Retro Game Review: Harvest Moon GB/GBC

Harvest Moon Game Boy Color Title Screen

Harvest Moon Game Boy Color Title Screen
Harvest Moon Game Boy Color Title Screen

Intro

This is actually the second handheld Harvest Moon game that I've played, despite being the first to be released. The first, which I have also reviewed, was Harvest Moon 3, also for GBC. I didn't really care for that game much because of the... weird sexism. Like it wasn't even normal sexism, it was just... altogether odd. The issues that I experienced with that game, ironically, seemed to have to do with the technological advances that allowed the localization team to cram two games onto a single cartridge. Therefore, I went back to the beginning.

This game is the most simple, bare bones of any in the Harvest Moon franchise. There's no town, no friends, no love interest, and no sheep, and yet I find myself having more fun in this game than I did in Harvest Moon 3. For one thing, my story doesn't arbitrarily end earlier with no warning or even indication based on which gender I choose, and for another, it's less annoying to just not have a love interest than to have one terrible significant bachelor(ette).

The Town

Town Map
Town Map

For the Love of Chickens

So there's no town as such in the game. Instead, there's an interactive map with places like a seed shop, a bar, a carpenter, a tool shop, a restaurant, an animal store, and a church, though there's not actually a building for the church for some reason. Instead of running around town, you navigate to the building and click on it, and it'll take you into a shopkeeper menu where you can buy the goods that you want.

If you're looking for social interaction, this is NOT the game for you. Except for the animals, I guess. For critters you can get a dog, horse, 4 cows, and 4 chickens. The chickens are adults when you buy them but the cows are not. I... did not know that, and I kept trying to milk the baby cows. But no, it takes like a month for them to grow up enough to milk them. So you don't actually make any money for the first month, but you still have to feed them, as well as brush and love on them. The chickens come out laying, but I still think it's cheaper to put eggs in the incubator than it is to buy a bunch of chickens. It only takes a week for an egg to hatch, so you can have the henhouse full in a month if you keep your chickens happy and laying. The chickens are way easier to take care of too. They're just all around superior critters. And if, in this day and age, you can find somebody to trade chickens like pokemon, you have a chance that the chicken you give or receive will transform into a golden chicken during the trading process,. which will then lay golden eggs. These are worth a lotta cash, but I don't know what happens when you hatch them because I just saw that on the interwebs, I didn't have anybody to trade with.

Harvest Goddess

Strange women in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government
Strange women in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government

Let's Talk Shop

Harvest Moon is, at it's core, and especially in a game as bare bones as this, a farming simulator. I would go as far as to say that it is THE farming simulator. Before Farmville, before goat evolution and that weird weed growing game that used to be on adultswim.com, before any other farm sim, there was Harvest Moon. Any fake farmer knows that you're only as good as your tools, and in Harvest Moon, there are tons of tools, and just as many ways to upgrade them, be it by making friends, paying cash money, building a blacksmithing forge, or chucking them at deities, there is always some way to improve your tools, and therefore your farming ability.

This game throws you for a bit of a loop in that regard. In this game, sometimes the only way to acquire or upgrade tools is to wait it out. Just let the time pass, and they will come to you. Learn the zen skill of patience. Some tools will become available in the shop after a certain amount of time has passed, and some can't be obtained by anything other than grandpa's ghost, which means you can only get items like a fishing pole after you've already been on the farm for a year. But those fish are worth $300 a pop, so it's a great item if you can get it.

Great Grandpa's Ghost

Grandpa
Grandpa

Conclusion

So this game has a lot of things going against it. While you could, conceivably, play for all time, you can get everything required for the good ending done in the first few months. And after you've accomplished all the goals in a simulation game, I find that it gets monotonous. I don't like milking cows and watering plants for the sake of doing chores, I want to be working toward a goal. And by the end of fall, my entire field was plowed, planted, and harvested. My barns were both full. I was flush with cash AND wood, had both house upgrades and the saddlebags for my horse. There was nothing left to do. I think if you were a small child, younger, with faster reflexes (once you hit middle age that shit gives out on you and I can't harvest as efficiently as I used to, don'tcha know) you could get it done even faster. And not end the day with an eggplant in your hands that you have to waste.

Also, though it is true that I would rather have no relationship than a bad relationship, it would have been nice to have an actual town with actual people. I understand if they didn't have space for relationship meters for every character, but the map-instead-of-a-town thing is kind of a bummer. I'm not sure what the gbc was capable of but three Zelda games tell me that you can have more than a barnyard. Hell, Oracle of Seasons is a thing, and it's existence proves that you can have a vast overworld that /changes seasons/. So I was disappointed in that.

It have a few neat little secrets and Easter Eggs, and overall it's a solid game, especially if you're into farm sims. But if you are expecting more than it is, you're going to be greatly disappointed, because you can tell that it's a first attempt, sort of a rough draft.

My Rating

2 stars for Harvest Moon GB/GBC

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