Remastered Review: N64 Review #8- Harvest Moon 64
We did it! High fives, everybody! You over there. Get over here and slap me five. YEAH! As of this very instant, all of the N64 reviews have been united here at 1 More Castle. The quest has been completed. When next we meet, we shall be moving ever closer to the end goal of reviewing all 296 North American Nintendo 64 games. By my calculations, let’s see… carry the two… I should be done in like five years. Before we get there, however, I take you back to January 1, 2014– wait, really? I thought posting a review on New Year’s Day was a GOOD idea? Well, that was dumb. Anyhow, here is my review of Harvest Moon 64.
Back on the trail from my review hiatus, I wanted to review one of those games I have been meaning to play for a really long time. Enter in the farming simulator game of legend, Harvest Moon 64. I had never played it and I always wanted to try it. All I ever knew of it were screenshots which, while cool, don’t give too much of an idea as to whether or not you’ll like it. How good can a game be where the developer misspells their own name on the title screen? Let’s dive in.
The game opens with a rather lengthy cutscene for an N64 game which I found to be cool. Your character looks suspiciously like Ness and you find out that your grandfather has “gone”. Gone is not necessarily defined until towards the end of the scene. Did he go on vacation? Did he retire? Off to the market? Kidnapped by bandits? Abducted by aliens? Ran away from home? Missionary trip? Messing with the microwave and accidentally turned into a fly? No. Sadly none of those. Turns out he died so we are starting this game off on a down note. Well, it looks like Ness – I mean your character is going to take over the farm despite appearing to be all of 11 years old. But hey, you do have a trusty dog so there’s that. What this game does next is one of the greatest things I have ever seen:
Won’t you just push the start? Just once? For me? Now you can start the game if you’d like or go through the tutorial which is what I chose to do having no manual for this game. The tutorial is a nice touch to have added into the game but this particular one had a rather annoying flaw. You see, instead of saying, “To select a different tool, press Start” and then letting me press Start to get to the next step, the game decides it will also simulate the pressing of Start and every other button throughout all of the tutorials so you are left basically watching someone else very slowly playing a farm simulation game while text scrolls on the screen to tell you what they are doing. Informative but more boring than… well… something that’s really boring.
During all of the tutorials, this horrid, wretched, awful music plays on a 45 second loop and you think to yourself that it is simply tutorial music. No big deal. I’ll be on my way to farming glory in no time at all. Yeah, about that. The only asylum you get from it is during the night hours but soon, oh too soon does this ear piercing train wreck hit you like a slap to the face and in no time at all, you’ll be seeking something sharp with which to puncture your eardrums. I would rather listen to amplified dubstep in an aluminum tunnel than this game music.
You finally get into the game and you find yourself on the farm where the mayor is waiting to greet you. He looks suspiciously like Willie Wonka. Perhaps a distant relative. He gives you a tour of the town which is nice. It gives you a decent layout but all you want to do is farm. You run back to your farm to begin getting to it. You are pretty quickly interrupted by Dolph Lundgren who tells you that he used to buy from your grandfather and he’ll be buying from you too. He will show up once a day, take your crops, and leave you money. Want to shop around for better buyers? Too bad, Ivan Drago has spoken.
This setup on its own is actually a good idea. However, here is where we get into the fatal flaw of this game. The flow of time is ridiculously out of proportion. You wake up each morning, get maybe 3-5 minutes of playtime during the day for you to do anything you need to do like harvesting, planting, watering, going into town to buy more seeds, land clearing, animal feeding, relationship progressing, all of it. Then Frank Castle shows back up to grab your crops and it’s bed time. The thing is, it takes so many days to grow something, that most of the time in the beginning he is just disappointed in you until you can really get going which is frustrating.
I later found out that you can find things laying on the ground to sell to him while you grow crops but the guy just trying to play through this, say for review purposes, isn’t generally going to notice that. Then it is night time. All of the shops close and the bar opens but you do have another couple of minutes to get some work done around the farm. That would be helpful if your character didn’t have all the stamina of a decorative lawn flamingo. He tires out WAY too quickly and eventually just faints when you try to do stuff with him so off to bed you go, ending your day and beginning the cycle all over again.
As you use your farm tools, they level up so that you can use them on larger obstacles/areas, but they tire you out even quicker, making them just this side of worthless. The controls are really bad and so you will often times find yourself swinging wildly with your ax, watering the same crop repeatedly, dropping and destroying items, and swearing uncontrollably.
One of the better aspects of the game is the relationships that you can build and maintain with the other villagers. This can lead to you getting items and even getting married and having kids. Even for the characters you don’t marry, everyone had a unique personality and it really added to the immersion for the player and made it fun to just spend time talking to everyone. I loved this because for me, it served a larger purpose of breaking up the monotony that has the potential to set in if all you do is farm. Things like that always show that the developer was concerned with the gamer’s enjoyment and that always scores a ton of points with me.
The end goal, if you can imagine there really is one, is to build up your farming empire as much as you can. This is not an overnight process despite how quickly overnight happens. It takes several calendar days to grow a crop and then harvest it. That gives you a decent profit so you can buy more seeds to plant more crops to harvest more crops to sell more crops to get more money to buy more seeds and so on. You can eventually profit to the point of buying animals like chickens who can add to your production with eggs. You can then start to afford cows which produce milk which is a very lucrative business. These animals all require care and food though so there is a lot of management involved and let’s be honest, if this is the sort of game that interests you to begin with, you are heavily in favor of managing things in game. It is a very tight setup and it works well for this game. After the 3rd year, your farm and basically your entire life gets evaluated and there are multiple endings you can get depending on how you did. After that, you are free to keep on trucking at the farm which is a more important feature than I think most people realize.
Overall, I didn’t love this game like I really wanted to. As much of a fan as I am of sims and tycoon-esque games, this one seemed more tedious than fun to me most of the time. That said, by no means is this a bad game, I did enjoy it, but for the Harvest Moon game heralded by many as the best of the series, it left me wanting a lot more than I actually got out of it. With a loose cartridge currently fetching about $48 online, it is really hard for me to recommend that you run out and find this game unless you are a collector. At this point in time in gaming history, there are just games that do the farming simulation thing much better for much cheaper.