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Harvest Moon GBC (Game Boy Color) artwork

Harvest Moon GBC (Game Boy Color) review


"... Okay, so it's hard to be truly enthusiastic about the arrival of the farming genre on Nintendo's second best handheld system. The prospect of a game that lets you get up early, feed animals (cows and chickens, by the way) and grow vegetables from the comfort of your favourite armchair didn't exactly get people breaking open their piggybank, or mugging old ladies on the street (you can't prove anything!). But it should have done. You see, behind the seemingly ridiculous premise, Harvest Moon ..."



... Okay, so it's hard to be truly enthusiastic about the arrival of the farming genre on Nintendo's second best handheld system. The prospect of a game that lets you get up early, feed animals (cows and chickens, by the way) and grow vegetables from the comfort of your favourite armchair didn't exactly get people breaking open their piggybank, or mugging old ladies on the street (you can't prove anything!). But it should have done. You see, behind the seemingly ridiculous premise, Harvest Moon is a genuinely astounding game.

The game sees you (either a male or female, a teenager presumably) inherit your dead Grandpappy's farm. His ghost visits you and gives you a few years to turn it into a successful business. It all seems fair enough, until it turns out that, despite his posthumous agricultural interests, the old geezer was fairly lax when it came to maintaining the farm. To say that the place is a bit run down is like saying that Boy George dresses a bit flamboyantly. Weeds have grown up all over the place, big boulders litter the landscape, and tree trunks sit stubbornly like the blots on the landscape that they are. Clearing this lot will be hard work! Luckily there is a refreshing hot spring beneath the toolshed (yes, this game does lean towards the odd side on occasion, but a deadly accurate farm simulation would, well, suck), along with a posse of elves. The cave beneath the shed will become one of the most useful places in the game - the hot spring recovers your energy slightly so as you don't pass out while working, the elves can upgrade your tools and give helpful advice in exchange for some of Grandad's 'special' mushrooms, and the mushrooms can alternatively be sold - they grow at a steady rate of two a day, so there's a tidy some of money right there for the taking, and the caves even play host to a goddess by the end of the first year! As wonderful as this all is, a farm can't survive on twice daily mushrooms alone - you need to plant... plants.

With your land clear you're free to till the soil into a state that is suitable for seeds. The seeds available vary with the seasons, just like real life (everything outside of the rather trippy toolshed is halfway true-to-life), and take about a week of game time to grow, providing you water them each day. When ripe for the picking the vegetables can be placed into the shipping crate and will earn you a bit more spare change. At first this is all vary laborious stuff, but before too long you'll be equipped with a sprinkler to speed up the watering time, and a horse which not only gets you to your crops faster, but acts like a mobile shipping crate when you arrive.

Growing vegetables is all well and good, but you'll need to grow a fair amount of grass too. Grass seeds are the most expensive, but when you have planted them the grass keeps growing back, so it all works out okay. When grass is ready to be cut, take the sickle to it - the cut green stuff is used to feed any animals you later purchase, and it's best to start stocking up as early as possible - when the wintry weather comes the grass stops growing until the Spring.... Get a nice sized patch of grass and the nice animal sellers allow you to buy the aforementioned cows and chickens. Chickens produce eggs which can be sold or incubated to get more chickens. Cows (which can all be individually named, by the way) are fairly useless early on, but when they reach milking age they become real money spinners (especially when you get buttermakers and such).

In all honesty, that probably sounds very dull, but Harvest Moon is a game that just has to be played to be believed. I've wittered on for a few paragraphs now, but I've barely scratched the surface of what is a truly deep game. Strange as it may seem, the Harvest Moon world is completely immersive, and seems eerily real, right down to you being able to check the weather forecast on the TV. Trust me, if you wake up one morning (in the game, not in real life) and find your little sprite shuffling outside to greet an (as yet unidentified) guest, it really is quite exciting. There's even a choice of pets that serve no function other than to make you feel just that little bit more as if you are a part of a living, breathing gaming world. When this game sucks you in, it really will be a long time before you manage to escape it's clutches.

The graphics here are probably as good as they could be on a cart designed to be compatible with the original Game Boy. Everything is crisp and well defined, the animation is fluid, and it has a very distinct style. It's all viewed from a Zelda or Pokèmon style perspective, but the shades of brown and red that make up a startling amount of the scenery really works in the games favour, giving it a very rural atmosphere. Again, words don't make this game sound too appealing, but I can't stress enough how good this game can be if you give it a chance.

Unfortunately, the sound really lets the game down a bit. The jingles that pass for music become more than a little annoying and repetitive - you'll be turning the sound down before too long. If you keep the sound on long enough to experience a rainy day (represented, bizarrely enough, on the tiny GBC as a rather scary burst of static...) you'll realise just how inadequate the sound on this game is. But the gameplay is so good that it doesn't need sound to impress, so just turn the sound off and slip a CD in ('I've Got A Brand New Combine Harvester' by The Wurzels goes particularly well, I find...).

It's a rare thing to not be able to find fault with the gameplay aspects of a game, but Harvest Moon just about manages to pull it off. It can become slightly repetitive after days of straight play, but within a day or two of putting it aside you'll be itching for another go. The game seems perfectly suited to the Game Boy, and has been solely responsible for the purchase and use of a considerable number of batteries in my house. It's not quite a perfect game, but it's near enough to warrent immediate purchase. Don't think you'll like a farming game? No, neither did I....

Rating: 9/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)

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