Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos (PlayStation 5) Review

By Nayu 09.11.2023

Review for Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos on PlayStation 5

Announced during the Harvest Moon 25th anniversary celebrations in 2022, Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos is the newest game in the long-running farming simulation series. Developed by both APPCI and Natsume Inc, with the latter also publishing, early trailers teased sprawling landscapes in full open world glory. Will it build on the 3D foundations laid by previous entry Harvest Moon: One World and be a strong competitor in what is becoming a thriving genre among the cosy gaming community?

Continuing the series tradition of a disaster befalling the world and causing the Harvest Goddess to vanish, the Anthos adventure starts years after a volcano eruption that resulted in communities literally being walled off from each other, separating loved ones permanently. Unfortunately, the barebones character creation is a disappointment. Considering it is 2023, even if Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos based performance on the weakest system, the Nintendo Switch, it feels like there should be more changes to appearance than hair colour. Different hairstyles could have helped create a more unique look. As a long-term fan, the classic protagonist style is well liked, and hair colour can be changed at any point in the game from the multiple colours, but others may wish for more personalisation than is present.

The story starts with strong humour that is the norm with Harvest Moon; nonetheless The Winds of Anthos feels like the most joyful title to date. Perhaps it is that instead of disappearing altogether, the legendary blue haired Harvest Goddess simply has her powers diminished, along with her stature, so appears in a rather adorable chibi form. Her almost constant presence and funny personality brings great entertainment - more so than the well-known returning sidekick Doc Junior, whose invention skills certainly make travelling around the world and moving an entire farm very easy to do with the Expando-Farm tool.

Screenshot for Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos on PlayStation 5

Early on, it is clear how much has changed in this latest Harvest Moon. The item bag begins small, yet rather than being upgraded at specific story points, the method of expansion relies on collecting special harvest wisp seeds, whose total number is only revealed after the main credits roll, along with other fun extras for post-game.

Additionally, the bag not only has three different sections for items, but the decision about which part to expand is left entirely to personal choice. If someone has a penchant for obsessively collecting seeds from the plentiful Harvest Wisps, including the extra shy ones who possess more seeds than the usual ones, then if they only want to expand the seed pouch they can do that. If mining is preferred to farming - which, with the presence of regular rockfalls that stun on impact, make it a less than relaxing time - then the bag expansion can accommodate the multitude of ores available from the different mines.

The mere fact that there is choice in how upgrades happen is a massive step forward - as big as the one to allow access to main house inventory from at least one shop in every village. That alone saves a phenomenal amount of backtracking to the house just to get a specific item in storage for a village request, especially if it is not where the farm is located.

Screenshot for Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos on PlayStation 5

Aiding the community is a fundamental part of Anthos life. Once a new area has been journeyed to, and access to the walled-off location has been granted on quest fulfilment to the unique regional Harvest Sprite, crossing picturesque landscapes with different looks is made worthwhile by the friendly residents who constantly want help.

Some requests get repeated, which is useful for obtaining rarer items or a near constant supply of specific seeds. Given how easy to follow most of the tutorials are, it perhaps should have been made more obvious that once a village reaches three stars, no amount of item shipping from the home located in that town will help fill up the remaining two stars until the main festival has been unlocked and experienced, costing multiple real-time hours of patiently selling farm produce for days on end.

Thankfully, it is a joy rather than a chore to work on the farm and fulfil citizens' demands. Any monotony in farming is easily remedied by taking a stroll and trying to hunt down the special Harvest Wisps who hold the seeds needed for upgrades. They can be found under stones and across rivers that may get frozen in winter, or ponds whose water level decreases in summer just enough to hop across. These environmental access points add variety to the lands, which sometimes feel a bit empty when not running into wisps or discovering the extensive shy animals who can be tamed as pets with a lot of patience.

The world map gently illuminates those secret paths when the seasons change, yet does not show the areas where the open world balance misses the mark; sometimes the number of buildings serves no purpose other than to make it take a fraction longer to run past when scurrying to the restaurant for an energy boosting meal.

Screenshot for Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos on PlayStation 5

When not farming, a lot of time is spent collecting other resources for both house and barn expansion, as well as main and side story quests, which are marked differently on the quest list. The base game took over sixty-five hours to complete, and an extra ten hours was spent preparing to marry the chosen candidate, who does have a wide range of eligible competition to choose from in each settlement.

It is a bit disappointing that the concept of each new type of tree does not produce different wood, as both earlier titles Light of Hope and One World did. Palm trees giving the same wood as the starter village detracts from the enjoyment of felling the season appropriate colour trunks. That backwards step feels at odds with all the advancements made in Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos, such as the breath-taking starry night sky with an aurora borealis; the storms that damage a greater range of crops if the field is not protected by a fence; and reduced walking speed, realistically preventing the dash function from working.

These smaller details increase the immersion in the almost idyllic world, which becomes less desolate in decoration, as well as shop inventory when the village star ratings increase - although having flowers unique to each region rather than the same in every village would be better. The upbeat music, including in the new musical mini-games and regular seasonal festivals, are soothing to listen to. Learning the location of the valuable coffee bean trees needed to stay warm in the snowy tundra becomes as familiar as how much easier it is to fish with a higher-grade rod earned through side quest fulfilment.

The volcano area is a complete labyrinth, which in itself is good for variety, but too much time is spent traversing the same paths trying to find the all-important Harvest Goddess statues that unlock warp points, dulling future exploration enjoyment. Those with visual impairments may struggle to discern where the tell-tale cracks in the volcano mine that signify pits are against the dimly lit lava levels. Mercifully, there are brighter floors further down; level variation beats the monotonous brown landscapes of older Harvest Moon mines.

Screenshot for Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Utilising the vibrant style of previous instalments, Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos accomplishes open world exploration with flair and delight. Natsume has made significant quality of life improvements that truly enhance the positive vibes encompassing life in Anthos. The elements that decrease the overall perfection level matter less once swept up in the whimsical melodrama of the chibi Harvest Goddess, who has a surprise for those who make it to the end credits and continue their farming life past the main story.

Developer

Natsume

Publisher

Natsume

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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