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3DS  header logo

Hometown Story

For: 3DS   Also on: Android, iPhone

Smalltown charm

Product: Hometown Story Pocket | Publisher: Natsume | Format: 3DS | Genre: Time management | Players: 1 | Version: US
 
Hometown Story Pocket 3DS, thumbnail 1
To appreciate what Hometown Story is, it's important to first understand what it isn't.

It's not a town simulator, as one might expect it to be since it was born from the mind of Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada.

It's also not a gentle game. There's no tutorial to speak of, camera angles are as inflexible as the immutable flow of time, and there are a lot of rough edges around the story.

But if you can forgive these faults, Hometown Story is - perhaps - the perfect "mobile" game for the 3DS, and it's ideally suited to snack-sized gaming sessions.

Homegrown

Hometown Story
begins very much like Dickens's A Christmas Carol, except instead of Jacob Marley being dead to begin with it's your grandmother who has passed on.

This point is crucial, as you inherit her shop, and the game beats you over the head with your gran's passing at least five times in the modest introduction.

Once you come to terms with that tragedy, it's time to start selling produce.

If that seems like an awkward transition, believe me, it's no smoother in the game. You wander into the shop, happen across the inscrutable fairy Pochica, and are told to start selling things almost in the same breath as you hear about your nana's death.



Like so much the shop itself, however, you'll get from Hometown Story what you put into it.

You can sit back and sell single eggs on a lone table and be perfectly content with your meager profits, or you can pop into the menu, discover more tables to setup, and expand your operations to include everything from fresh fish to toy robots.

This is a game that rewards discovery and experimentation, which is convenient since it doesn't really lead you many places.

Homestyle

Early in Hometown Story, I was reminded of the time I spent working retail in high school.

After a few days in the game, I began to invent lyrics to the background music and found myself glaring daggers at the backs of windowshopping customers as my mute shopkeeper stumbled blithely through 18-hour work days.

Thankfully, each of these days only mapped out to 12-13 minutes in the real world, and I learned to break up the tedium of selling items by exploring the town around the shop.

While enjoyable, this exploration is something that Hometown Story never told me I could do at any point in the tutorial or manual. In fact, I spent the first few days terrified at the prospect of stepping outside of my store.



Once I wandered outside, however, Hometown Story really hit its stride.

Outside of the four walls of your shop, you can forage for goods, learn about the lives - and needs - of the townsfolk, and pop in to visit your customers at their jobs for a change.

You can only relate to these NPCs through commerce - you're a shopkeeper after all - but you're rewarded with expanded storyline elements if you go out of your way to stock items that characters want or need.

Unfortunately, you don't want to dive into this aspect of the game too quickly since you can only sell items when you're in your store. So if you spend every day exploring and chatting to the locals, you'll find that your shop hasn't really progressed.

Home sweet home?


On paper, Hometown Story should be a great game.

Legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu provides a handful creative songs for the soundtrack, and the art by Pokemon character designer Atsuko Nishida is expectedly warm and welcoming.

But there's just something missing from Hometown Story - namely, a cohesive storyline and a tutorial - that keeps it from earning a place among better reviewed sim-type games like Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns or Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Were it a cheaper game, it'd be an easy recommendation for every 3DS owner since it's incredibly easy to pick up and put down.

At its full asking price of $39.99 / £27.99, however, it might be too steep an investment for many to justify when there are richer, fuller, and more story-driven town sims available for the 3DS.

If you're in the market for a casual game, you could certainly do much worse than Hometown Story - and chances are good that you'll enjoy it, so long as you're not expecting a Harvest Moon experience and are content with 12-13 minute play sessions.
 
Hometown Story
Reviewer photo
Matthew Diener | 5 November 2013
Quick to pick up but difficult to master, Hometown Story's a tough sell but will yield an investment of enjoyable, quick play sessions if you're patient
 
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