Last year, former Destructoid editor Chad Concelmo and I spoke with Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada about his latest game, codenamed "Project Happiness." Hoping to take the lifestyle sim to the next level, he envisioned a small town where you serve as a shopkeeper, slowly bringing happiness to the people's lives and forming close-knit bonds.
"Project Happiness" has been re-branded as Hometown Story and is on its way to the 3DS later this year. Natsume is handling publishing duties in the US, so I swung by the booth to give the game a go.
Oh, and did you know that both Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and Pokémon character designer Atsuko Nishida are involved in this?
One look at the people and the adorable little critters that populate Hometown Story and you can immediately see the Pokémon connection. I wish I could say the same about the music and Uematsu's magic touch, but the show floor was too loud for me to make out anything.
After you customize and name your male or female character, you'll be treated to a cutscene in which you receive a letter from your hometown stating that your "grams" is "gone" and that you must take over her shop. "Gone"? Is she dead? Did she go on an extended vacation? Never mind, because you've go an obligation to fulfill.
You make it to your grandmother's store to find a fluffy pink sprite named Pochica manning the place to the best of her (his? its?) abilities. Unfortunately, the poor thing can't stock the shelves, hence why you were summoned.
Thus begin your days as a shopkeeper. First order of business is to set up a shelf. You select one from the menu and drop it in the corner. Then you place a single egg from your inventory onto the shelf, and viola! You've got one item for sale! Time to open shop!
As customers start pouring in, you must plant more shelves and set more items upon them. You can select from a variety of items, such as food and decorative artifacts, and you can even mark their prices up or down in order to attract more buyers or earn more profit. By speaking with customers, you can find out their likes and dislikes and tailor your selections to their liking.
If you don't wish to tend the store, you can walk around the town and chat with the residents, who will ask you to hang out with them some time or ask some request. I didn't have an opportunity to see what would happen next, as it was time for me to head out of the booth.
Though you can control some actions on the touchscreen, you are required to push buttons for most, and those touch actions can likewise be performed more effectively with the buttons. I was also having trouble with a few menu commands that were curiously grayed out. Little bugs to be fixed, I suppose.
With such a limited hands-on, I've yet to experience the big emotional connections being promised. As more news about Hometown Story appears, perhaps we'll get a better picture.