E3 '07: Harvest Moon Wii Hands-On

We break out our spades and plant some crops in the first Harvest Moon game for the Nintendo Wii.

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In celebration of Harvest Moon's 10th anniversary (it's been that long?), developer Natsume is breaking out the big guns. The franchise makes its way to the Wii for the first time in the guise of Harvest Moon Wii and is coming in the second quarter of 2008. And it makes perfect sense. After all, what better use of the Wii Remote is there than simulating farming activities? We got some hands-on time with the game and are pleased to report it should bring fans plenty of harvesting happiness.

In Harvest Moon, you move to an island to discover a population in deep despair. The mother tree that provides bountiful crops has withered away, and the harvest goddess has gone missing. What can you do but establish relationships with the residents and restore abundance to the arid land? Like with any Harvest Moon, you establish a home and plough the fields. However, the everyday activities that mark the core of the game have the added benefit of motion controls.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

In the time we spent with the game, we got to explore various ways of using the remote. Our garden already had a selection of harvestable turnips, but we wanted to tamp down some soil and plant more. To prepare soil for planting, we equipped a trowel and flung the remote downward. Then, we equipped seeds and planted them by flinging the remote upward, which flung the seed into the air and then into the soil. But seeds need to be watered if you want crops, so we equipped a watering can, which was as easy as pressing the C button on the Nunchuk and cycling to the item. Then, we tilted our wrists in the same motion you would use to water a real plant. Voila! Our seeds were watered, and in time would become fully grown turnips. Yum.

We also had a chance to fish. We wandered up to a pond, where a fishing boy spouted a few lines in Japanese and walked away in a huff. But at least that left us room to fish, so we equipped a pole and cast our line by flinging the remote forward. When we got a bite, the remote rumbled, and we flung it backward to pull in our catch. It proved to be tastier than the turnip we had for lunch.

Of course, there is more to do than grow crops. The island is huge, and Natsume promises that this will be the deepest Harvest Moon yet. You can establish your home and farms almost anywhere you want, and if you don't like veggies, there are always animals to take care of. You can make friends with animals in the wild or raise your own, including ostriches if you're feeling particularly exotic. You also need to establish relationships with other residents, and if so inclined, you can also meet the girl (or boy) of your dreams.

And if you get tired of that, there are part-time jobs to take, where you can run errands for the local merchant or perform other tasks. And if you're good at it, you'll get a raise, which helps supplement your income from selling crops and other items. And yet we've only touched on a game that offers fans and newcomers alike loads of stuff to do. As any Harvest Moon enthusiast can tell you, maintaining a farm is more fun than it sounds, and it looks like the Wii version will be no exception. Natsume is busy localizing the Japanese text, but in the meanwhile, we'll bring you more information from the world of cow milking and pumpkin planting as it becomes available.

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