Review by DandyQuackShot
"Two And a Half Years to Prove You Have What It Takes"
Natsume is a company that can take a boring concept and make it the most entertaining thing out there to date. In fact you cannot find Harvest Moon 64 for under $30 anywhere. This just goes to show how amazing this game really is. The concept of Harvest Moon is boring. The goal of the game is to prove to your very uptight father that you have what it takes to become a self sustaining farmer after you inherit your grandfather's farm. By doing so you will have to clear and work the land, raise livestock, develop cooking, caring, and social skills as well as earn money to buy add-ons for your house. The game has no real goal to it though because it never really ends. Yes it basically ends in two and a half years, but you can continue living with what you have worked so hard for although if you have a child it won't grow up. I have more than digressed on this introduction. Harvest Moon is an excellent family-friendly game that features no violence, but plenty of competition and fun. You will find out that the area you live in features a beach, mountains, a vineyard, and a very active village for all of your needs so the property value of your ranch alone should be astronomical. You will encounter drifters, loners, flirts, and big hearted individuals from your day to day life and this game will leave you with a reflection about your own life in terms of what you want to accomplish and what kind of person you want to be.
The game opens before the start screen with the announcement through the village that your grandfather has just passed away. The question is then: Who will take over the ranch and all eyes fall on you. You will get to name the ranch you inherited as well as your dog and then be tasked by your father to become a successful farmer in two and a half years when he returns from wherever. You are all on your own and unfortunately you have some old tools and little money to begin with. Former friends and business people will stop by to introduce themselves to you and you will meet your pick up guy who hauls all your produce away daily. You will meet five eligible ladies with totally different backgrounds and unique personalities that could become your wife or your best friends' wives. The game will be interspersed by surprise cut scenes throughout the game depending on your progress in some area like wooing a girlfriend. In fact marriage and starting a family is very much a part of this game as it is becoming successful in farming and ranching. To most who play this game it is probably the most fun and important. Most of the characters in the game stay in the game so you will be able to get to know them better, but avoiding relationships with others may cause them to leave the game for a better start in the city. Festivals on your calendar will be important to your story in the game as your relationships flourish and you can reflect on how well your progress has been. In the end your father will return to find out just how much of an impact you have made on your community as well as how well you have managed the farm.
There is something for everyone in the game play of Harvest Moon. The activities really flourish everywhere in Harvest Moon and your daily income does not necessarily revolve entirely on raising crops and animals. You will meet the seed shop owner in the village to get your supplies for raising crops as well as the feed shop owner who will also sell you chickens, cows, and sheep to raise. Your property is rather large and beginning the game you will need to clear the land by smashing large rocks and cutting up stumps to make fences with. The controls are very easy and you will rely mostly on the A and B buttons for communication with your neighbors as well as for using tools. Power-ups will eventually happen to your tools as you use them more often and you can also find apples hidden in the game to power up your energy. Energy depends on how well you work yourself and you can work yourself into an exhaustion and catch a cold which will leave laid up in bed the entire next day. So you have to be careful with your work load. You can eat items from your rucksack that you carry to regain energy and everything is conveniently laid out for simple access.
Since Harvest Moon for the SNES there were a few bugs that Harvest Moon 64 greatly improved upon. The dialogue for one was rather odd in the Super Nintendo version, but the dialogue is mostly improved this time around. Not only that, but you continue the giving of gifts and frequent communication to develop relationships with the other people in the game. The only character that freaks me out in this game is the connoisseur who hosts the vegetable competition. He looks like a giant fish and his dialogue is just as weird. The other characters are much more interesting however and you can make friends with the other guys that are your age in the game and they will let you on to who they like in the game. Cut scenes in the game will show them wooing their love interests as well as there will be cut scenes showing the interesting moments between the developing between you and your lady. A photo album in your house will document your life progress so if you miss something you will see a place where you may have missed it. The relationship system also develops between you and others so you can make friends with anybody in the game. Each one has certain likes and dislikes so you can figure out how to make them your friend quickly.
