Sometimes there are games that you play that in your mind you know should be boring, a game that shouldn’t be able to capture your interest at all, a game that from hearing the gist of it alone should elicit the reaction of backing away from it.
But when it comes to Harvest Moon, in particular Harvest Moon 64…I threw all that out of the window.
After playing that game for just a little bit when I was just starting my teenage years, I didn’t care that it was a farming game. In fact, I loved it, I loved spending days just going out and tending to the fields, growing fruits and vegetables, cutting stumps, smashing rocks, all the work that went into making a great farm in the Harvest Moon series.
I think a lot of it had to do with my perfectionist, neat-freak personality. Once I saw the mess that was the farm, that was it for me, I had to fix it and I wasn’t going to stop until I did. And what that pseudo-OCD part of my brain was triggered by, the game allowed itself the time it needed to bring me in for the long haul.
The first time I met Karen, the daughter of a vineyard owner, occasional bartender at the local bar in town, that’s when the game had my full attention. While girls like Maria and Ann caught my eye a little bit, once Karen showed up, I was sold. I wanted to know more about her, she seemed like she was in real need of someone to talk to and naturally my unpopular 13 year-old self wanted to be the ears for a cute girl’s struggles. And that’s where the game got me, once the dating sim parts of the game really started to move forward, I now had two reasons to stick around, one to have a gorgeous wife and two, to clean up that goddamn mess on my Grandpa’s farm!
When you really think about it, there’s not much to the game. You wake up, you start working on the farm, plant seeds, clean up more messes, pick ripe fruits and vegetables, make your money for the day. Then you go into town, do whatever shopping you need to do, talk with the townspeople, flirt with all the girls (except Popuri, she sucks) and either drink at the bar at night or go to bed. Sure, there’s a few other things going on, but that’s the gist of things. You wake up, you farm, you chat, you go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. So it’s definitely not the advanced and well-developed gameplay mechanics that have you interested in this game.
It’s the world of Harvest Moon that keeps you involved. The town is lively, the characters are diverse and interesting. Sure, when you really think about it, a game about farming should be boring as shit, right? But when the world is crafted so well, when there is so much to become emotionally invested in, the fact that the game on paper should be boring, it doesn’t matter. Like many other lovers of this series, I don’t care that it’s a farming game, I love it. I may not ever want to wake up one morning as a real-life farmer, but man if you put me in a game where I’m doing just that and I’ve got five girls to hit on, I’m down for that!
Or well…four girls. Seriously, I could not stand Popuri.