Game Title: Harvest Moon Light of Hope -Special Edition-
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 4-5 hours
Download: 667 MB
Harvest Moon is a series that hasn’t been a big thing in the console world very much, ever since the franchise got split up between it and Story of Seasons. I remember trying some HM games on the PS Vita, but only through PS One and PSP backwards-compatibility.
Handheld owners have had a similar experience available, through Stardew Valley. Although it felt more of a mix of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, it provided farming, mining, and getting married on the go through the Switch for quite some time now and for the Vita and PSTV as of a couple weeks ago.
The actual Harvest Moon series, however, has released a new game for handheld fans to enjoy. Originally released on PC last year, the newest entry has come to both PS4 and the Nintendo Switch with new and, so far, exclusive features. Here is my review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Special Edition for the Nintendo Switch!
Light of Hope has you, the protagonist, washing up on the shore of a seemingly-deserted island. After being found and cared for by the local doctor, you find that the storm that washed you ashore dislodged tablets around its lighthouse, disrupting the powers of nature with the majority of its inhabitants having moved with their homes destroyed and nowhere to go.
After finding this out and being given a small farm to live on, you decide to repair and fix up the island to bring the villagers back and restore nature’s balance by retrieving the stone tablets.
As far as a story, I like that it has a bigger goal than just “Here’s a farm. You’re responsible for building it up” and having a larger goal to accomplish.
The only thing that is a downer about the story is the character roster. Almost the entire main cast is made up of returning characters from Harvest Moon: Skytree Village. Outside of the future DLC packs, there’s only one or two marriage candidates that are new characters, one of which was made specifically for Special Edition (meaning PC owners didn’t have access to them last year).
Like all of the games like this, Harvest Moon is a Farming Simulation Adventure game with time management and dating sim elements thrown into the mix. Across each of your days, you’re going to be managing crops, animals, collecting materials, and selling your product to make money for expansions and more for you to do.
First of all, this is “Special Edition”, so there’s new content here that isn’t available in the PC version. Getting the game on the Switch (or PS4) gets you Soleil, a character that enables local co-op play as well as being a new Marriage Candidate that wasn’t in the original release. Co-Op lets another player use a Joy-Con or Pro Controller to run around with you and help you gather materials as Soleil until her Stamina runs out.
Now, main progression in this game is basically done through farming, material collecting, and Quests. Unlike Stardew Valley, Light of Hope has a clear story that you’re being pushed through with clear objectives to teach you to find and make specific items as you restore the island. While the quests don’t have time limitations, it does keep the story going strong throughout the entire game with pretty quick pacing and a story outside of just character-based events as you give them gifts and create relationships.
There’s a problem with the system this game uses, though. While you do have a vast array of methods to collecting and farming, it’s built in a way that you don’t really have to farm. It’s easy to tell that a full day of fishing or gathering ore and refining gemstones from the mines is dramatically more efficient than growing crops. Would you rather grow crops, tile by tile, for half a week and make a bit of cash or spend half a day in the mines and end up with a daily income that is exponentially higher than that half-week crop sale?
The problem isn’t that you have a variety, but the fact that the game really pushes the idea that you’re farming to bring back the power of nature, even though you barely have to do any farming for the Main Story quests. There are some quests that require a specific flower or plant, but even those can be easily picked up around town during certain seasons. For a game so centered around farming, it’s strange that farming is one of the least-productive ways of progressing through the game.
Now, everything else about the game is like SDV. It is very task-oriented with people and shops open and around at certain times of the day and certain days of the week, and you’ve only got so much time and stamina each day to collect, farm, give gifts to your favorite marriage candidate, take care of your animals, etc. With so much to do, task management is a big factor. You go into each day, planning what you want to do based on what is available, when you can go to certain shops, etc.
Despite the fast-paced story, the one thing the game isn’t short of is content and length. While we are getting new side stories and marriage candidates through the game’s upcoming DLC packs, the base game itself is quite lengthy. It took me around 17-18 hours to clear the main story, and around 11-12 more hours to do the post-game quest-chain for proposing and getting married. That gives the game a minimum of 25-30 hours of content to go through.
Controlling the game isn’t too difficult, and it does have a variety of options to you. Many of the menus can be opened with the touchscreen in handheld mode, but have button alternatives for when you’ve got the game docked or just want to use the buttons instead.
You move around with the D-Pad / Arrow Buttons or the Left Analog Stick. The ZL and ZR triggers can be used to zoom the camera in and out while the L/R triggers are used for cycling through menu categories.
Then, the face / action buttons. A lets you interact with objects and B lets you cancel options. X pulls up the Map and Request Menus while Y brings up the inventory menu.
Overall, it’s pretty simple and is a good call, since the co-op supports single joy-con play.
Graphically, I’m not sure what to say about this game. It follows the same design as the Harvest Moon Mobile game, with environments being 2D and characters being 3D models. This is a unique way of seeing it, as it gives it a modern and retro look at the same time. But the image quality and the renders don’t look all that refined. Honestly, it looks like a game that would be released on the 3DS. It doesn’t look terrible, but with the details, and the jagged edges/blurred backgrounds that are immediately available as soon as a zoomed-in event happens, it just looks strange.
Performance-wise, it’s mostly good. The frame-rate is nice and smooth the entire time, but the game has been known to crash from time to time. It’s crashed several times on me from opening to the title screen to the starting of certain special events throughout the various seasons. I wouldn’t say it happens really often, but often enough to be an annoyance and cause me to be careful about saving often.
As far as Battery Life goes, the results I got were pretty good. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 48 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 54 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 48 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 52 minutes
4-5 hours is a pretty good amount of battery life. Granted, it’s not super-HD graphics, but it’s still a good battery range.
In conclusion, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope brings more Harvest Moon and Farm Sim gameplay to handheld fans. Granted, it has a fair amount of flaws, from its recycled cast and lack of focus on farming to the occasional crashing in this version. But, regardless, if you enjoyed SDV and want a different way to experience the genre, it's not a bad choice.