Hometown Story (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Joshua Goldsmith 15.07.2014 1

Review for Hometown Story on Nintendo 3DS

Hometown Story is brought to life by the same man behind the wonderful Harvest Moon franchise: Yasuhiro Wada. Originally released in North America late in 2013 and developed by Toybox Inc., it was distributed by Natsume for North America, and then Rising Star Games for Europe in May of 2014 after it was announced as heading to the continent at Gamescom. Taking key gameplay components from its cousin Harvest Moon, the game starts with a winning formula, so why does it feel like a tough job to drag it across the finish line?

Upon firing up the game, the opening is pretty and inviting, and the graphics immediately have their classic charm that the style of game is known for. Best described as a shop and life simulator, Hometown Story has the main character - a boy or girl, depending on the simple yet varied character creation set up - inherit their Grandmother's store after her death. With nothing more than a small peculiar being named Pochica to help out around the store, life begins.

Most days in Hometown Story are spent stocking the shop before leaving for a couple of hours - not any more than that, however, otherwise customers may leave. Use that time to collect stock for the shop in a variety of ways, be it forage, visiting other vendors and speaking to the residents both new and old, before returning to the shop to ring up a (hopefully) long line of customers, earning a sweet bonus multiplier for the amount of customers served in a row. Earnings can then be used to buy extensions for the shop and better items to make profit. Then do it all over again.

The town itself starts much like the store; old, empty and uninviting. As more progress in the game is made, more people will move into town, and then comes the raffle of unlocking events with them. The events do come pretty fast as unknown requirements are hit early on, which usually come once each day, if not more, usually via the sale of key items. The variety of the characters in this game is by far the most appealing area. Eventually, the game presents quite a large cast of characters in the village, all with their own stories, problems and dramas that play out in front of the player. The game is quite relaxed, there's no rush, and progress can be made as slowly as desired. Harvest Moon fans will grow to love Hometown Story if it is given a chance to let the town grow, but others may never gain that love.

Screenshot for Hometown Story on Nintendo 3DS

Hometown Story has its charms but underneath it does have a lot of problems that sometimes glare up at the player. The biggest issue by far is the complete and utter lack of tutorial system. Plopped into the store, Pochica explains how to stock a shelf, and that's the end of that. No explanations on items, characters or even the goals that can be checked off. It leaves a feeling of being way out of depth to a point that some will put it down and not go back, which is never a good problem for any game to have; the simpler and easier it is to understand, the more fun is generally had, and that is lacking here.

For the stronger willed player, those that make it through those first few weeks will still have to grapple with one of the worst cameras known in modern gaming, frequently turning the character about face, jumping from screen to screen by accident and generally marring the beautiful environments the character can traverse. It really made it a trial to play at times, more often than not.

Aside from the glaring design mistakes, one major piece of content that was a missed opportunity must be a bartering system of some form. As a shop and life simulator it is imperative that area is interesting and fun but it simply isn't. A price tag is labelled, the NPC comes into the store and buys it, rinse and repeat. A bartering system could have made each sale unique and added a big component to the gameplay. One other niggle is the shoehorned story about the blue feather. The character must collect seven fragments of this feather to then grant a wish, be it for the character or someone in the town. For an item portrayed as a major part of the collection to complete, though, it really doesn't inspire any desperation on the part of the player to collect it, which is undoubtedly a drawback in the take-as-much-time-as-is-needed atmosphere of the game - quite the double-edged sword, and one that has been poorly handled.

Screenshot for Hometown Story on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Hometown Story is charming on first glance, but there are a lot of problems that overshadow it. The lack of tutorial system and of any real goals can leave a player feeling lost, bored or simply too confused to continue past the first gruelling hours of life in town. The camera is a constant niggle and the shop system is too basic. Fans of Harvest Moon will get some enjoyment out of this, but for those unfamiliar with that style of game, it is a simple but sad fact that there are other games on the market that do a similar thing but better, and are definitely worth the investment instead. With a little more work on the shop system, a camera overhaul and a better introduction to those new to the genre, a sequel could be a promising prospect. For now, however, the shop is closed for the foreseeable future.

Also known as

Project Happiness

Developer

Toybox

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

That's such a shame. I really like the work that Wada-san did whilst head of RSG in Japan, so to see him heading up this new company and delivering what looks like a sub-par Harvest Moon copy is disappointing. Hopefully it won't deter the team from working hard on a successor that rights the missteps made here...

EDIT: By the way, isn't the art director the guy that does the Pokémon characters, and the composer Nobuo Uematsu or something? I need to check, but that's lingering in my mind for some reason.

( Edited 15.07.2014 20:52 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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