Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Harvest Moon (SNES)

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Harvest Moon, a game which is shockingly not about harvesting moons but instead is about building up your own successful farm and starting a family. Naturally one would assume that such a concept for a game would fail immediately and slip into the cracks of gaming history as another failure, however Harvest Moon did none of that. Harvest Moon and all the subsequent games in the series which would follow all garner a massive following, this game over the past decade has transformed Natsume a formerly small video game designing and publishing company from making adequate licensed games to producing exclusively Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon spin-off games.

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Serious Farming.

in Harvest Moon you play as a young man who inherits a decrepit farm from a recently departed family member, upon arriving you meet the people of the nearby village and the man who collects the goods you ship, then you adopt a dog. There is no true story to this game and it essentially never ends as once you get married and have a kid the game keeps going on.

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He sure got the raw end of the deal. :/

One of the more interesting aspects of the game is courting system, the courting system is the mathematical system used to determine how much whichever woman you are attempting to woo like or dislike you. Each potential lady in the game has there own set of likes and dislikes and a certain value of increase or decrease to the level in which they like you dependent upon your actions and gifts you give to her.

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Ladies~

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Don't think Harvest Moon is all about the ladies though as the main brunt of the game is operating a successful farm. Unbelievably running a successful farm takes a great deal of time, patience, and stick-to-itiveness. With the games internal world time where every second of real world time is equivalent to a minute, that generally equates to time passing rather quickly so you have to choose your priorities, ladies, or running your farm and getting money (the answer is running your farm). On your farm you are given the option of ranching livestock or farming crops as a way of earning a living on your farm (you can also do both if you so please).

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Like a boss!

Both farming and ranching have their own unique tool sets, many of these tools you start out with and over time more advanced tools become a available that you can purchase. Just like with the ability to purchase better tools you can also purchase additions to your house after collecting a certain amount of wood and money.

If you want to grow any plants you’ll need to purchase them, though that doesn’t under any circumstance mean that you can just purchase any seeds you want, certain seeds are only ever available during certain seasons; the only seed which you can get during any season is grass seed, so any and all other seeds are exclusive to specific seasons. You can also purchase less important items such as food or drinks neither of which you get to keep as they are both instantly consumed by the character.

Harvest Moon has a decent amount of things to do in the game as there are several hidden areas that can only be accessed after a certain point in time, the main element of the gain (i.e. Farming/ranching) are the main draws of the game, and both of which are done remarkably well as plants need to be consistently taken care of in order for them to produce any product, the same can be said for any of the animals you rear as they require both affection, feeding, and milking/egg collecting(?). I personally found that over the course of the entire series you aren’t provided with much in the way of startup money or materials so most of your first couple of weeks will be spent collecting various odds and ends that are laying around the place (i.e. grass, rocks, fish, wood, mushrooms, berries) and shipping them as your main source of income. Some alternatives to farming and ranching can be mining or fishing as they both present themselves as options once you get the right tools.

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Manly Things.

Character interactions aren’t very diverse as many characters who are not potential wives provide little useful dialogue, The most you will get out of the NPC’s will be special events and festivals which happen on specific dates over the course of a year, even then they won’t say much aside from comments on the particular event.

Harvest Moon isn’t the kind of game where graphics really matter, but the game has very nice sprites and the player sprite in particular has a plethora of animations which are all amusing at worst. Harvest Moon has very unobtrusive background music that will fade in and out depending on the time of day at whatever season it currently. In my opinion that is how background music should very well be, unobtrusive and doing nothing more then setting the tone for whatever it is that goes on.

Harvest Moon is essentially a reality sim wherein you play as a Farmer/Rancher and seek to be the best at what it is you do. It’s a very solid game with a great deal of replay value for its intended audience, however Harvest Moon has little to no appeal to those who are not interested in game where the only content is growing plants and raising some cows. I’d also like to point out that the game is far from perfect, once you are married and have your child the game falls into a limbo where you’ve essentially “beaten” the game (though I’ve noticed this is a problem in pretty much all the games though). I’d recommend this game to anyone who is already a fan of the series, or to any person(s) who are fans of more casual games as this game has great pick up and play value. Harvest Moon the first game of the series is by far the purest incarnation and I’d say the only other game to perfectly emulate the formula would be the Gameboy Color games, so if you are interested in a game about farming or ranching I’d suggest giving this game a looksee, or its Gameboy versions as they are fairly similar.

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“It was at that moment upon reaching the summit that I realized, I forgot to water the onions this morning.”

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