Harvest Moon 64

aka: Bokujou Monogatari 2, 牧场物语64
Moby ID: 4978

Nintendo 64 version

It's at least better than Office Worker 64.

The Good
I’m usually pretty wary of games that try to pass off hard manual labour as something that’s fun to do. The last thing I want to do after a hard day at the salt mine is to play a game about doing more work. It is for this reason that I found it a bit unsettling when I ended up completely addicted to Harvest Moon 64. I mean, this is a game that consists entirely of planting, tending, and selling crops, with the occasional time off to try and buy the affections of the various women in town. In all logic, this game shouldn’t be any fun to play, but it is.

If you’re not familiar with the Harvest Moon series’ premise, it’s quite simple. At the start of the game, you take over your grandfather’s farm. It’s up to you to bring the farm back up to workable shape. While you’re at it, you make friends in town, try to win the affections of one of five girls, and attend events held by the town. Harvest Moon is like a house plant, the only reward it provides you is the chance to watch it grow. It’s quite simple, which is part of Harvest Moon’s magic.

I guess what makes this game so addicting is the freedom it provides. Well, I guess more accurately, it’s freedom within reason. You won’t be harshly punished for skipping work to visit the townspeople, but if you do it too much your crops might die. You can choose which crops you plant each season, what expansions to build onto your house, and whether or not you own livestock. The game doesn’t hold your hand and you’re never really forced to do anything. If you don’t want to get married, you can skip that. If you don’t want to feed your dog, ignore him. If town festivals don’t interest you, you don’t have to go. It’s a pretty refreshing experience.

While the game is simple, the characters that inhabit it are quite complex. Each character in town has a different personality, and routines. It may not seem that way at first, but if you make an attempt to get to know them, you’ll find that they’re very rich in character. Each of them has their own backstories and subplots. Some of them are quite heartwarming and some are very sad. It makes the world of Harvest Moon quite charming and lively at times.

Out of all the Harvest Moon games I’ve played, I enjoy the pacing of this one the most. The days are fairly short, which means that some days you will have to choose between planting a new crop or spending time with the townsfolk. There’s always something going on, which makes it a very difficult game to put down. I often found myself in the cycle of “just one more day”.

The Bad
Imagine this; you’re playing some brand new, open-world shooter. In order to advance the plot in this hypothetical game, you have to get missions from NPCs. Now imagine if in order to get the mission you have to talk to the NPCs each and every day, providing them with a gift every now and then to grease the wheels. Each day they say the exact same boring block of dialogue to you, until finally they like you enough to allow you a mission, thus advancing the plot. Doesn’t sound that enjoyable, does it? Well that’s Harvest Moon’s problem.

All the NPCs in the game have some sort of subplot to them, some character trait that can only be uncovered by talking to them frequently. This wouldn’t be a huge issue, if they didn’t say the same thing to you each and every day. It’s like everyone has a mild case of Alzheimer’s disease and quickly forget things they’ve already told you. Making friends with these inhabitants becomes extremely tedious; I don’t care how deep they are.

One thing that really bothers me is the quality of the writing. The game is riddled with typos and grammatical errors. There are poorly constructed sentences, words missing letters, occasions where “your” is mistaken for ”you’re”, and even at least one case of mistaken gender. It wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t A LOT of these mistakes, but there are. The worst part about it is that a typo will often appear smack-dab in the middle of an emotional scene. It isn’t game breaking, but it is bothersome.

Speaking of emotional scenes, all of the characters in Harvest Moon 64 speak in that really simple RPG English. Sort of like everyone in the game has the conversational skill of an 8-year-old. This is kind of expected, and I’m sure it won’t bother a lot of people, but I’m picky. It bothers me when a full-grown adult woman has to work up the courage to tell me she “likes” me. What is this, grade school? I guess part of these problems may boil down to shoddy translation, but that doesn’t make it any more forgivable.

There are also very few songs in the soundtrack to this game, only a few for each season. You will find yourself listening to the songs more times than you want. They aren’t particularly catchy, but they aren’t entirely offensive. I just turned on my own background music after I got tired of what the game played at me.

The Bottom Line
The Harvest Moon series isn’t for everyone. There’s a good chance that if you picked up this game, it wouldn’t hold your attention very long. On the other hand, I thought it wouldn’t hold my attention, but it proved me wrong. I’m not a big fan of the series, so it’s hard to compare it to the other games. I was quite surprised when I couldn’t stop playing it. This version just managed to nail the pacing. Overall, I think Harvest Moon 64 is an OKAY game, and is currently my favourite entry in the series.

by Adzuken (836) on October 10th, 2009

Back to Reviews