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Harvest Moon (牧場物語 Bokujō Monogatari , Ranch Story), a 1996 farm simulation and role-playing game originally released for the Super Famicom in Japan in 1996 and then in 1997 for the Super Nintendo in the United States, where it was published by Natsume. A PAL version was released on early 1998 in Australia, France and Germany (with German screentext). It is the last Super Nintendo game edited by Nintendo in these countries and one of the rarest PAL games. It is the first installment of the Harvest Moon series. The game revolves around the player tending a farm.
The game was released on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console on January 4, 2008 in Europe and on February 11, 2008 in North America, costing 800 Wii Points.
The game play consists of daily tasks, and strategically using your time wisely for the best outcome in the end. For vegetables to develop, they must receive water each day; lack of water does not kill crops, but does keep them from growing. Animals must be fed once a day to keep producing. While the only care that chickens require is feeding, cows must be continually talked to, brushed, and milked to retain their health. A cow may become sick and even die if not fed for a day. The only way a chicken can die is to be left outside and allowed to be blown away in a storm or eaten by wild wolves. After dark, the only business in town that the player can access is the bar, where a number of non-player characters gather to drink and talk.
There are three different areas that the player can go to: his farm and its buildings; the local town and its houses and shops; and a local forest, where a carpenter and his colleagues live. North of the forest is a mountain.
The house can be upgraded twice. Additionally, wood can be used to construct fences around the crop areas. While rain releases the player from having to water crops by hand, it usually damages the fence. After winter, no matter how well the player takes care of the land, much of it and the fence is destroyed.
Each year has four thirty-day seasons, and the player has limited time each day before it becomes dark. The clock stops at 6 p.m. Unlike in later Harvest Moon games, the player can effectively stay outside as long as he wants without penalty, as long as he does not run out of energy. Even then, energy can be restored at the hot spring for as long as the player wants. However, when married, the character loses a few affection points with his wife if he comes home after 6 p.m. unless he is married to Eve, who loses a few points if this is done.
Crops, eggs, and milk can be placed in collection boxes, from which a shipper will collect them at 4 p.m. each day, the player being paid the next morning. The player can also gather herbs and wild fruit in the forest for sale. A small pond can be fished. The player can farm vegetables only during the spring and summer. During fall, the only thing that grows is the hay grass. In winter, nothing grows.
The player starts with basic tools, such as a watering can, axe, hoe, sickle, and hammer. All these tools can be upgraded if the player completes certain side quests (although the watering can's improvement must be purchased). Only two tools, (or in combo a bag of seeds), can be carried at a time.
At the beginning of the game, the player adopts a dog, though it requires no special care and its only contribution to the game is barking to warn the player that the farm's fence requires fixing. The player must also hug (pick-up) the dog at least 100 times during the game to receive the best ending. Although the dog's default name is Koro, it can be changed to whatever the player wants. In the winter of the first year, the player also adopts a horse, which is helpful at harvest.
The barn and henhouse are each capable of holding up to twelve of their respective animals. All cows are purchased from a livestock dealer in town, as is at least one chicken. Additional chickens can be hatched by placing an egg in an incubator instead of selling it. Cows, when first purchased or born, require time to grow before they can be milked; afterward, they grow larger and produce greater quantities of milk. Fully developed chickens and cows can be sold for profit.
There are five young women living in town who the player can marry. Each girl has her own tastes and preferences as well as a diary. The diary displays the affection level of that particular girl toward the protagonist.
Ann is a redhead who lives with her father at the tool shop. She has an interest in machines and tools (though unfortunately not an aptitude for them). She is continually developing and refining machines which never function correctly. This - along with her poor cooking - is a running joke throughout the game.
Ellen is a brunette and lives at the restaurant with her parents. Her father is the town drunk which is the source of a lot of worry for her. Ellen shows up at the ranch in the second day of the game to give you the dog. She loves animals (the livestock shop owner is her uncle).
