Review by Estoy Loco

"Saving an entire village from big business. Can you do it?"

First and foremost, I’m going to say that Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland is, to put it simply, different than the past Harvest Moon games. In the previous Harvest Moon games, there really wasn’t a single goal to achieve. You could grow crops, date (and possibly marry) one of the local girls, attend festivals, make friends with the other villagers, and more. However, in STH, you do have one basic goal: to save the village from becoming a resort in a year or less. This sent many Harvest Moon fans into an uproar, claiming that Harvest Moon was no longer a ‘life sim’, and had lost one of the most endearing qualities of the past games. Yet, many people who played STH but who HADN’T played previous Harvest Moon titles seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. I believe it is because they hadn’t had anything in particular to expect of the game, and ended up enjoying it for what it was, not for what it wasn’t. Even though I have played the SNES version of Harvest Moon, I still think that STH is a great addition to the roster of Harvest Moon titles.

Story

Ahh, good old Grandpa. He lived a simple life, running a farm out in the country for the majority of his life. Now, though, poor old Gramps has moved on to that big old farm-house in the sky, and you, the grandson, have been put in charge of making sure everything at his farm is in order. As soon as you arrive, you find out that the village that your Grandfather’s farm resides in is in danger of becoming a resort! Instead of trying to make a quick buck by selling the land to you, you are given the farm for free..

As soon as you’ve gone to your farm, you begin to see very small creatures. After you get to talking to them, you discover that they’re ‘harvest sprites’, and they live near your farm. The weird thing is that they thought that humans couldn’t see them, but for some reason you can! Plus, you can also see the almighty Harvest Goddess, for whom the sprites work for. The Harvest Goddess asks you a few questions (which you could very easily lie to) and says that you are a very good person( you DID chose the answers that made you look good, right?), and that she wants you to help save the village! Thus, your quest begins.

Graphics

The graphics are cel-shaded, and I think that they fit the mood of a Harvest Moon game such as this extremely well. The cel-shading is done excellently, and the characters look great against their environments. Yet, I’m sure there are some people out there who could say that the environments lack detail and are too bland, but I’m not exactly going to nit-pick about them. The characters look good, the environments look good, everyone's happy.

Music and Sound

The different music tracks in this game are superb. Happy, uplifting, the different scores of music that play for the different seasons at your farm and around town are truly great. The different sounds in the game are top-notch for the most part as well. The chickens cluck and ‘cock-a-doodle doo!’ at the rising sun (or when they’re just waking up, as I’ve noticed). The cows moo realistically as well, your dog will bark and yelp. The only beef I have with the sound effects is that the noise your characters shoes makes when running around can get extremely annoying if the music playing in the background isn’t loud enough. They sound like small gunshots after a while! Besides one minor annoyance, the sound effects and the music STH are to be applauded.

Gameplay

If you have played a Harvest Moon title before, you should be expecting a huge and varied amount of gameplay. You won’t be disappointed with STH.

You have 15 neighbors, each with their own personalities, their own tastes in food, and their own birthdays. Giving them a present on their birthday will make them like you more. Giving them their favorite food will make them like you more. Giving them their favorite food on their birthday will make them like you a lot. Dia can be a snob and seems to be one of the more spoiled people in the game. Meanwhile, Gina, who cleans and helps out Dia, is somewhat shy and reserved, but friendly.

When you first start playing the game, your first source of cash will most likely be nuts, herbs, and wild fruit that are growing around town that you can pick up. Different seasons will bring different items that can be foraged. Simply sell them at one of the shops that will accept them, and you have yourself a bit of cash.

As soon as you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, you’re going to want to invest in some seeds to grow crops. Potato seeds are the cheapest seeds, but yield the least amount of profit. They do grow very fast though, but can only be harvested once. Tomato seeds are more expensive than potato seeds, but they sell for more, and will give you several harvests. Corn seeds cost more than tomato seeds and take longer to grow. Don’t let this fool you though, because corn sells for more than tomatoes. Finally, we have breadfruit seeds. The seeds cost slightly less than corn seeds,and also sell for a little bit less, respectively. They are also less hardy than the rest of the crops. To plant a seed, you will need to till a square of fertile soil with your hoe, plant the crop, and then water them everyday (unless it’s raining) to keep them alive, healthy, and giving you more produce! If a plant as died, simply get rid of it by using your trusty sickle.

