System: Super Nintendo
Publisher & Developer: Natsume
Capabilities: Battery Backed Memory
The date is mid 1997, with only about a year left of games for the Super Nintendo to come, Nintendo has just abandoned publishing games for the SNES, with only publishing 3 titles in 1997, the only one being noteworthy was Kirbys Dreamland 3, the other 2, were two repackaged arcade classics which were Space Invaders, and Arkanoid: Doh it Again. So it was mostly up to the 3rd Party developers bringing out the hits in 1997, in which we saw THQ help EA Sports release the last bundle of sports games for the 98 season of games and some other notorious adventure games which turned out to be sleeper hits came out, one Interplays long overdue sequel, The Lost Vikings 2, and the other one this game, Harvest Moon (I forget the Japanese name of the game, but according to my research a staff member at Nintendo Power helped named the first North American version of this game) was released by Natsume around the same time. Will this manage to help the SNES survive a tad longer? Lets get onto the review and find out.
Heres the scoop: You live on a farm, and your parents say they are going away for 1 and a half years and want you to maintain the farm for them and make it a big success when they come back. In that year and a half, you must maintain healthy crops, make sure your livestock is wealthy, and keep on making enough money to pay the bills. And in your spare time, you can go over to the town and join in on festivals, and try to experience dating other girls, and even end up getting married and having a kid. Then you can also explore around the country and find hidden caves and ferry fountains in a weird NES Zelda type of way. So this game surprisingly combines the elements of the adventure, RPG, and Dating Sim genres and roll them all into one for a very unique and innovative game.
When the game came out in mid 1997, the graphics were pretty much the peak of what the SNES could handle for overhead map type of games. Everything was drawn out nicely and looked perfectly normal. We could easily make out the countryside dirt, the crops, and all the tools. The games animations moved at a fast pace. Like your character would basically speed walk throughout the whole game to keep up with the short time span of the game. The games menus were easy to navigate and understand. The characters were drawn pretty big, about, say, twice the size as the characters in Final Fantasy 3/6. But the detail of the characters seemed to lack more than the FF dudes. Like for your main farmer, all he had was a simple pair of overall colored with just a few shades of blue, and a barely noticeable white undershirt. And his face was a simple two dots and one line lip. But despite the lack of character design, most are really easy to tell apart and shouldnt be a problem for most gamers.
Well, its the SNES, and just like the 98% of the rest of Super NES games, it had midi music for its backgrounds. It was basically an old county type tune youd hear off a Shinaya Twain song. Its simple, but gets the job done and is easy on the ears. You get different tunes for other areas of the game like in caves you get a creepy type tune youd hear in most other RPGs, and a kind of lively type music youd hear when in a town. If you still dont understand me, Ill sum it up in a nutshell: Besides the country tune, most of the other music is stuff youd hear off any Final Fantasy game. The sound effects are typical of all the other SNES games, like little whisper type sounds for when you use most of your tools, and other sets of bleeps and such for the rest of the game. Pretty average music for your regular RPG.
Controls are a piece of cake, just walk around with the control pad, and the rest of your buttons pop up your menus and are your action buttons to talk to people and use your tools. There are many elements involved in playing this game, and it will take a while to get them all down. First you need to understand the way time goes in the game. See, about 45 seconds is an hour, so each day lasts about 7-10 minutes. But time only goes by when youre out in the country, and not while your in town, or any shops or farm sheds. Also when time goes by, your make believe energy bar goes down, and when youre in the fields pretty late at night (and the games graphics do let you know when by making everything shaded a little darker) your farmer will start to get down on a knee, and eventually pass out. But by eating some of the crops in the fields, or relaxing in a spring, youll get all your energy back. You always gotta make sure to get plenty of rest so youll be ready to go when morning comes.
Farming is kind of a pain, but much like the real life experience. First you clear out the portion of land you want to farm by destroying all the rocks and boulders in the way then you got to make sure that all your crops are surrounded by fencing so your live stock doesnt eat it. Then you got to take care of it, by first planting the seeds, then by plowing it with the right tools, then by watering them, and in a few days theyll grow. Make sure to harvest them at just the right time, or else theyll spoil. You can also upgrade your farming equipment, like from a how to a plow, and from a sprinkler that waters one patch of crops at once to one that waters 4 patches of crops at once. Then you take your bundle to your shed and wait for the delivery man to stop by and pay you for your crops. Thats your source of income, theres other ways too, like selling certain items you find in the fields like mushrooms and radishes, but farming the primary source.
The last part of main game play here is the optional dating part of the game. There are several types of girls in this game for you to choose from, each representing a different class of society. Like you got the jolly farmer gal and the stuck up rich girls and the nerd, smart girls. You meet with them, and can keep them happy by buying them stuff at the town market like flowers, chocolates, and other gifts, and take her to the towns festivals so you guys always have fun. Once you build a strong relationship, you can pop the magic question and get married. She then moves in with you, but you need to improvise your farm with extra space, so you go to the carpenter, and you can pay him off to add on to the house. Keep your wife happy by buying more gifts and keep on talking to her, or else shell leave you, and dont you dare try to cheat on her, or else shell find out. Eventually you guys will have a kid together, and live a happy life.
Yes, this game does have lots of replay value. You owe it to yourself to play through the game at least twice (Each time through lasts about 25-40 hours, depending how much time you spend in the shops and towns). Once as a farmer on his own trying to make it loads of money. And the other time trying to live out a happy life with your wife. Theres lots of secrets to, like going to certain places on certain days will unveil key moments in the games storylines. At the end of the year and a half, the game tells your total amount of income, and the points you earned on dating, farming, and everything else you did. It is nice to keep tabs on your previous scores to see if you could beat them again your next time through.
+: Simple, yet addictive game play, lots of ways to play out the game, pretty good graphics and sound
-: Farming can be a bit on the tedious side, characters aren't detailed that great
The Final Ratings Rundown
Game play: 9.6
Replay Value: 9.2
Rounded to fit GameFAQs Score: 9
Well, after this game came out around the same as The Lost Vikings 2, and Nintendos last 3 SNES games I mentioned earlier, the days for the SNES were numbered. Only 5 other titles were released after it. THQ and EA Sports released the 98 editions of Madden NFL Football, NHL Hockey, and NBA Live. In mid 1998, Midway released, Arcades Greatest Hits Volume 1: The Atari Collection, and the last SNES game was released in October 1998, which was a mediocre rehash of the arcade classic, Frogger, by Majesco. The Harvest Moon series, however, did quite good. It re-released the original on Game Boy, then release another exact version of the game with a couple of additions and new color graphics for the Game Boy Color, and then released a sequel about a year later. There were also 3-D Harvest Moon games for Playstation and Nintendo 64. About a year after Harvest Moon came out, Legend of the River King came out for Game Boy, which was basically a fishing version of Harvest Moon, and some battles were involved in the game as well. A color version of the game was released on GB Color a few months later, followed by the Legend of the River King 2 a year later. And finally, about a year or two ago, the one time hit, Legend of the Sea King was released on Game Boy Color, which was a lot like River King, but with lots of new elements mixed into game play.
This game turned out to be surprisingly good. And it turned out to be one of the greatest games Ive ever played on the Super Nintendo. If you can manage to come across a copy of this game, you have to buy it, and if you liked The Sims, this game has a lot of elements from that game, and youll easily get hooked on the game once you allow yourself the time to do so.