It has been a long time since I played a Harvest Moon game — we’re talking Harvest Moon 64. Despite that long absence, I’ve always had a special place for the series. So when it arrived on iOS with Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories I decided the time had finally come to return to a simpler life.
Speaking of simplicity, the controls here are straightforward and function well given the constraints of a smallish touch screen. You can either drag your finger or touch a spot to move there, and tapping in the lower left-hand corner toggles between conversation and work mode.
When in the latter touching a space will cause you to take a contextually appropriate action, such as tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering or busting up rocks. The only drawback to this you’ll invariably end up clicking somewhere you didn’t mean to, prepping the soil and screwing up the picturesque farm you’d been trying to create.
Touching on an NPC will trigger a conversation and, if they have any goods to peddle, bring up a list of available items to purchase or sell. The lower-right corner opens your pack, giving you access to all your items (wood, minerals, seeds, fish, etc.). Everything functions well enough.
Visually, I’m not a big fan of Seeds of Memories. There’s a generic quality to the graphics that lacks much of the charm that the older titles possessed — of course, they’re developed by different companies, which helps explain it. This mostly applies to the human characters, as the animals and plants are pretty cute, but when you compare it to screenshots of the upcoming Stardew Valley, which is hardly a graphical powerhouse, it just doesn’t measure up.
In terms of gameplay, Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is a solid experience. There’s sort of a story and an overall goal in place, but there’s no urgency to pursue it. Instead, you’re free to engage in the classic activities of the series (growing crops, fishing, raising animals, expanding your farm, getting married, etc.) at your leisure.
That sort of hands off approach makes it a nice fit for mobile gaming, allowing you to jump in anytime you’ve got 5-10 minutes to spare and do some virtual chores with an almost immediate return on investment.
In-game days progress at a steady clip, and each physically exerting activity you take part in drains your health (you begin with five hearts). Once your meter empties you’ll need to call it day, though eating food or visiting the nearby hot springs will replenish your stamina.
By its very nature there’s a routine built into Seeds of Memories as daily tasks need to be completed, such as watering crops and feeding animals, and the game isn’t always clear as to how to move forward in doing certain things. Plus, by playing in such short spurts it’s easy to forget the schedules of the various merchants, which can stymie larger projects.
A calendar of events offers chances to break up the day-to-day grind, including character birthdays and various festivals, but there’s no denying that most play sessions blend into one another. While I enjoyed the pseudo serenity of shearing virtual sheep and micromanaging my farm, there’s no doubt some will be turned off by such mundane pursuits.
At $9.99 Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories is a pricey iOS title. It offers a healthy amount of content and a user-friendly interface, but it lacks some of the charm of older Harvest Moon titles. Still, I largely enjoyed my time down on the virtual farm.