Nobody understands the concept of making your brands work for you better than Natsume. The publisher's venerable Harvest Moon franchise has gone through more installments than most game franchises combined, and now it's even branching out into new genres. One such genre is the puzzle genre, which it has branched out into with Puzzle de Harvest Moon. We had a chance to check the game out at E3 2007, and we were pleasantly surprised by what we played.
Natsume wanted to make it clear from the get-go that this is not some rehashing of an old puzzle game with Harvest Moon stamped on the box. The developers of Puzzle de Harvest Moon have built the gameplay from the ground up. In the game, you play against three opponents, working to harvest as many crops as you can. You're offered four different icons: water, seeds, fertilizer, and a harvest basket. Each of these four icons is basically a play you can make on the game board, which every player is using at the same time. Basically, the idea is to plant seeds then water and fertilize them until they grow into crops. Then you harvest the crops by putting them in a basket.
The catch is that you won't always have all four icon types available to you. For instance, sometimes you'll have three water icons and a fertilizer. The idea is to keep cycling through the game pieces as quickly as possible, which sometimes means watering and fertilizing other people's crops so you can get new pieces to come up. Additionally, if you have a crop that's fully grown but no basket, you can simply scratch away at it with the stylus, and that will harvest it--it just happens to take a little longer this way.
The game progresses through four seasons, and at the end of winter, the winner is declared depending on the point totals from crops harvested. You have the option to harvest other people's crops too, if you manage to get to them. But these crops won't give you as many points as your own and will, in fact, still give points to the opponent who planted them. You'll also be able to use animal power-ups, ranging from chickens to giant cows, which affect gameplay in a variety of ways. The game can be played with up to four players via Wi-Fi and strikes us as being a potentially enjoyable multiplayer game, given the way you can steal from or mess with your opponents.
Puzzle de Harvest Moon seems to be shaping up nicely and will ship for the DS this October. Look for more on Puzzle de Harvest Moon on GameSpot soon.