Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos Preview

Ready for the harvest this fall

By Paul Hunter

Hey, life and farming sim fans! Recently I was given the opportunity to preview Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos, the latest game from Natsume and celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the series. During the one-hour preview, I had a chance to check out all the main features of this ambitious new entry, as well as get questions answered by the developers. The game's release date is right around the corner on September 26, 2023, and it's releasing for all major platforms including PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC. Let's dive right in!

Game Performance and Open-World Exploration

First up, I learned that on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, the game will run at a smooth 60fps which is great news. The Nintendo Switch version will run below 60fps, and while the developers didn't confirm the framerate they did say the game was designed with Switch in mind and they're optimizing the performance for that console. The PS5 version during the preview was buttery smooth and looked great, and the Switch version still looked nice although I did notice brief stuttering from time to time, but keep in mind this was an earlier preview build and Natsume is still optimizing.

The preview began with our character in Lenctenbury, one of the five cities you'll visit throughout the game each based on a season. Lenctenbury is a spring-themed town full of gorgeous pink trees and lots of villagers eager to chat you up. Beyond the initial town, I was pleasantly surprised at just how huge the game's open world is, certainly much larger than expected. Your goal is to reconnect the five towns after they were separated following a volcanic eruption in the middle of the island. Being an open-world game, you have complete freedom around the order you visit towns with the game not forcing you down a linear path.

Each town has a star rating which you must bring up to five stars by completing tasks and helping out the villagers. What's neat is the towns will grow over time and shops will get new items as you improve the star rating. There are also new characters to meet in each town, including five different bachelors and bachelorettes you can form bonds with. You're able to settle down in any of the towns, but there are also pre-determined spots on the world map you build your house on if you prefer a little more me time.

The open world will have a number of different biomes to explore, some more hostile than others like the hot central volcano zone. You have to wear special outfits in these areas to avoid having your stamina meter deplete, but if it does you'll get sent back to your home where you wake up the next day. Running fast will also dwindle down your stamina, but thankfully there's a fast travel system if you want to travel between towns quickly. Around the map you can find wisps that'll give you seeds to plant at your farm, but you can also buy seeds from the vendors in town. You can also forage for fruits and other items, along with fishing at nearby ponds and lakes.

Mounts and Activities

What I found really interesting is not only can you get horses as mounts, but also a wide range of other creatures like camels, tigers and even raptors. Mounts let you get around the map quickly and also be used in races against the local citizens. Each mount will have different speeds and stats, and it seems like the raptors will be among the fastest you can get.

We were also shown the Harvest Moon Festivals which take place twice a month in the evening. Our character moved down the to beach where a bunch of wisps appeared and you're able to collect them to acquire a ton of seeds. Beyond the festivals, the game will feature a lot of activities to keep you busy from day to day. One of these includes using your camera to take photos of scenery and wildlife, including some quests that'll task you with snapping photos of specific creatures reminiscent of Pokémon Snap. Being a farming game you can, of course, also partake in activities like planting seeds, harvesting fruits and cooking meals. Fishing will be another main activity and it looks fun as you pull your fishing rod from side to side to catch fish.

While your character will begin with limited stamina and a small bag to hold items, you'll be able to increase both capacities over the adventure. We were shown a late-game save file where the character had a lot more stamina than at the beginning, allowing them to take on more activities before getting tired for the day,

Character and Home Customizations

The Winds of Anthos features a fairly robust character customization suite where you can choose to be a boy or a girl and your skin colour. The future you get into the game the more hair colours and styles you'll get to choose from as well. You can also purchase different outfits to keep your style looking fresh.

Your home can also be customized depending on your preferences with furniture bought at local shops or acquired as part of quests. You can add beds, closets, tables, wallpaper and more, and items can be replaced down the road if you change your mind or want to refresh your space with something new. You can decorate the exterior of your house as well, including adding fences, pets and other objects, along with choosing where to plant your seeds. There's also a barn near your crops where your animals will live and it has an auto-feeder in the centre to quickly distribute food to all of your pets.

Romance, Marriage and Children

One final element we were shown during the preview event is romancing the bachelor and bachelorettes within the game. In order to get married you'll need to first complete the main quest which is expected to take roughly 25 hours. From there you can choose one of the five bachelor and bachelorettes to pursue, and romancing will include a bunch of cutscenes and dialogue focused on dating and married life. We were told that you can have children but they'll remain young during the game, so they won't eventually become teenagers or adults.

Final Thoughts

It was a lot of fun getting an early sneak peek of the game and I already tell it's the largest and most ambitious of the franchise yet. There are a lot of improvements both large and subtle, from the biggest open world yet to the larger amount of customizations. I'm excited to check out the final build of the game when it drops on September 26th!

Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Natsume
Genre: Life and Farm Simulation
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)