I've never really taken the time to properly review games. My only real attempt at it had me taking notes as I played as to keep every element of the game fresh in memory. That works for some people, and it helps to create a full, overall impression of the game - but to me, it takes away from the gameplay experience. This blog looks back at games I've played in the past, and the impression they've left in my memory. This might not be a full review, and I'm sure I've missed some of the best and worst elements of the game - but this is what's stuck with me. And I think that's a really important aspect of games people too often overlook.
Harvest Moon DS (HMDS) stands as my first look into the Harvest Moon franchise - set in the world of A Wonderful Life, and building upon its predecessor Friends of Mineral Town. If I had to summerise it to somebody unknowing to the game, I'd describe it as a quaint farming game where turnips and waifus reign supreme. Oh, and there's this witch, a goddess and a lot of small people with pointy hats.
Or thereby lack of. You shouldn't expect much in this department - and by that, I mean you shouldn't really expect... Anything. You're greeted with a brief encounter in the introduction, but I can't really say it'll stick with you. The only reason I recall it is because of the amount of time I've had to sit through that unskippable and drab sequence when starting new games. It feels like an eternity before you can actually go out and farm - but in actuality, the introduction is only a few minutes long. Witch dislikes Harvest Goddess for being a Harvest Goddess, Witch bops a spell, Harvest Goddess is in another dimension, Witch feels bad, sends the pointy hat friends to the other dimension too, she sees you, tells you to bring them back by farming. And there you have it! The start of your grand adventure in farming! ...for maybe a week.
The 8th of Spring (or was it the 9th?)
This day sticks strong in my memory (or at least those two days do, it's one of them). You've harvested your first bout of turnips, you've rescued two water sprites, and three mysterious sprites that claim to help you in future. Sure you've maybe picked up a few more things on the way, tidied up your farm? Minding your own business, you cross the bridge in the middle of Forget-Me-Not Valley and BAM. Screen is white. A sprite appears before you, but why? What great news does this angel herald?
He's the head honcho of the casino. That's right folks, this game has it all! Every element you need to become a successful farmer - a farm, a cast of adorable to-be brides, and of course, what every farmer needs - a gambling addiction. It would be no exaggeration to say 70% of my playthroughs ended here. Be it for better or worse, the casino stands as a fantastic way to kill time and earn boat loads of cash... Unless you're playing the EU version of course. You see, this was around the time Nintendo games started to mysteriously lose their gambling features. Remember Pokemon Platinum? Remember the Game Corner? Remember scrounging for coins because the game decided for you the slot machines were too much? Yeah, those dark days. HMDS was hit in this dark tide, replacing the entourage of casino classics with Pairs, Pairs, and, would you guess it, Pairs! It's not a game killer, believe me there. If you're making money in the casino, it's actually very unlikely to come from the actual playing of casino games - rather the double or nothing opportunities that come after. The maximum you can get from a game is maybe a thousand medals from your initial bet of ten. With double or nothing, I've managed ten million. These medals can then go onto purchase items from the casino shop, which can then either be utilised or sold on for a disgusting profit.
Once you've gotten over your mild gambling addiction, you might be questioning just what you'll spend all that money on. Your farm's probably still a mess because nobody really finishes tidying their farm until Winter, so that really only leaves you with one thing on the mind - home improvement! The cycle of home improvement is an odd one for sure. You call Gotz in (the burly business woodman), he builds you something, you watch the TV shopping channel, you buy more stuff for your now bigger house, you call Gotz again. This is what living on a farm is all about! Watching TV and getting some other guy to do work for you! Gotz can take a few days to get the job done, but to quote the man himself: "You will be pleased."
Birds of a Feather
So let's recap. We started out as a pure farmer, became addicted to and gave up gambling, and now have a sweet home made of Gold (we got REALLY addicted to gambling). Your next step into Forget-Me-Not Valley is to introduce yourself to the local beauties... And everybody else in this valley for that matter. Because in the time spent upgrading houses and forever stuck in a dark room of the casino, you're already in Fall and yet to talk to a single person. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us farmers. Brush the dust off your decrepit shoes and venture outside! Attracting the females in this game is a simple process. Get something they love, and give them one - and only one of them - every day until they marry you. It really is that simple. My favourite girl, the lovely Lumina, has simple tastes. All she asks is a Diamond a day! Wait, we don't have diamonds.
Into the Mines!
As a farmer, you don't simply acquire jewels and such through traders and other official means. You must take it upon yourself to dig for the glory of your woman. Unless your woman is Muffy. In which case, you should forsake farming and burn your cartridge. You are not worthy of the offerings in which this game doth provide. Mining can be a tricky beast for newcomers - balancing stamina consuming acts such as digging and breaking rocks with staying alive long enough to get something good out of them. To get those sweet sweet diamonds and other goodies (you get a freaking sword at the bottom of the second mine!), you'll have to fight through hordes of miscellaneous dark farm creatures you've never seen before - and eventually, you'll have to fight your own inner darkness. Spooky stuff.
Back to Feathers
Right! Diamonds acquired, house upgraded, we are ready for a wife! As mentioned prior, this process is relatively simple, and will further shorten your farm days! Wake up, give diamond, sleep, repeat. It's really that simple! Give it a few seasons and you'll have your brand new wife. She moves into your house, it's cute.
By this point, you've expended every other option, it's time to start farming. It's around now you realised that farm you partially cleared up has once more become a rundown hovel thanks to your months of neglect. Alas, a few days of cleaning will soon see it in great shape. Farming is fun in Harvest Moon. Heck, it's what you're actually supposed to be doing - but in my years of playing, I feel I've ruined the experience for myself. No longer is it a joyous act of sewing seeds and reaping my crop. It has become a monotonous process of leveling up turnips of all things. Did you know a single Level 100 turnip would net you 600k Gold? Well I sure did. And that thought drove me neigh to the point of insanity. The endless cycle of planting, watering, harvesting, seed-makering. There's only so much I could take. My turnips made it to Level 37, still fetching an astounding 82k each. But it wasn't enough. It's never enough.
You could also raise animals in this game. Turnips somewhat dominated my life so most of mine died. I should try a livestock-oriented farm at some point, maybe it'd help? Sheep are cute too so that's a bonus.
There you have it folks, Harvest Moon DS as told by my memory. While it slowly became a rant into my own play style flaws, I'd say it gives a reasonable insight into the game. Though I may not have shown it as well as I probably should, HMDS stands as one of my favourite games, and I really would recommend it - especially to those who played and enjoyed Mineral Town. Also I feel genuine hatred towards Guts.
Post note: Will probably update this with some screenshots if I find my cart. It's lying around somewhere...
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