Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon

[I]"So, this is a Harvest Moon right?"

"Yeah, so it's like farming and babies and all that stuff."

"But, Harvest Moon is the subtitle, not the main title..."

"Wait, lemme see that box-art. Dude, that's looks like Secret of Mana... with an ATV."[/I]

So, it goes that Innocent Life has some of the hallmarks of a Harvest Moon, but in practice it is a brand new beast for a brand new era. Set quite comfortably in the future, where our hero begins the game on Heartflame Island. Advanced technology and robots take care of most of the needs of the island's inhabitants, but word is that there's trouble a brewin'. It seems that the island is home to an ancient curse. It'll be up to you to break this curse by unlocking the ancient lands that have been sealed away from humans. Time is running out, Heartflame Island is in trouble, but you've still gotta keep those crops growing and those animals grazing!

Those familiar with life under a Harvest Moon will know that part of the deal. You grow crops, you tend to your animals, and you visit town to sell your goods and keep the farm in tip-top shape. Things grow, and the seasons change. The sun goes up, you plant, you sell and you tend with loving dedicated care. The sun goes down, and it's time to call it a day. Wake up the next, and hope those vegetables you planted start sprouting. Uh oh, feels like a storm is brewing. It's the farm life, it's Harvest Moon, you deal with the bad, you enjoy the good and then you move on. It's that sort of mix of The Sims with seeds (Yes, I know Harvest Moon was first!) that has kept fans coming for every sequel since the SNES days.

But with that said, things might be a little different now that there's indeed a story to contend with. Supporting characters like your mentor, the improbably named Professor Hope, and a mysterious mermaid help propel the story on. And then ultimately there's solving the mystery surrounding yourself as well. What? Did you think you choose to be a farmer just cause you felt like it?

It's a different world, that's for sure. And with that comes a markedly different style. The round and cuddly chibi-headed caricatures find themselves replaced with tall angular character designs. In game, they take on the shorter stubby, caricatures Japanese RPG's can be known for, but the edge is still there. They lend themselves well to the PSP's screen, and from the looks of things the graphics are quite good. Heartflame Island may be a departure from the down-home scenarios of the previous titles, but the new setting features everything from scenic coastal cliffs to the island's central volcano and it all appears rather lovely. The whole island is yours for the unlocking; driving around on your little future ATV, it should be a real treat to uncover new tropical themed vistas day after farming filled day.

It's the 10th anniversary of this venerable series, and publisher Natsume must've felt we're due for a change. So does it peak your interest? Releasing in the States just a little before the DS companion piece, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, it will be interesting to see how long time fans will take to the changes. Or which one they flock to more. Innocent Life releases this May, just in time for the spring planting. Hopefully it grows into a wonderful harvest.