One particularly interesting title that we could not pass up on was Natsume’s upcoming Hometown Story, a new IP created by Yasuhiro Wada the original creator of the beloved Harvest Moon. Except in Hometown Story rather than taking ownership of a farm, you are improving a small shop that your Grandmother has left to you.
Sounds pretty straightforward, and it is, which is what is making this game all the more alluring and endearing to myself. I know that I wasn’t the only one who played Theme Park and spent far too much time rising my prices, buying low and selling high. In fact the most recent example of a game on this whole idea; Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale just goes to prove how addictive and popular the concept is, and this experience is totally possible in Hometown Story, except there’s a bit of a Harvest Moon style catch.
Harvest Moon has never been just about the farming, and the second priority to raising your dilapidated farm is to forge relationships with those in the town adjoining to your plot of land, and this is still very much the case in Hometown Story, the town, like your shop will start off small, allowing for a few shelves and a few items on sale, as you grow and gain the friendships of those around you, your shop will flourish, and they themselves will grow.
As typical features of a Harvest Moon title you are able to play as either a male or female avatar, and you can befriend and marry any number of the inhabitants of the town, as time goes on the populace of the town will grow old, multiply, not to mention come and go, and you'll find that there over 100 characters to interact with in your town.
Now you won’t be alone on your quest for the best shop that the world has ever seen, joining you is Pochica; a small floating ball of fluff that will aid you in setting up the shop, giving you pointers and being as helpful as possible.
There are two aspects of Hometown Story that aren’t essential to play, but embracing the two will lead to the ultimate experience that the game has to offer; obviously you want your shop to do well, you’ll need to buy items, keep your shelves stocked up and physically take money from your customers — don’t worry they’ll form an orderly queue and wait patiently for you. The only trouble is, outside your shop confines is a quaint town full of characters that have their own stories, but they won’t just come to you, you’ll need to reach out to them which may result in new items for your shop, gifts and friendships, weighing up the relationships and the amount of time you put into your work is key to a balanced store, just the same as working out on the fields.
Now running a shop is a little different to the solitary job of working on a farm, however in a similar fashion your shop can be expanded, and goods can be purchased and sold. However many you have a certain item, it is important to note that in Hometown Story you can only place down one item on a shelf at a time, this means that when the item has sold your shelf space is empty and you must restock if you wish to make any money. There are no automated check-outs in your home town, and so each customer must be dealt with individually, whilst in the specially created E3 demo there were no issues with customers stood around waiting patiently for you to sell them your wares, we were informed that they will not wait forever to give you their money, and relationships can be affected if you decide you don’t want to deal with a particular character, and they will get angry and storm off.
Now just because Hometown Story sounds like the average Japanese cutesy game doesn't mean you won't be able enjoy the simple thrill of buying low and selling for the highest profit, after all this is a game that comes off of the success of 16 years of Harvest Moon. If you wish to make the most profit off of your wears then play your customers like a real shop! Stock up on items like strawberries when they're cheap and in season, and then sell them in the Winter when they are not so common and make a much higher profit!
Hometown Story is a beautifully heart-felt game, that is only exemplified with a score from the legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu who is probably most well-known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. It sounds pretty saccharine but in all honesty there are just not enough games out there doing what Wada-san does so well. Hometown Story is scheduled for a release during October 2013 in the USA and early 2014 for Europe, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.