural habitat.
Aside from giving gifts, you can also earn favor with the residents by completing quests they drop in your mailbox. The requests never seem to end and can be near impossible to complete in the wrong season. At one point I had an open request for every person, king, god, and goddess. It’s nice that you only get one request at a time from an individual. Substitutions are often allowed if you have a higher-quality item on hand instead of the version requested. The story quests are oddly specific and it’s rather annoying gathering numerous identical flower colors or animal fur specimens. I discovered that you can restart the day from loading your save file to retry getting the desired quality goods from your farm animals.
From a moral standpoint, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is pretty clean. Along with the old man god, and harvest goddess, there are some resident sorcerers and witches on the island. The witch is fascinated with frogs and would love to turn everyone into one if she had her way. I’m happy to report that marriage in this game is Biblical and only between a man and a woman. Marriage (and children) are only possible after completing the main story quest of restoring the lighthouse.
Visually this title is rather strange. The characters are 3D modeled but the game world is layered with 2D assets. It’s a weird combination that doesn’t mesh very well in my opinion. The animations were a bit off at some angles too. For example, when cutting wood from a sideways perspective, it looks like the character is hitting the tree with the bottom of the axe instead of the sharp end.
Overall, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is a little rough around the edges, but it checks the right boxes of being a worthy entry in the Harvest Moon franchise. I hope to see more and hopefully better polished games in this series.