Another one of STH’s moneymaking abilities is raising and caring for critters. You can go to the Farmers Store and buy a cow($2500) or a chicken($500). There isn’t an easier way to get a cow, but there is a way to get a chicken for one-tenth the price, if you have the time. Simply go to the market, buy an egg for $50, and put it in the incubator and wait for it to hatch! The egg will hatch into a chick, of course, and you will have to wait for the chick to mature into a hen. Keep your hen happy, and she’ll lay an egg every day. Once again, if you have the time, you can keep having your one chicken churn out eggs to put in the incubator until you have your max of 6 chickens!

A happy, healthy cow is a very profitable thing, indeed. However, they require a slightly large investment. First, buy a cow, a brush, and a milk machine. Brush your cow every day to make her happy. As soon as she is mature, she’ll be able to make milk. Cows will give you either a small milk ($150), medium milk ($200), or a large milk($300), depending on how happy they are. A very happy cow might even give you a Golden Milk, which can be sold for $400!

To get a dog, simply put food in the dog dish every night. Soon, you will attract a certain stray that will take a liking to you after a while. Don’t be impatient. You will know that the dog has been befriended when it doesn’t run away from you when you come near it.

The only way to get a horse is to work part-time at the Farmer’s Shop. A lot. After a while, Bob will show up at your farm with a horse for you! Make sure to feed and brush your horse everyday.

Part-Time work at the Farmer’s Shop basically consists of brushing their horses and cow and filling up each horses (and cows) feed-box.

Fishing in this game isn’t exactly the most fun thing, because you will have to start out with an old rod that will land you mostly cans and boots(how they struggle to be reeled in is beyond me). If you’re persistent, though, you will be able to get a much better rod from Joe after landing a few fish with your current rod.

If you can manage to save up $10000, you can buy a kitchen. As far as cooking goes, don’t worry about skills. Simply throwing things into either the pan, the pot, or the oven will yield tasty treats. Be aware, however, that not all things mix well when cooked. There are a few freebie recipes in the manual to get you started on your way to becoming a world-renown culinary artist. Bon Appétit!

There are four different seasons in STH. They are the same seasons that occur in our world. Incase you forgot them, they’re spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each month has a period of mild days, rainy days, and dry days(they’re pretty self-explanatory). Spring has mostly mild and rainy days, but there are a few dry days at the end of the season. Summer consists of quite a few hot days, which means you’ll be watering your crops. A lot. To make sure your efforts aren’t wasted, though, your crops will grow the fastest during this season. There are a string of mild days in the fall, and winter will wipe out all of your crops, leaving you to rely solely on foraging, your livestock and part-time work.

One of the bigger gripes I have with this game is the stamina factor. Your character does not have an unlimited amount of energy (it’s actually somewhat limited) so you need to make sure you don’t push your character too hard. Because of this, you won’t be able to have a full field of crops, the max number of chickens, and the max number of cows at the same time without becoming exhausted(and wasting a lot of time.). Eating a little food here and there will give you some of your energy back, but don’t expect it to put you back at peak physical and mental condition. The only way to do that is to get a good nights rest.

Another problem that I had with STH and the other Harvest Moon games that I’ve played is that watering and tending your crops can become an extremely arduous task after you’ve been playing for a long time. Plus, every step you take counts for one in-game minute, which means that you’ll be spending a lot of time on the farm. A lot of useful time that could be used forging relationships with some of the townspeople. One thing I would change in the game is maybe make it so that a minute goes by every 2 steps. That would give everyone plenty of time to do many different things in the game, and not miss out on any of the great gameplay elements.

The game’s instruction manual clearly states that there are 9 ways to beat STH. Each different method requires you to befriend either a certain villager or a certain group of villagers and go through a string of events. Plus, after you’ve beaten the game, you can simply start a new year to try and get another ending using the same game-file, which carries over any animals and renovations to the new year!

In conclusion...

Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland is a great game that deserves your attention. You may love it, or you may hate it, but at least you will be able to respect (some of) the extremely deep gameplay elements, music, and other factors that makes the Harvest Moon series such a hit with a certain group of people.

If you’re wondering whether to buy or rent, let me tell you this.. My copy of this game cost $12.99. It was used, but in perfect condition. You can afford to buy yourself a copy of this great game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/18/03, Updated 06/28/03


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