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Harvest Moon

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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 per season!!). 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 gets repetitive.

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.

Frustration

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.

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