#311 Harvest Moon

Posted: 22nd March 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

132nd played so far

Genre: Role-Playing Game
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Pack-In-Video
Publisher: Natsume

If you have been gaming for a number of years you tend to accumulate a lot of the games on the ‘would like to try’ list. These are not necessarily blue ribbon titles like Xenoblade Chronicles and Gears of War, in fact so many will fall into the category of “this looks strange I wonder how it plays” (for this reason only I will be buying a copy of Naughty Bear when it is sold for under a fiver).

I have been wanting to play a game in the Harvest Moon series since I saw a positive review for Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life in a copy of a long defunct Gamecube magazine. The fact that it looked like an Animal Crossing (for those who remember this was the only game that I ever imported before the blog) with the addition of farming and the removal of the evil capitalist tanuki Tom Nook just made me want to play it all the more. Time passed as it does and now nearly ten years later I will be trying a game of Harvest Moon for the very first time.

Our Thoughts

Sweeping statement of the month: This is the biggest disappointment I have yet to suffer at the hands of this blog.

Long have we wanted to talk about how we choose games. For the most part we work on a cycle which usually goes like this: Random Game, Jeroen’s Pick, Genre Catch-Up, Borrowed Game, My Pick. Some games enter randomly because we give it a go and suddenly hours pass and it’s time for bed (that’s the sole reason Cogs made it onto the blog already). The discerning reader will guess that Harvest Moon was therefore my pick and by Jove they would be right.

Thanks to Jeroen’s mother I have become addicted to online game Farmerama and I am still not entirely sure whether I am glad she did this or whether I should curse her name to the stormclouds above… anyway. As this, and my love of Animal Crossing, will show I am not opposed to games that have a repetitive and routine-like play style. As a pair of gamers I am surprised we have not egged each other on towards unlocking all the achievements for a game since we really are those sorts of players. Lego games like Lego Star Wars exempted of course – that’s probably the one game series where we both fall squarely into the trap of completionism.

The fact is that we went into this game expecting to be enchanted and won over to the country life with our little yellow dog and cows that demand to be talked to in order to obtain milk but this game just left both of us rather cold. About an hour in I was getting so desperately bored with talking hoeing the fields and answering questions from NPCs about my religious beliefs that I begged Jeroen to take over whilst I got to thinking about lesson planning. Yes, I got so bored that I would rather have done lesson planning! Having looked over Peter’s shoulder while he was playing (partially because he was the one who so desperately wanted to play), I already was less keen about that. I made it through about one in-game week, but that was simple stubbornness as much as anything else.

Why didn’t this game win us over? For a game with such a repetitive premise to work there has to be some form of validation that the game was going somewhere… and this just did not happen. If anything by the time we farmed our first turnips I just looked at the screen expecting some form of fireworks saying “Congratulations you just harvested your first crop!” with some form of anime panda dancing in the corner. Racist? Not when you’ve played as many Japanese games as I have.

ย The game does have an end, where your score depends on how well you tended your farm, how much you got out of it and how happy your character is (marriage mandatory!), but as it’s 2.5 years in, getting there requires a lot of playing. A big ask for how boring this game gets.

Final Thoughts

You know what? There is a good game in here. With some tweaks and adjustments to make the controls less awkward, the graphics more fun and the game a bit more interesting and versatile, this is a game you could enjoy. I wouldn’t even look at Animal Crossing as the best example – that game, while superficially similar, has quite a different focus. But there are so many other simulations with vaguely similar goals that this is now done better. The many sequels probably improve on this (and we know there is one in the list), but with this series, it just doesn’t seem worth starting from the beginning.