Reviewed by Keith Kaffenberger
Remember Sim City? The game where you built skyscrapers and
entire cities linked together? What if you could zoom in one just
one town? What if you could zoom in on one person, and take
control? What if you only had 300 days to find total happiness...on
a run-down farm? That's the name of the game in Natsume's
Harvest Moon. As the game opens, your main character has
been been left by his parents with a run-down farm cottage, a
small amount of money, and tons of soil for planting. It's up to
you to work the fields, make-money, and find true happiness.
Money itself is not enough to make one happy. Finding true-love
and earning the respect of towns-folk are key ingredients, and
depending on how you play the game, you may see one of many
different endings. With this in mind, step outside and enjoy the
air, you've got 2 and 1/2 years to go!
When you first step outside, you'll notice a number of buildings.
The first is your house. This is where your day begins and ends.
It is here you can check the weather forecast for tomorrow,
sleep, save your game, and check your net worth. Beyond your
house is a chicken coop, feed silo, and cow barn annex. Unlike in
real life, each chicken you own (maximum of 12) eats as much as
a cow (maximum of 12). You can buy livestock from the livestock
dealer in town, but it will be a while before you can profit from
your bovine or poultry. You'll have to feed a chicken for a couple
of days before it starts laying eggs, and you'll have to feed a cow
for 3 weeks before is starts producing milk. Fortunately, cows will
be invaluable later down the road, as a single happy cow will net you
a sweet 350 gold a day. This is good money, especially in the winter,
where you can't grow any crops at all!! As for the feed silo, all the
grass you cut goes here automatically. Each unit of feed will provide
for one chicken/cow for one day. It should be noted that to make the
most out of your cow, you need to milk, brush, talk to, and feed her
every day. The last building you have is probably the one you'll be
using the most: your tool shed. Herein lies all of your tools for tilling,
planting, watering, brushing, milking, painting, curing, and marrying.
Unfortunately, all you start out with is a hammer (for breaking rocks
which litter your field), an axe (for chopping lumber, which is used to
make fences), a scythe (for cutting grass, used as feed) and a hoe
(used for tilling soil for planting crops in). After you've talked to
everyone in town a billion times the first day (no way to get around it,
but you'll at some point need to interact with pretty much everyone
in the game at one point or another anyway), the real adventure
begins. On the second day of your game, you'll find your field
smitten with multitudes of boulders, rocks, tree stumps, and
weeds. Clear away all these barriers so you can start farming!!
A big help in this game that can be overlooked is your ability to
"burn the midnight oil". Your day begins at 6:00 AM, and ends at
6:00 PM. Once 6:00 PM hits, however, time STOPS, but you can
keep working. In other words, you can continue to clear the fields
and till the soil for as long as it takes. Once 6:00 PM hits, the next
day doesn't start until you go into your house and go to sleep.
This makes the impossible job over clearing your entire parcel of
land in one day possible. It's important to try and clear all your
land in one night so you can begin a cash flow as soon as possible.
Once you're familiarized with the tools and their purpose, you'll notice
your character performing different actions after you've been
working a while. He may start to sweat, let out a hefty sigh, fall
to his knees, or even pass out on the floor. Why is this? Well, in
this game you start each day with 100 stamina points. Every whack
of the hammer, chop of the axe, slash of the scythe, and use of the
hoe consumes two stamina points. Once all your stamina points are
gone, you character will be restricted from doing anything but walking
and running. Luckily, you'll be able to consume food and take repeated
dips in the mountain hot springs to gather your health back. Hidden
throughout the game are 10 "Berries of the Full moon Plant" you can
collect. Upon consuming one of these, the maximum amount of stamina
you have will increase by 10 points, so it's possible (but difficult) to
double the amount of stamina points you have. Now, assuming you've
cleared your entire parcel of land, it's time to start planting. When
Spring begins, you'll be able to run to town to the florist shop and look
around. You won't be able to buy anything yet, but it's important to
know what can be bought. The white bag contains radish seeds.
Radishes are good to buy when you first start out. They grow quickly
(assuming they're watered properly), but only yield 60G for one radish.
