Harvest Moon 64
A young farmer has inherited a neglected plot of farmland following the passing of his grandfather. The small town surrounding his property depends on his success and offers what they can to help the young farmer find his feet. Through hard work and dedication, the young farmer must restore his grandfather's land, produce quality crops, and bring up healthy livestock in order to provide the small town with the goods they need to thrive.
Basic dating simulation
Harvest Moon 64 is not really a game that has an ending. It's an ongoing game that could eat up countless hours between caring for crops, socializing with the locals, bringing up the best products, and upgrading tools.
February 5, 1999
Developers: Victor Interactive Software, Marvelous Entertainment Inc.
Publishers: Natsume, Nintendo Australia
Genre: Construction and management simulation
Price: Try Your Luck
While Harvest Moon 64 was actually the fourth in the series of Harvest Moon games (following Harvest Moon SNES, Harvest Moon on the original Game Boy, and Harvest Moon on the Game Boy Color), yet it was the first Harvest Moon game that I actually played. While there was a good deal of skepticism from my friends concerning a game that was, essentially, themed around a lifestyle of chores and hard labor, I was eager to give it a try. I was among the kids that carried around a Giga Pet and loved having something of a digital companion on hand. The idea of having something like a Giga Pet on a larger scale was exciting for me. It didn’t take long for the simple but charming farm simulator to become something of an addiction. To this day, Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon-style games such as Rune Factory are my go-to games whenever I need something to bring me away from anxiety and stress.
There’s just something about the calming, simple life presented in the Harvest Moon games that’s addicting and easy to fall into, even after months or even years of having been away from it. Obviously I’m not alone in this as the Harvest Moon series (and games that follow its format) is a successful one. While glancing back to the N64 era, I thought I would blow the dust out of this old cartilage and see how it’s held up against its newer counter-parts.
Spirituality is fairly absent within this title of the Harvest Moon games. The only real supernatural beings to speak of are the harvest sprites, and they’re more or less just another group of NPC’s for the farmer to befriend. There is a church and a marriage ceremony, but no faith or spirituality is touched on beyond that.
None to speak of.
There is none to be mentioned.
There is none to be mentioned.
While there is a bar, and drinking is implied, there’s no direct references made to it.
Harvest Moon 64 is very basic game with a few very basic themes: hard work, community, and good stewardship. In order to progress within the game, you need to spend hours cultivating your land, raising crops, and caring for livestock. The more time you put into your land and your animals, the better your products will become. Likewise, the relationships that you cultivate within the community surrounding your farm will grow and blossom with care and attention. The world is filled with NPC’s that will open up more and more as you interact with them and offer them gifts.
While simple, Harvest Moon 64 has a very strong “small town” feel to it. Everyone is invested in each other and their progress in their own trades because the town’s survival depends on it. The shops’ inventory depends on the farmer’s crops. The farmer in turn depends on the feed store to provide food and medicine for their animals, they depend on the shops for seed and fertilizer. Every person plays their individual part within the small community and they all come to depend on one another.
The story of Harvest Moon 64 is as basic as the games can possibly get. A young farmer inherits a plot of farmland after his grandfather passes on. The farmland has fallen into a state of disrepair and it’s up to the young farmer to restore the land and make it flourish. The town and its folk are a little slow to warm up to the farmer, but they all know of his plight and do their part to help him to succeed. During the course of the farmer’s life, he has to build up his farm in order to survive while cultivating the relationships he has with the other people within the town proper. He is able to woo a lady and eventually marry her. Essentially, you get what you put in.
Visually, Harvest Moon 64 was impressive for its time and remains impressive when compared to some of the newer handheld titles. There is a good deal of diversity and variety in the character models and when you speak to the townsfolk, each has his or her own artwork that appears next to the dialogue box. It’s a small touch, but it adds context and character to the interactions and gives the town itself a more personal feel. The farmer is pretty generic in appearance, but in this version the character is just a surrogate for the player. Customization and gender options don’t come into play within this version so the generic male farmer is what we had to work with.
The music from Harvest Moon 64 is classic. It’s still the music that comes to mind whenever the topic of the games come up. It’s simple, and most of the music has a country sound to it. The opening theme has a nice easy, relaxing tone that really helps set the mood for the game itself. Each season has its own theme to it for both day and night, the festivals have their own songs, and special events have their own songs. Each helps to set the mood for the situation without taking the player away from the game itself.
In terms of gameplay, Harvest Moon is pretty straight forward. You as the farmer have an array of basic tools to assist you in your day to day work. You have to use a hoe to cultivate the crude soil into plots where you can sew your seeds, you use a water can to water your seeds and your growing crops. You get an axe that you can use to cut down trees and convert logs into timber and a hammer that you can use to shatter rock into material stone. Later on you can purchase tools such as a milker and shears to use on your livestock. As you gain material and funds, you can upgrade your tools to increase your efficiency with them. For example, a golden hammer can smash a large rock in one stroke where as the basic iron hammer will take several strikes and exhaust your farmer quickly.
Every day you need to maintain your farm by pulling weeds, disposing of rocks and branches, watering your plants, harvesting crop, and taking care of your livestock. When your chores are done for the day, you can run through the wilderness and collect items such as flowers and herbs or you can spend your time in town socializing with the townsfolk.
There are events scattered through the seasons that give you a goal to shoot for either during the month or for the year to follow. These events range from harvest festivals to horse races and everything in between. In order to even raise a candle to the competition, you have to work at perfecting the feature of those festivals. For example, if you want to win the horse race, you need to ride your horse every day to build up its speed. If you want to win the harvest festival, you have to work at growing the best quality of crops you can to bring to the festival. Some events are more community based and become more enriching if you spend time building relationships with the NPC’s or your love interest.
Time management is essential as your farmer will tire quickly as night falls and if he’s not rested the next day, he risks illness or exhaustion which can hinder his chores or, in the case of sickness, keep him from doing them entirely. There is also the weather and nature itself to contend with, the flow of seasons, and tragically, the unavoidable death of livestock.
Overall, the gameplay is pretty enjoyable but it gets repetitive pretty quickly. I’ve been a bit spoiled to the newer games which throw in more options, customization, side plots, and even RPG elements. I will never forget the game that hooked me into the Harvest Moon franchise, but this game hasn’t aged especially well. It’s fun for the first few hours but there’s not a lot of content to break up the daily grind and it takes a while to reap any rewards. I’d say it’s worth a play through for nostalgia’s sake, but it’s not something that needs to be sought out eagerly if it’s not already a part of your collection.
+ Easy to play and re-play.
+ Calm, quiet, and relaxing gameplay.
+ Completely inoffensive content for all ages and households.
+ Great classic music
+ Tried and true Harvest Moon gameplay
- It gets repetitive quickly
- Limited side story
- Compared to current titles, it's lackluster in features
- You can only play as a male farmer