Retro Game Review: Harvest Moon 3GBC
Game Box Art
Farming in Color
I've been on a major Harvest Moon kick recently, since I found out Neverland, the development company, had disbanded, and I would most likely never get another Rune Factory Title. I decided to go back to basics and replay the original Harvest Moon for SNES, and after I finished it, I decided to tackle the portable version. I actually looked at all three, but decided that the third installment would most likely be the most innovative, and include the largest amount of stuff to do, with more crops, more livestock, more minigames, etc.
I wasn't wrong. The game takes place on an island, where the player is asked a series of questions, including name, gender, pet type, and color scheme. The game apparently divides heavily along gender lines, which I honestly think is one of it's greatest shortcomings, but more on that later. The island itself doesn't have any shops, so in order to make any use of your farm, you'll have to head over to the mainland.
0n the mainland, you'll find a number of stores and locations, including a theater, aquarium, mall, and the farmer's union.
Where to Buy
Location, location, location
0n the mainland, you'll find a number of stores and locations, including a theater, dock, aquarium, mall, and the farmer's union. Each of these places serves a unique purpose.
The dock is the place where you arrive on the mainland, and also houses a special market that is unobtainable until you're able to get your own boat, as it's only open on days that the ferry does not run.
The theater apparently doesn't really do anything useful to progress the game. You can buy a ticket, and then watch a terrible movie, done not even to the best of the game boy color's ability (the aquarium in this same game looks much better), and... that's it. Honestly, if you really wanted to see the movie, which changes each season, your best bet would be to save before you buy your ticket, then buy it and watch the movie, then restart from the save before you spent money on it. It's terrible. It's an awful feature.
The aquarium is open from the beginning, but you can't really do anything with it unless you've gotten the fishing rod. To get the fishing rod, you have to make friends with Billy, who lives on the island, in the normal Harvest Moon method of giving him a present every day and talking to him frequently. Eventually he'll ask to borrow your hammer, and if you let him, he'll give you a fishing rod. You can then catch fish, and donate them to the aquarium, in order to get large, pretty fish sprites.
The mall is basically what 0ther Harvest Moon installments w0uld call the general store. There you can find stamina-replenishing meals, seasonal seeds to raise veggies and flowers, books for in-game skills, and furniture to decorate and expand your house.
The Farmer's Union is where you can find fodder seeds, which you will grow tall and nutritious, and then cut with the sickle to feed to livestock, as well as the livestock themselves. You can get cows, horses, chickens, and sheep. This location also offers 'jobs', which are just tasks that you can complete and get rewarded for such as "ship X amount of a certain crop" or "catch a certain fish". Normally the reward is an amount of money roughly equivalent to how difficult the task was. Finally, there's a place to register your livestock. I'm not sure what this does, but I would really recommend that you hold off registering until that animal has it's hearts all the way full, because you can only register each animal once.
Back 0n The Farm
Gender Differences 0n the Farm
So, apparently, back in the day when this game first came out, it was released on two separate cartridges, based on gender, much like later Harvest Moon games in the Friends of Mineral Town generation. However, unlike future games, where the changes are mostly cosmetic and romance related, the genders in this game have vastly different beginnings, jobs, skills, and endings. This could have made an interesting game dynamic, had it been handled well. Unfortunately, it was not.
The female character begins the game with a cow already on the farm, as well as the brush and milker tools. She also has a full set of field tools. The male character can apparently never learn to tend to animals properly. He can, however, work the fields more efficiently. Now obviously, you can't run a farm without animals, and you don't want to empty your stamina bar plowing when you're considered too weak to do it, so the game helps you out in the form of a bookshop and romance system. You can buy books to teach your male companion how to garden properly, as he starts off only knowing how to plow in a 3x3 square, which, returning Harvest Moon players will remember, is the worst configuration for most crops. If you're playing the male, you can buy books in lou of the cheese, yarn, etc makers, so that your female companion can learn those skills.
Unfortunately, a companion who hates you isn't going to work very hard on your farm, which brings me to my biggest complaint about this game.
Romance in Harvest Moon 3
Romance on the Farm
This game is lacking the most in it's romantic pursuits. The vast majority of Harvest Moon games have at least 3 marriageable candidates, but this game has only a single candidate, your business partner. Probably the single worst person you could romance. People in the real world know not to "dip your quill in the company ink", because that's just a recipe for workplace disasters. You're going to live and work together, which means you're gonna get real tired of each other, real fast.
But perhaps the area where this is the most annoying, is where gender and romance overlap. As a female character, once you get married and pregnant, your game ends. That's right. You don't get to see your child born or age into a toddler, like the male player. You will get this ending regardless of whether your farm has been revitalized into a successful business or not. Bear in mind that this particular game doesn't even have a romantic aspect. The only marriageable candidate is your business partner. You're not picking a lover and wooing him.
So this takes the gendered job dynamic, something that could have been interesting, as different people have different skills in the real world. I loved picking between Chris Reidfield and Jill Valentine, two different genders with different skill sets, but Jill's game doesn't end so that Chris's can begin. That's ridiculous. Basically, this can be a good game, if you play as the male character and accept that the female character might not run your livestock the way you want. But don't play the female. The ending is just gonna piss you off.