Survival Guide To Harvest Moon: 6 Tricks To Know Before You Plant
Whether you’re a hardened professional (call me Taro!) or just a sprout, every Harvest Moon farmer has certain rituals that help them make their farms flourish. I name all of my chickens with the letter “H” for good luck. My friend likes to meet all of the villagers before doing anything. It depends on the person, really.
While it varies heavily from game to game- one title focusing more on livestock means that your carefully constructed watering patterns are for naught, while another’s requirements may force you to put romance on the forefront- the basic steps are always the same.
Every fan of Harvest Moon can remember their first playing experience. I remember mine almost too well. Renting A Wonderful Life from Blockbuster and popping it into my Gamecube without a clue of what it was about, I almost cringe when thinking back on the stunts I pulled.
My first few in-game nights I went completely without sleep, mostly because I couldn’t remember which of the log cabins was my house. My poor little farmer- Greg was his name- was in a constant state of hunger. I thought that watering untilled soil might make some sort of plant sprout automatically; it took about 3-4 days to realize I was horribly wrong. It took until summer of my first year to find the people who sold the seeds, which upon buying I then proceeded to throw onto untilled soil. And then I watered them.
Oh, and while all of this was happening, I tried to court Ruby, the inn owner, completely unaware of the fact she was happily married (and had a son my age…)
Not only was I a failure as a farmer, I was a home wrecker as well.
That first farming experience can be rough, and while it’s alright to take your time in titles such as Friends of Mineral Town or Animal Parade- games that have no distinct time limit- some Harvest Moon games (A Wonderful Life, Harvest Moon 64, and Save The Homeland for example) require immediate action if you plan on finishing them successfully. Of course, you could always start from the beginning as you find your bearings. But then, why not just read this list and save yourself a few hours of re-planting?
These tips aren’t just for the farming noobs. It’s good to have set rules that apply to every game; systematic routines work best in games like Harvest Moon.
And with that, I’ll begin with the first (and possibly most important) step:
1. Choose Which Bachelor/Bachelorette To Court Beforehand
I can hear the moans of protest from behind the laptop screen! “But it’s so haaaard,” you’re saying, “I’ll court both girls at the same time, and then decide when they’re both at a red heart level.”
Well sure, you can do that. It’s not like I’m the videogame police or anything. However, if your goal is to raise efficiency, be warned. That particular route is not advised.
Imagine the time wasted when running aaaall the way from the Inn to visit Ann, Popuri at the Chicken Farm, then back to your ranch. By the time you get back to your animals, you barely have any time left in your day at all. And you need that time. Especially in the beginning.
To get the best gifts for your potential spouse, often you have to spend quite a pretty penny. Now double that and see what happens. Triple? …Quadruple? It depends on how many characters you’re trying to court, but even easy-to-please girls can be an unneeded expense.
Sites like Ushi No Tane (my Harvest Moon bible) or Ranch Story often give detailed profiles on the available bachelors/bachelorettes a few months before the game is released. If you’re certain that you’re buying the game, take time to weigh your options and choose one girl/guy to marry. If you’re stuck, determine to make two separate files instead of postponing your decision and ultimately wasting precious time and money.
It really does make a difference!
2. Know Your Planting Formation
A big part of the Harvest Moon games that usually takes up most of my in-game day is… walking. Just walking from place to place. Without a horse, traveling takes up a huge chunk of time after all.
And while I make my way across Harmonica Town at a snail’s pace, I like to plan out crop formations in my head. How many seed bags I need, which crops to buy, and where to plant them… It’s a constant nagging in my mind, and it won’t rest until I’ve bought all of my seeds for the season.
Anyone else? …Bueller?
It’s a good idea to think about where and how to plant your seeds beforehand, and not spew them out haphazardly, as my sister likes to do. Maybe it’s because I’m obsessive about these things, but neat rows seem to make the crops easier to organize and water all at once.
A lot of times, the formation of your crops is determined solely by the way the seeds land. Most of the older Harvest Moon games have the seeds fall in neat 3x3 squares. In this case, you have a number of options to choose from:
XXX ->X -X
X –X ->XXX
The X’s being tilled soil and the _’s left untilled. Those two are my personal favorites, the one on the left used most often in my Friends of Mineral Town game.
Remember that plants are often your first source of income, and it’s important to capitalize on the amount of seeds you buy at the beginning of the game. Establishing a pattern early certainly doesn’t hurt.
3. Never Go To Bed Early
There is literally always something to do in the beginning. Literally. Always.
You should never stop running around. Collecting wild herbs to ship or give away, talking to the villagers, fishing, chopping wood, mining ores, discovering recipes, preparing your field… There’s so much to do, my first nights often leave little Greg going to bed past midnight with a sickly blue face, indicating fatigue.
I’ll admit, when things start slowing down (usually around the time I have my kid,) the farm is fully operational, and I have money coming out of my overalls … then maybe I can afford to turn in at 11am once or twice.
But until you have a vacation house of your own, you’re not allowed to slack! It makes the game less fun and it’s not efficient at all.
4. Find A Cheap, Abundant Gift Supply
Finding the right gifts for your needy little villagers is a pain. Half of the time their tastes are too expensive, and you’re left saying “You know what? No. Sorry, Theodore. It’s summer and I don’t have a freaking potato for you.”
And you give up. And you stop visiting them. And their friendship meter slowly begins to decline.
