Better off forgotten
I’ve been religiously playing Harvest Moon games for more than half my life.
The addiction started when my dad bought Harvest Moon: Back to Nature for our PlayStation back in 2002. I remember racing home every day to play it after spending my schooldays mapping out farm plots in my spiral-bound notebooks, rather than practicing my multiplication tables. Since, I’ve gotten my claws into nearly every installment on every possible console and handheld, but the modern games just can’t compare to Back to Nature.
Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is just the latest in a growing number of games to claim to bring the series back to those old-school roots. It distills the formula down to its most basic elements and crams the experience into a tightly packed ten-dollar iOS title. While it hits all the bullet points for what Harvest Moon should be, it somehow does so without capturing any of the charm that has kept the series alive for 20 years.
Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories (Android, iOS [reviewed], PC)
Released: January 13, 2016
This is the first time a traditional Harvest Moon game has released for mobile, and I was honestly surprised by how functional the controls were.
There are two different ways to interact with the world — talk mode and farm mode — but both control by tapping and dragging your finger across the screen. Even in farm mode, there’s no need to switch between tools; tapping a plot of farmable land automatically uses whichever tool is appropriate, be it a hoe, watering can, or fertilizer.
The downside to this is it’s easy to accidentally till a circle around the plant you’re trying to water. That’s not the biggest problem in the world, but it is entirely the reason the neat rows of seeds I tried to plant look like a drunken art project.
As with any Harvest Moon game, Seeds of Memories starts when your character, a young traveler, decides to settle into a small town and transform an abandoned farm into a productive, fertile homestead. After a quick tutorial, you discover that the townspeople have lost some of their memories and, by making some new memories of your own, you can help them remember.
There’s a few good fishing spots, a mountain to explore, and a town filled with various characters to chat with. If you’re familiar with this series, you’ll find it easy to quickly slip into a daily routine of farm chores, foraging, and potential spouse romancing.
But for those in need of a little more motivation, there is a list of memory milestones that represent different accomplishments to be made, from celebrating a townsperson’s birthday to upgrading your house. Chasing down all 150 memories helps introduce more direction into a game that is otherwise somewhat aimless.
It isn’t hard to find busywork, but after a while it becomes difficult to find a reason to keep playing. Even with all of the memories and events to experience, Seeds of Memories simply lacks the personality and charm past titles have brought to the franchise. The townspeople never seemed interesting beyond their comically exaggerated accents.
Bonding with characters is necessary to unlock new seeds and further the story, but it always felt more like a chore than anything else. Toward the end of my time with the game, I just stopped visiting the town entirely except to purchase livestock or seeds.
Seeds of Memories has the all promise of a solid Harvest Moon title, but it fails to develop those features into anything substantial. Its forgettable storyline is somewhat redeemed by how well the actual farming side of things works, but that alone isn’t enough to make it worthy of your time.
[This review is based on a retail copy of the game acquired by the reviewer.]