Petit Novel Series: Harvest December is something of an oddity on the Nintendo 3DS. While many Japanese games have strong visual novel elements, such as the Fire Emblem and Ace Attorney series which have anime-style character art and branching story paths based on player decisions, the only ”pure” visual novel on the 3DS to date has been Hakukoi.
Harvest December changes that, joining the 3DS eshop roster as a visual novel without any gameplay, selling itself exclusively on its story. What’s more surprising is that this story is unabashedly aimed at more mature audiences, containing as it does jokes about baby-making and penis sizes alongside serious romantic drama; this makes Harvest December seem quite a strange choice for the Nintendo 3DS, a console typically marketed at little children wanting the newest Mario game.
Harvest December is translated and localised from the Japanese by publisher Circle Entertainment. It was originally released in Japan in 2007, as a series of separate stories on the PC, each segment published monthly in keeping with the story’s timeline. This 3DS release contains all of these segments in one package, allowing one to experience the complete story. The translation is good, barring the occasional typo (the “it’s” instead of “its” mistake comes up on more than one occasion), which is pretty important plus-point given that Harvest December is essentially a novel.
A particularly welcome feature, taking into consideration the story’s Japanese setting, is the inclusion of an in-game glossary. Certain terms which are likely to be unfamiliar to western readers are highlighted, and clicking on them will bring up a definition. For example, tapping on “Tamagoyaki” with the stylus tells me that it’s “a sweet Japanese rolled omelette” – the more you know! The other controls are simple: A to advance the story; Y to open the backlog of dialogue; Start to open the options menu, wherein you can adjust the text speed, and the music and the sound effect volume. You can also bookmark where you’re up to in the story by saving your progress.
Unlike typical games where the story is only one element of many, in visual novels it is the main consideration. Harvest December’s story centres on Masaki, a high school boy who, upon moving from Tokyo to the countryside, gets involved in a rather remarkable love triangle. One party is Yuki, the naïve daughter of the most affluent family in the area, who instantly confesses her love to Masaki on his first day at his new school. The other is Shiro, a goddess who acts as the deity of the town, and who rides around on a giant white wolf. You see, Masaki is irrevocably attracted to the unusual, and thus agrees to become the lover of both of these exceedingly strange girls. The story develops as Masaki grows closer to both girls, and must decide which, if either, is truly the one for him…
With such a fantastical set-up, it works to Harvest December’s advantage that it makes good use of humour at its start, as trying to play the story as straight drama would have made it hard to connect with. The humour is definitely one of the visual novel’s strong points, and it isn’t afraid of leaning on the slightly inappropriate side to get laughs. For example, there is a girl in the main character’s class who likes to imagine setting up her male classmates with one another. However, once the characters and setting are established the story does start becoming more serious. It’s not Shakespeare, but the story is far more engaging than a visual novel on the 3DS has any right to be.
The visual part of visual novel is good, with cute anime art and backgrounds which, although basic, are effective in setting a tone. The music is similarly low-key (it’s unlikely to be anyone’s OST of the year), but serves its purpose well enough. Those used to visual novels on the PC may be put out by the lack of any character voices, but their absence doesn’t detract from the story at all.
Overall, whether you’ll want to get this or not depends on one thing: do you fancy reading a story on your 3DS? If not, then stay well away, as the story is all there is here in this visual novel. If yes, Harvest December is a nice little tale (deserving of its “Petit Novel” subtitle) that will keep you entertained for a good few hours.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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