Besides farming the other activities are widely variable and you can devote plenty of attention to any of them. Fishing has always been my favorite because you can earn money doing it. There is also prospecting in the mountain mine that can earn you a load of money with rare gems that can be dug up. You can also go around collecting things that grow in the mountains to sell. There are a lot of festivals in each month of the game that are really helpful to developing your relationships as well as earning you respect from your father. There are dog and horse races to either enter your prized pets in or bet on others for money. The festivals are also very unique and different. The Winter festivals are the most nostalgic for me for some reason. I always hated forgetting about the festivals and missing them, but the great thing about this is that your television has a community news channel (very up to date) that will tell you the dates a festival is on and you can mark these on your calendar.
Caring for animals is a big must in this game when you have them. I usually opt out of it simply because it takes a lot of work to care for them. Chickens are easy to raise but cows and sheep will get sick on you quickly. You also have to watch the weather closely for rain and especially in the summer time when hurricanes come around. The weather can ruin plans you may have as well as access to your animals so remember to keep them fed and nurtured. Otherwise you get a fairly comical cut scene where your animal has just been buried in the village cemetery (where your grandfather is also buried) along with some verbal abuse by the feed shop owner about taking care of your animals. I don't know how your grandfather would appreciate being buried next to a chicken or cow so you have to be careful about raising animals. The people of the Harvest Moon game must really appreciate their animals to be buried next to them!
The graphics are wonderful and an excellent 2-D to 3-D transition for Harvest Moon. The area you travel in is relatively small as there are not that many outside areas to visit. All of the characters are detailed and unique. The only ones that look like clones are the carpenters and sprites that live in the mountains. The graphics are pretty simple and I have no complaints in this area. The music is also memorable as well as relaxing. The music is very soft and smooth and will go off to warn you that you are staying up way too late during a day. There is no actual talking dialogue so you may get annoyed by a constant buzzing noise that goes along with the dialogue. The sound effects are fine as well.
Being a single player exclusive game, Harvest Moon has a lot of variable game play to make this one of the best Nintendo 64 games with replay value. The game lasts two and a half years in the game which amounts to about a month of game play (or a few weeks if you want to rush it all). You can also continue playing the game after your father comes back and does his review and audit of your farming success. The relationships you develop can create an entirely different experience than a previous game you played especially depending on the woman you decide to go after and marry. There are five different girls to marry in the game as well as a lot of options and goals to pursue so you won't play the same game twice even if you marry the same girl again. The replay value to Harvest Moon is so phenomenal that you can play this game for years (real time years) and never really uncover all that it has to offer.
Final Recommendation 10/10
Let me put it simply. Harvest Moon is like coming home from a hard day of work and taking the most relaxing spa treatment you ever had. Harvest Moon definitely proves you do not need violence to make an incredible game that is fun to play. You can decide for yourself what you want in the game and it really reflects your personality in how well you play. Harvest Moon is the most relaxing game I have ever played as well as one that has so much to offer that I do not think I have ever actually completed this game 100%. The game is very open-ended with the ultimate goal of either getting your father's approval or disapproval of how well you have managed yourself. Then you can either restart the game or continue enjoying life as a farmer. Harvest Moon is an incredible gem that is very well worth the expense of buying. I never did like any other Harvest Moon games that came out later as they have never captured the fun and enjoyment that comes with this game. If you are a big RPG fan then this is definitely one for you. Harvest Moon is also one of those games that will work like a corn cob given to Ann if you give your lady friend this game. I don't know why, but Harvest Moon has always been a chick game. So it is definitely worth the buy.
Story 10: A very simple concept creates an in-depth story depending on how far you want to take this game.
Game Play 10: So many options allow you to enjoy this game way beyond the day to day chores of farming.
Graphics/Sound 10: Harvest Moon makes an easy transition from 2-D to 3-D and features relaxing music tracks.
Replay Value 10: Phenomenal replay value contains so many surprises that you cannot fully uncover them all in one game. Developing different relationships lead to different story lines and no game is ever played the same way twice. This game lasts a very long time!
Recommendation: MUST BUY
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/18/08
Game Release: Harvest Moon 64 (US, 11/30/99)
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