So once you have an account of over 1,000G, your best bet is to
reach for the brown bag. This bag contains potatoes, which take a
day longer to grow than radishes, but sell for 80G. Not much more
than a radish, but if you figure in one bag of see costs 200G, and the
*MOST* money you can get from one bag of radish seed (I'll explain
later) is only 540G, you make only 340G off one bag of radish seed
(which is less than one large jug of milk!). With a potato, the max
from one crop of potatoes is 720. Minus 200 for seed, and you end
up with a tidy 520G profit, which will pay for 2 more bags of potato
seed (see where this is going?). The last item you can buy is grass
seed, which you probably don't need just yet. Grass seed costs a
whopping 500G per bag, but you can't harvest it and sell it like
potatoes or radishes. Once you plant grass, it never needs to be
watered, and it always grows back after it's been cut. Cut grass
is stored for use as livestock feed. Though it costs more than any
other seed, it low maintenance, and once it's planted, you'll have
it forever and ever. Unfortunately, you won't be able to buy seeds
just yet, due to lack of funds. That's where the mountain comes in.
In the mountain, you'll find many goods depending on the season.
There are tropical fruits in the summer, mushrooms in the fall,
herbs in the winter, and fish all year long (except winter). In fact,
when winter hits, pray you have a healthy amount of livestock.
You can grow no crops in the winter, and the only thing you can
find to sell in the mountains are cave herbs that are a great
inconvenience to pick. Anyhoo, if you find something in the
mountains, you can eat it and gain back 10 stamina points, or
pick it up, run down to your farm area, and deposit your item in
the little shipping box that's found down a few steps and left
from your house (*Side note: Whenever you harvest crops or
grab items from the mountain, put them in this box. And *NEVER*
put anything in the shipping box after 5:00 PM, as if you do, you
won't get any money for it!!*). The golden rule in this game is never
let a day go by without making some money. Okay, you've got money,
you've got multiple bags of seeds ready to plant, now how do you go
about planting it? Simple. First thing you need to do is make sure you
have enough wood in your wood bin (Above and to the right of your
house). Now, rearrange the fences to encompass a greater area of
land. Always build in an enclosed area, unless you want your precious
crops robbed by a wild muskrat. Now, grab your hoe from your shed.
There are many ways of tilling soil, but it's important to know how
the seeds work. When you use a bag of seed, it spreads over an area
3 squares x 3 squares way (covering a total of 9 squares). The
simplest answer would be to make a 3 x 3 square with your hoe
right? Yes, true, but keep in mind you'll need to be water each plant
each day with a watering can, and you won't be able to reach the
middle crop with this formation. This is a major roadblock, and one
that requires some though. Some possibilities for plowing are as follows:
(I hope these look OK.)
The "Grass" formation:
Pros: Can eventually pick all 9 crops. Best used for planting grass.
Cons: Can't plant any more seeds on the area until the middle crop
is harvested, which will take longer than the other crops since you
can't water it until all the other have been picked. Very uneconomic.
The "Lazy Man" formation:
Pros: Allows for convenient watering/harvesting of all crops.
Cons: You'll be losing a little more money than necessary because
each little "C" will only yield 7 crops.
The "Millionaire" formation:
Pros: Will in the long run yield the most money.
Cons: It's a little more difficult to water each crop
The "Starving Farmer" formation:
Pros: Easiest of all formations to create
Cons: You're losing a full third of all your crops!!
Once you've got a formation in mind, make it with the hoe.
Now, stand in the middle of the formation and use the bag of
seeds. Now all you'll have to do is fervently water your plants
every day (or night). Just a note, you don't need to water your
plants on days it rains. On days when it's raining, you can take a
breather and talk to the towns-folk. Just make sure you repair
fences destroyed by the rain. Ok, you've just established your
main source of income for Spring. Once summer hits, your potatoes
and radishes won't grow. Fortunately, they'll be replaced by the
superior tomatoes and corn. Grow them like you would potatoes and
radishes, but you'll find that if you keep watering a tomato or corn
plant after it's been picked, it will sprout with a new crop in just a
few days. You'll make far more money in Summer than you would in
Spring, since you only need to buy one bag of seed for each tilled soil
formation, and considering tomatoes get you 100G per piece, and corn
120G, the money will be throwing itself at you!! Hmm...now you're
prepared for Spring and Summer, what about Fall? Oh-oh...no crops
grow in fall except grass. Time to visit the mountain!! In the lower right
corner of the mountain is a poisonous mushroom worth 200G. Pick it
and throw it in your shipping box a few times a day to make some money.
Alright, you're set for 3 of 4 seasons. But here comes big bad winter.
