Farming life begins with
SNES simulator classic
Leaving everything behind and taking up the life of a farmer doesn’t seem to be half bad. Sure, it’s back-breaking daunting work with a large reservoir of potential failure. But it’s honest work and highly satisfying. Or, at least that’s what Harvest Moon wants you to believe. In a tale as old as video game time, the original farming simulator wants you to live that life and succeed, no matter the cost.
Harvest Moon’s original entry is the starkest of all in the series. You, the nameless farmer, are tasked with rebuilding the family farm and property. There are animals to raise, crops to nurture and sell, and — if you play your cards correctly — a family to start. You have roughly a year to do this before your parents come back and judge your efforts. If you’ve succeeded mostly, you’re in the clear. If not, well, you’ve failed and it’s game over. This is the basis for the series that you see today in Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, and though mostly unchanged in basis, it’s simple and effective.
The depth comes in learning the game system. Crop nurturing and animal husbandry are not easy, but once you’ve got the nuance it’s a whole new world of profits. The controls are simple to pick up and once you’ve built yourself up stamina-wise, the fruits of your labor are obvious. There’s something super satisfying about working the land, planting crops and caring for your animals in a day’s work and then reaping the benefits. There is planning involved also, which adds an extra layer of depth. Knowing how to spend your day wisely — whether it be tending to the farm or socializing in town — is important, and adds to the overall experience.
Part of that experience is the presentation, and it’s not bad for a SNES game. Given that this is 16-bit, the sprites are bright and pop with the gorgeous SNES palette. Some areas are a little too brown but overall, it’s a pretty game. The music is slightly monotonous but it’s a little catchy so it doesn’t necessarily grate the way you’d think hearing the same tune would for more than 20 minutes of farm work and socializing.
Because this is the entry point to the modern series, Harvest Moon has work to do. Time — though not explicitly shown on screen — runs too quickly. Also, the starting handicap of low stamina and mediocre tools is not fun. This does become easier in later entries, but this frustrating mechanic began here and does not enhance the series in any way.
Despite some frustrations with the game, it’s a nice, relaxing start to a fun, quirky series. Modern features may be a draw for the later games, but don’t let the original fool you. There’s a wonderful life to be had even in the 16-bit starter.