E3 2008: Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness Hands-On Impressions

Few people realize that the DS is actually a farming implement.


When we first heard that Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness grew out of an unfortunate shipwreck, we imagined a seaworthy farm filled with plants and adorable animals running aground on some remote island, tomatoes spilling everywhere. The truth is slightly less insane, but Island of Happiness brings back the fan-favorite farming formula and tucks it into your Nintendo DS handheld. We checked in at Natsume's E3 booth to put this new agricultural installment through its paces.

Despite the fact that you start off as a castaway on an island, Island of Happiness follows the traditional Harvest Moon setting in many ways. You'll begin with yourself and four others and have to build up your town (and farm, of course) from scratch. The old axiom goes, "If you build it, they will come," and it holds true in this case. As the town gradually grows, you'll attract increasing numbers of settlers and eventually end up with a bustling burg by the sea. As in previous Harvest Moon games, you'll be able to pursue a mate from among six available maidens or suitors, depending on whether or not you chose a boy or girl character.

You'll use the stylus to guide your character around the island using the touch screen. The directional pad on the DS is mapped to shortcuts for certain actions, so you can press up on the D pad to bring out your watering can, or press down to jump between locations. You can tap on the townsfolk to chat about fashion, fishing, or whatever's your fancy. The farming gameplay is still intact, which we noticed when we spent some time carefully clearing rocks, sticks, and weeds from a neglected field. You can collect items in the game called wonderful stones that can then be used on your farm tools to increase their size and capabilities. For example, you could increase the size of your watering can to water more plants, or increase the size of a milk bottle to store more milk.

The action takes place on the bottom screen of the DS, while on the top screen you'll see a map of your town along with little sprites that show your townsfolk as they mill around in different areas. It's handy if you need to find a particular person while they're out doing their errands. The character models are rendered in simple 3D as they wander through a brightly colored world, and though the visuals aren't very flashy, they do the job just fine.

Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness will be coming to the Nintendo DS in late August, so keep your eyes peeled for more info as this little farming adventure fully ripens on the vine.

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Avatar image for HarvestMoon0929

I think this game will be awesome! I sooo want it for Christmas! The stylus has never bothered me so I think it will be no task to do stuff around the farm.

Avatar image for Von-Dozier

They're just slipping these out so discreetly lately. I had no clue this or the Wii version were even announced, let alone coming out so soon. I'm an HM nut so I enjoy these :)

Avatar image for Peach100

This game looks awesome. Hopefully there aren't going to be any glitches or weird problems that the previous DS versions have had. I already pre-ordered this game though, partly because of my impatience but most of all because I do love the Harvest Moon series in a sense. Even though the previous DS versions have slightly turned me off, the Wii game and this new DS game has sparked my interest in the series again. I'm happy that you have options for both genders available instead of me having to wait for the girl version to be released.

Avatar image for Kevin75

Harvestbuddy i cuncur wholeheartedly

Avatar image for Harvestbuddy

i can't wait for this game

Avatar image for urlocalhippie

finally a worthwhile hm game

Avatar image for AmayaPapaya

hmmm...maybe i should try this game?

Avatar image for KrayzieJay

It's too bad Natsume urinate on Europeans when it comes to release dates. We can expect this on our shores probably by next year or two *grumble*

Avatar image for Yuppitt

I can't wait for this one to come out. It looks like it offers more with the way you have to build up the town.

Avatar image for tyzwain

YES! Harvest Moon returns, and not a dodgy GC remake either.

Avatar image for Nharia12

I love how they changed the formula so you have to build up the village. A very welcome addition to a long running series.

Avatar image for zombieman666

Yay harvest

Avatar image for Geodude

I hope that thing about the D-pad being mapped to shortcuts means it can be flipped so you can use the face buttons for the same thing, because I'm left-handed.

Avatar image for gmax

Wow. Even more Harvest Moon. People must like that stuff.

Avatar image for teknicz

A map on the top screen is a pretty good idea, since it's difficult to remember everyone's schedule all the time. Moving around with the stylus though...that's a bit more iffy. I hope it doesn't ruin the game, and works more like the stylus does in Animal Crossing.

Avatar image for curua02

The ability to see where the damn NPCs are hiding at any given moment is a big plus to those of us who lack the patience to write out their schedules. Sounds like an uncomplicated recreation of the good-old-fashioned farmin' fun, and I'm looking forward to it.

Avatar image for Dinkyfish

Oooooooh I can't wait! Spent in excess of 150 hours on Harvest Moon DS so this should be just as addictive :D

Avatar image for Macgyver40

should be good

Avatar image for jakeboudville

Awesome, will be looking out for more on it..loved the harvest moon back then

Avatar image for Hungry_bunny

Never gave Harvest Moon a shot, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather spend time on games with less farming in them...

Avatar image for lettuceman44

Nice, another Harvest Moon

Avatar image for playstation_wii

Whoo! I've been waiting for another Harvest Moon!

Avatar image for grambyte

Never been my type of game but I won't deny it's a nice type of game. Will get that for my girl which will give me some extra credit on that front... wink...wink...nudge...nudge.