For when you just have to run a shop.
Rising Star Games have brought Hometown Story on 3DS, from famed Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, to the UK so that players everywhere can start running their very own little shops. Retail simulation it is, then…
Hometown Story drops the player into the thick of it when telling the player that their Nana has died and left them her shop, which must be up and running immediately. Through building up a budding retail empire from this small, one display store, players will revitalize the forest town and bring prosperity to all.
At least, that is what I would imagine the story to involve, if the game had any story beyond “run your dead Nana’s shop”. The lack of story, or any other method for pushing the player forward in the game beyond earning money, leaves a gaping hole in Hometown Story, and it seems it is not the only thing missing.
A tutorial would have been nice. Something to explain what is going on and how to progress in the game. Much of what is to come in Hometown Story will be left for the player to discover for themselves, which can lead to very slow progression. Cut scenes seem to move the game along, which are very nice by the way, but triggering those cut scenes will involve much exploration and random acts.
Running the shop itself, which does seem to be the core of the game, is relatively straight forward. The player will buy goods from a visiting supplier and then put them, one at a time, on a display table to sell. Players will start with a single table, but can easily expand once their customer base grows and their stock increases.
Customers will come in to the store, sometimes looking to buy a specific item. The preferred items of customers are occasionally easy to figure out, but sometimes will involve rushing to the list of encountered characters and finding out. While it is handy to have a list, the action of finding out and then getting the item on display can be somewhat tiresome. Once the customer has chosen what they want to buy, ring it up at the register and collect the cash. Leave a customer waiting at the register too long and they will throw a strop and leave. It is all pretty much basic customer service.
As previously mentioned, a supplier will come to the shop at regular intervals to provide new goods. However, there are other ways of gathering stock, but they involve leaving the store and exploring the rather large, and sparsely inhabited to begin with, town. It would make sense to leave the store when you are not working, but as the store is open from 6am to midnight each day, and you are the only employee, exploring the town will mean leaving the store unattended, and missing out on potential customers. Still, there is a whole town out there and staying in the shop can get a little boring, so it is worth the risk.
As the game progresses, more characters will come to the town. But at the beginning, there is not a lot to do. The gameplay outside the store will consist mostly of talking to the various characters that the player comes across, getting to know them and even picking up the occasional side quest. These revolve mostly around finding items, which can be a quest in itself as the characters wander quite freely around the town. It can also be difficult to keep track of the various requests as there is no log. The town layout is large and muddled, further complicating things.
So, leave the store to fish, forage and gather information. Stay in the store to sell the stuff you have gathered or bought, buy new stuff and fulfill your customer’s needs for increased rewards. That is pretty much Hometown Story in a nutshell. It is not the deepest of games, yet manages to be confusing at every turn. However, there is a certain amount of peaceful fun to be had, and the game thankfully looks and sounds good.
Hometown Story appears to have the charm of the Harvest Moon games, but seems to falter when it actually comes to the gameplay. There are too may aspects missing, too much of the progression is entirely random, and the remaining gameplay is just too repetitive. It is not all bad, there is enjoyment to be found in Hometown Story, but it feels like the game just missed the opportunity to be the Harvest Moon of retail. Instead, the game just seems to imitate the monotony of retail in the real world.