In this age of violence and action, even in the SNES era, nobody thought that a farming game would work so well. Sure, there’s games like SimFarm for the PC. But it didn’t really catch on until Yasuhiro Wada came up with a farming idea after he visited the countryside near Tokyo. He reminisced about how good it felt to go there and what made it so special. His ideas were eventually written and programed by Pack-In Video and the game came to be known as Bokujou Monogatari (Ranch Story). After that, Natsume took over the licensing overseas and it was renamed Harvest Moon, named after a particular phase of a full moon during the Fall. This game is the first of the Harvest Moon series (also known as the Story of Seasons series due to licensing issues) and it has a unique, addictive charm to it.
You’re a nameable, silent farmer who’s just inherited a ranch. It’s up to you to restore it to its former glory. You walk and run in four directions, and you grab up to two tools from the nearby shed and use them accordingly. There is an axe to cut up stumps, a hammer to break up rocks, a hoe to till the land, and a watering can to water crops, among other tools. In addition, you can pick up objects like food, smaller rocks, and weeds and toss them. You only have so much time before evening comes before you have to go to bed, and you lose strength every time you work. When you are fully out of strength you’re unable to work, and the only way to refill that is to eat something, bathe in the mountain’s spa, or go to sleep which will cost you one day.
You need money to keep the farm running, so you’ll have to plant, water, and pick crops and throw them into the shipping bin before the shipper comes by to pick up your stuff and pay you the next day. You’ll also need to grow grass to get fodder for your cows and chickens so you can keep them happy and produce milk and eggs to sell. Meanwhile you can forage stuff from the mountains and talk to the local villagers to get tips and tricks on how to run a successful farm.
Once you upgrade your house and woo one of five local ladies from the village, you’ll be able to get married and have children. Each girl has her own unique tastes and temperament, so figure them out wisely. During the game some events from either the village or natural events will come, the most annoying are hurricanes that will make you waste a day and damage your stuff. Lastly is that each year is split up with four months based on seasons lasting up to 30 days, and you have two and a half years before the game is complete. When everything is said and done, the game will rate you based on how you did.
As any former farmer can tell you, it gets monotonous doing chores every day, but the fruits of labor are well worth it, and it has a calm sense of tranquility which is uncommon even in games back in its day. It does feel like time is slipping away no matter how hard you try because you can only carry two tools at a time and can only pick up one object at a time. I’ve also noticed some slowdown whenever I have to tend the cows; apparently that’s a little much for the SNES to handle.
The world you live in consists of your farm, the mountains up north, and a village to the west. Everything has a folksy country charm that makes you feel right at home. The characters themselves may not look much at first glance, but they all have a simplicity that makes them feel like family. The bachelorettes in town are actually pretty to look at, and even the little objects are interesting to look at.
The biggest complaint I have is that it’s obvious that someone was very lazy with the dialogue box, from grammatical errors, mistranslations (like “berry of power tree”, for instance) to some lines that’ll get choppy. It’s a real mess to look at and should’ve been more polished. On a side note, some Japanese influences will appear throughout the game, like some foods that our hero eats and the mannerisms of the weather reporter. Harvest Moon’s subtle Eastern feel makes the game more interesting, especially when knowledgeable about such things.
While the soundtrack’s tunes are simple, they’re in high quality and pack emotion for each situation, from the waltzing Spring theme to the bustling Summer theme to the busy Village theme. If there is one flaw, it’s that the tunes are too short. Perhaps they need more melodies, but that’s a minor gripe and doesn’t take away from what makes these tunes so special. The soundtrack feels more like unsung heroes compared to its contemporaries, and I’d prefer to listen to this than even its sequels for some reason, probably because they’re more spell-binding.
Even though there are some stuff that needs to be fixed, Harvest Moon is enough to make you strap down your overalls and head on down to the farm. It can be boring sometimes, but there’s nothing like getting work done, talking to the locals, and flirt with the ladies, even though time slips by and makes you wish you can do more in one day. After spending all your time blasting aliens, racing cars, questing for gold, and performing platform parkour, it’s nice to get away from it all and enjoy a nice quiet life, or at least until the game ends. Harvest Moon is a fresh breath of country air, and even the most hardened SNES fan will enjoy its addicting gameplay and slower-paced setting.
4 out of 5 Stars.
Harvest Moon – Did You Know Gaming? Feat. PeanutButterGamer [Video file]. (2014, April 19). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/uX_i5-uB_HY
Harvest moon (disambiguation). (2017, November 20). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_moon_(disambiguation)
Harvest Moon (Natsume series). (2017, November 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_Moon_(Natsume_series)
Harvest Moon (video game). (2017, July 30). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_Moon_(video_game)
SimFarm. (2017, July 6). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SimFarm
Story of Seasons (series). (2017, November 20). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_of_Seasons_(series)
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