When I was offered the opportunity to review this game, I was thrilled! I wanted to experience the Harvest Moon franchise for a long time and I heard that this particular game was originally received quite well. Now with its debut on the 3DS Virtual Console, I have the opportunity to check it out myself.
Harvest Moon starts with the option to choose your character’s gender, name and pet – either a cat or a dog. For the benefit of this review, I named the cat after my friend Rob (sorry Rob). Once the formalities are over, the game begins with a visit from your character’s deceased grandfather in spirit form, encouraging you to take control of the ranch that he has left behind, vowing to keep a watchful eye over your progress and promising to visit you at the end of each year to assess your development. And so your journey to fulfil your grandfather’s ambition for you to become Ranch Master begins.
To start, your ranch is littered with a mess of stones and weeds which consume the landscape. But with the use of the many tools found in your shed and some hard work, you can begin to create a space for your crops. By hoeing the land, you can create a suitable environment to grow a variety of different crops, which will eventually be your main source of income.
To anyone playing the game for the first time, I advise you to position yourself perfectly on the land so you’re in the centre of a 3X3 area. If you’re not, you may miss out on crop growth, as some of those much-needed potatoes and corn can be lost. It’s also important to note that crops will die off at the end of each season, so be sure to grow and harvest your crops before the season changes.
Time moves quickly in Harvest Moon, in those early days you may struggle to complete all your designated tasks, something I found quite frustrating. The good news is that this does become easier as you progress through the game, acquiring better items will make those jobs much less tedious.
For example, at first, you will only be able to water your crops with a simple watering can which can only water one crop at a time and needs to be replenished often. But later you can obtain a sprinkler which will not only water several crops at once but will not need to be refilled.
You may even get lucky and have a rainy day where you don’t have to water your crops at all! Stronger tools can be obtained later, which makes these tasks less of a chore and gives you the opportunity to explore many other ways to improve your ranch.
Taking a trip into town offers you the opportunity to buy animals, food and other plants. You can even pray at the church for good fortune, which could result in a blessing from the Harvest Goddess. As the seasons pass by, you will be able to expand your ranch, upgrade your home, plant new crops and interact with people from the town through special events like a picnics and festivals. Having some time to yourself can also increase your happiness rating, which is important if you wish to become Ranch Master. Eventually, you will start to see your ranch grow and hopefully, your hard work will start paying off.
Unfortunately for me, I felt the game was a bit too slow to start and didn’t grab my interest as much as I thought it would. I also feel that experiencing this game in 2013 has been a huge disadvantage to me and not allowed me to appreciate it properly, as the game looks quite dated.
In terms of the game’s music, I found it to be quite repetitive. For a game that demands a lot of your time, the last thing you need is recurring music, which got so annoying that I had to mute the 3DS! On the positive side, this game did feel less of a chore when I got improved tools and it certainly kept me occupied for a long period of time. Clearing out the ranch of weeds and boulders in the early stages of the game was even somewhat relaxing…