I’ll be honest, I never really understood the point of giving gifts to the NPC villagers until very recently. I thought it was meaningless to spend my hard-earned cash on a friendship that didn’t really benefit me. (note: this does not apply to the real world!) It wasn’t until I really started playing the games that I realized… making friendships with the villagers plays a huge role in the Harvest Moon franchise.
…Did I just discover Marvelous’ hidden lesson in friendship?
I kid. It does, however, play a larger role in some games than others. For example, in Magical Melody, it’s practically a requirement to talk to all of the villagers on occasion. If you don’t, some will actually go as far as to leave town! Shop owners moving out = trouble for your farm.
So. Gift ideas. What could you possibly give to your picky new neighbors without losing a huge profit?
From what I’ve seen so far, the all-time BEST inexpensive gifts for practically every character are…
Eggs are a lonely farmer's best friend. Your first animal should always be a chicken. They’re easy to feed, easy to raise, and give you a solid daily income, therefore it’s only natural that you would want to start raising chickens as soon as possible. By the time you have a few adult chickens in your coop, it shouldn’t be too much of a blow to your profits if you take 1-2 eggs a day to give to villagers. They come daily, and they usually improve friendships faster than the wild things you find lying on the ground.
If you’re going after another farmer (depending on the game, there is almost always an eligible bachelor/bachelorette that helps run a farm) eggs are the easiest route to a quick marriage. And if all else fails, cook them an egg dish! In Magical Melody (excuse the excessive amount of MM examples ^^;) there are two distinct egg dishes that only require one ingredient- an egg!
Eggs are like a gift-giving goldmine in this game. They don’t cost you a fortune and they’re generally liked by everyone. Easy to obtain and easy to cook, found in every title, I highly suggest giving eggs as opposed to flowers and herbs.
5. Buy (At Least) 30 Pieces Of Feed Before The Animal
Alright. I’ll be honest. Unlike the other tips, this one is not as urgently stressed. You can be a bit lenient when it comes to bird feed and fodder, as long as you remember to stock up on it. But for players like me, who often get so caught up in the upcoming festivals and the crop patterns that they completely ignore their depleting fodder supply, it is needed.
When you begin your first Harvest Moon experience, it is not unlikely that you’re in a rush to buy your first animal. I mean, it’s a farming simulator, right? What kind of self respecting farm doesn’t have some cows and chickens roaming about?
I get it. I was like that too. But then I realized… You actually have to buy the feed.
Who knew, right?
While bird feed and fodder are hardly expensive, it’s important to keep your silo stocked up with extra food, just in case. Sometimes you find yourself running low on fodder, only to find that the shop is closed… And there’s a festival the next day… And the day after that is the shop’s day off… Then it starts raining. The Harvest God just loves to see little Greg suffer, doesn’t he?
Situations such as those have occurred multiple times in my Harvest Moon career. It’s not so fun when you have 4-6 sick animals holed up in your barn; that’s when things start getting pricey!
Because of possibilities such as these, I suggest buying more fodder at every free moment. On top of that, make sure to buy 30 pieces of fodder/bird feed for every new animal you raise. Who cares if you already have 100 units of feed and only one cow? When you’re playing against nature, it’s always best to play it safe.
6. Choose Your Friends Wisely
I know I told you before that “befriending every villager is important,” and that’s still completely true. However, it’s obvious that some characters take precedent over others.
Some Harvest Moon games like to be sneaky about their perks. One particularly annoying example is the fishing rod in Harvest Moon DS: Cute. While I can’t speak for the original HMDS, Cute’s cut-scene-for-everything-to-make-your-life-harder system was the biggest pain imaginable.
To get the fishing rod, you have to visit Galen and Nina’s house on a Saturday between 12:00pm and 2:00pm. That leaves a two hour window. And if you miss it, you'll have to wait a whooole 'nother week for a second chance. I guess the programmers just assumed people always fit a visit to Galen into their schedule.
Anyway, my point is, Harvest Moon doesn’t hold your hand and say “If you wanted a fishing rod, try GALEN sometime on a WEEKEND AFTERNOON *wink* *wink*” like some games do. And they don’t tell you that a lot of times, raising “friendship levels” with the neighbors is the only way to unlock extra events and items. That applies to all of the Harvest Moon games.
I haven’t played one single Harvest Moon title (besides the original HM and HM2) that didn’t require gift-giving to at least a few of the NPC’s. Even HM3 required effort and timing in order to get certain crucial items. Namely, the fishing rod. What Harvest Moon has against owning a fishing rod, I'll never know.
So, who exactly qualifies as “important”? I suggest doing a bit of research on your particular title. Ushi No Tane offers countless information on things such as times, dates, and requirements for unlocking a specific event. (Excluding the newer Rune Factory games) they have data on every Harvest Moon title up to this point. It’s the perfect reference for beginner Harvest Mooners.
Once you know the requirements, focus on befriending only those people who benefit you. From then on, getting that added bonus is cake.
Some Useful Sites
- (Official HM Website) 牧場物語公式ウェブサイト
- Ranch Story - Harvest Moon & Rune Factory [ Harvest Moon: A New Beginning Officially Announced ]
Harvest Moon & Rune Factory fan website with game coverage, community forum, gallery, release date information, and more! Featured games: Rune Factory: Frontier, Harvest Moon: Sugar Village, Tree of Tranquility, Exciting Animal March, Welcome to
- Ushi No Tane - For fans of Harvest Moon and River King games