Once upon a time, I fell in love with a game called Harvest Moon DS. It was my first foray into the ‘slow life’ genre, which includes other series like Animal Crossing. I aimlessly wandered the town, wondering what could be fun about this game, compared to something like Ace Attorney, or Mario Kart DS, or Jump Ultimate Stars. However, as I grew into a rhythm of routine, it became quite a relaxing experience for me; a way to cool off after a heated round of Mario Kart.
Sadly, after HM:DS and the excellent HM: Hero of Leaf Valley for PSP, it would not be until I was in my first year of university where I would reacquaint myself properly with the ‘Bokumono’ series, having bought a Japanese 3DS half a year earlier. I had, of course, dabbled in the third game of the Rune Factory series and had loved it, but that series was fundamentally different from the ‘slow farm life’ that HM represented. Well, now it was called ‘Story of Seasons’ – not that it mattered much as the title in Japanese was still the same.
After spending a full two in-game years of gameplay in SoS, it was announced in Japan that Bokumono would be getting a third game for 3DS – Trio of Towns. I gladly followed all the news, ooh-ed and aah-ed over the characters and triple town mechanic, and got the Japanese version of the game digitally on the first day of release. (I thought that such a game would be easier for me to play if I didn’t need to insert the game card every time.)
…And I didn’t really like it. Compared to SoS, the previous game, it was definitely more optimized and had improved on the flaws of that game, but playing the first month in the game, I’m still not convinced.
Perhaps it’s the fact that only one town is available at the start of the game – Westown. With 2/3 of the colorful cast of characters locked away, there isn’t much to do in those first two in-game weeks. It took me quite a long time to get through those first two long weeks of tutorials – there’s just nothing much to do outside of watering crops out of earning extra cash in part-time jobs or talking to the available villagers several times in a row (thankfully Marvelous improved on the amount of dialogue in this game). Part time jobs aren’t very fun and feel like a half-baked idea. Outside of the ones that ask you to ship a certain amount of crops, they are all monotonous in the type of task (such as picking a certain amount of weeds off the ground in a certain area of the map). You earn piddly cash and even requests for produce are limited to the day, unlike requests in SoS which you could keep forever until they were fulfilled.
While playing Bokumono, I tend to self-insert and do logical things I’d actually do, such as going to sleep at sensible times and not the first moment I’ve finished all the daily tasks. For the first month, that meant having a lot of free time (a bit less after Lulucoco Village opens up). Worse, the dev team chose to exclude nighttime music, which I very much appreciated in SoS compared to silence and the occasional owl hoot.
I’m a very different person from the person I was when I first played Harvest Moon DS all those years ago. Perhaps I’ve lost the ability to enjoy ‘slow life’ games now that my life in a 9-to-6 job has become a routine itself… Nevertheless, I will hold out for the hope that my slow life mojo will return for now.