Now no crops will grow, not even grass, and hardly anything worthwhile
grows in the mountains. Now is the time you need to rely on your livestock!
Buying livestock is easy. Simply purchase and plant a few grass seeds
(and since you can walk on grass, the only smart thing to do is to use
the "Grass" crop formation above when planting grass.) Roughly 10 days
after you've planted it, cut the grass to make feed. The grass will
keep growing back, so keep cutting it every 9 days or so (the grass
turns a very dark green or very dark gold when it's ready to be cut.)
Now, visit the livestock owner in town to buy either a chicken or a cow.
If you buy a chicken, feed it for 3 days. On the third day, it will lay one
egg. You can either sell this egg for 50G (chicken scratch) or put it in
the little nest in the bottom right corner of the chicken coop, where it
will incubate. After 3 days, the egg will hatch and become a chick.
After another three days, the chick becomes a hen and starts to
lay eggs. See where this is going? You could have a coop full of 12
chickens, but why would you want to? The eggs are simply not worth
the feed upkeep. Since you can sell a chicken for 500G, it's much
wiser to simply raise all 12 chickens to maturity and sell 11 of them.
Then you can begin all over again. Cows are much more productive than
chickens, although not immediately. After buying a cow, it takes 21
days of feeding, talking to, and brushing each cow before it starts to
make milk. The cow will get fat once it can produce milk, letting you
know it's matured. At first, you get a small jug of milk worth 150G.
If you continue to feed, brush, and talk to her day after day, she will
gradually produce 250G and finally 350G jugs of milk. Cows are more
expensive than chickens, but you'll earn much more money in the long
run if you buy a cow instead of a chicken (Quick note: A barn full of
happy cows will produce a whopping 4,200G per day. That's 126,000G
That's all the basics to the game. Once you've established a way of
making money each day, it's merely talking to the girl of your dreams,
attending special festivals, and searching continually around the mountain.
Whenever something out of the ordinary happens, check around your
farm or the mountain. Always help a starving elf. And above all else,
always, just like in real life be honest (unless you're talking to a
woman, where you just tell her what she wants to hear. Seriously!!
It makes her happier!!)
Graphics 8 out of 10
Don't expect wild animated sequences or anything of the sort. The
characters are very simple looking, but there's a lot of detail put
into this game which makes for better than average viewing. The
graphics in this game remind me a *LOT* of The Legend of Zelda: A Link
the the Past.
Music and Sound 7 out of 10
You might disagree with me when you first hear the game's music
and sound effects. They're really good songs and effects, buuuut...
each season lasts for thirty days. Each season has one song. So
for thirty days you work and toil in a field to the same music and
same sound of the hoe hitting the ground. It's good music, but it
Game Challenge 1 out of 10
That's the thing about this game: it's a lot like Sim City. There
is no real challenge in either, you just build and build and build.
It's no action game, that's for sure. This is not a game for the
easily bored looking for a challenge.
Game Play-Fun 9 out of 10
This game is pretty much pure fun. No stress whatsoever,
practically. It may not seem like it, but watering crops and
milking cows is actually a good deal more enjoyable than you
might think. Combine this with the fact you can meet women
and climb a mountain, and you'll feel instantly uplifted. I've
found this game to be the ultimate stress reliever.
None. None, none, none, none, none. Well, until you get married,
then if you're not home by 6:00 PM, your wife gets kind of steamed.
Replayability 10 out of 10
With dozens of variables in the game that can determine the
ending, making a bit Chrono Trigger-esque. Some are obvious
(did you get married?) some are minuscule (did you always tell
the truth?) And being a lot like Sim City, you can just sit down
and plug away at building up your assets. Tons and tons of replay value!
Game Value 10 out of 10
If you liked Sim City, you can't go wrong with Harvest Moon.
You'll spend many an hour whittling away the Harvest Moon's days!!
SPCA Approval Factor 9 out of 10
Teaches a good lesson: Treat others the way you want to be
treated. Starve a cow, it will get sick and you'll get no milk from
it. Starve a chicken and it won't lay eggs. While it's possible to
abuse your cows and chickens through neglect, you can't physically
abuse them. So by starving a cow or chicken, you're only hurting yourself.
Overall 9 out of 10
This is one of my top 3 Super NES favorites The layout and objective
of the game is very impressive, and the world you work with is much
bigger than it appears to be. Kind of brings a tear to my eye that this
game didn't get as much hype as it deserved.