Eve is blonde. She works and lives in the bar. Her past is completely unknown; no one gives any information about her parents and her closest known relative is her grandpa (the hunter in the mountains). She worries about him a lot and conversations throughout the game indicate she is very afraid of losing him. While never confirmed to be alcoholic, Eve is well known for brewing her own alcoholic beverages ("juice").
Maria is blue haired and the daughter of the mayor. She is extremely religious and can always be found in front of the church, or inside it on Sundays, playing the organ. Maria loves children and looks forward to having her own. It is worth noting that of all the marriageable girls, her family appears to be the most stable.
Nina is pink haired and the daughter of the flower shop owner. It is believed (but not confirmed) that her father died; her mother can be found in the graveyard at certain times of the year. Nina loves nature and everything relating to it, but she hates when nature is disturbed.
In order to marry a girl, you must meet certain requirements. A blue feather bought from the merchant serves as a sort of engagement ring analogue. You must also expand your house at least once in order to get a matrimonial bed. The girl of your choice must have at least 5 hearts of affection in her diary.
After marriage, aside from their hair color the women look identical. The player's activities are severely curtailed: he is expected to come home by a specified time. Returning home after his wife has gone to bed consistently (with the exception of Eve) will cause her affection rating to drop (a wife whose affection rating drops too low will leave the player). When the player has both house upgrades, is married to his wife for 20 days and his wife has high enough affection towards him, she will get pregnant, later giving birth in the farmhouse. It is possible to have another baby once the first baby is 31 days old and provided the wife has a high enough affection towards the player.
At certain points in the game, the player has the opportunity to take part in side quests that provide benefits. There are a number of events (some scheduled, some not) that break up the gameplay:
- Festivals - At set dates, the townspeople gather to celebrate an event. Examples include the Harvest Festival (revolving around a communal stew, similar to Thanksgiving), the Egg Festival (which features an Easter-like colored egg hunt), and the Flower Festival. Certain days, such as New Year's Day and the winter solstice, are celebrated more solemnly. Otherwise, festivals usually allow the player to engage in mini-games and to dance with girls.
- Disasters - During the summer, it is possible that the area will be struck by a hurricane. If this happens, the player loses a day of work while barricaded in the farmhouse, and many of the crops, large sections of the fence, and even cultivated land itself will be destroyed. And while less common (and unpredictable), earthquakes sometimes appear, they have some of the same effects the hurricane does.
- Marriageable Girl side-quests - For each marriagable girl in the game there is an event that can be triggered once her affection toward the player reaches a certain level. This event is always some sort of crisis that the player must resolve. Doing so increases the particular girl's affection rating. These events cannot be accessed once the player is married, regardless of the affection rating of the remaining girls.
Some of the game's special events require natural disasters to allow the player to access it. After an earthquake or lightning strike, for example, the player can meet the "Harvest Sprites" who live in tunnels under the farm. They can also gain access to a pond where the Harvest Goddess lives. Doing these things allows the character to upgrade his tools without paying money.
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In the version of the game released in America, all references to alcohol are changed to "juice," even though anyone who drinks said "juice" clearly becomes intoxicated. While many elements of the game were "westernized" for its American release, some Japanese references were overlooked. For example, townspeople sometimes discuss the church and its religion in Shinto terms, such as referring to the existence of both a "God of the Harvest" and a "God of Business." In several "New Day" cinematics, the character eats an onigiri, a food not familiar to many outside of Japan. The news anchor on TV in the game bows to the audience in a welcoming manner. This is uncommon in western countries.
BS Bokujō Monogatari (BS 牧場物語) was an episodically released ura- or gaiden-version of the original Harvest Moon consisting of 4 unique episodes on the Satellaview. Each episode had to be downloaded by players from St.GIGA (at NikoNiko Ranch on the BS-X cartridge) during a specified broadcast week and during a specified time-window. It featured "SoundLink" narration (radio drama-style streaming voice data intended to guide players through the game and give helpful hints and advice). Due to the nature of SoundLink broadcasts these games were only broadcast to players between 6:00 and 6:50PM on broadcast dates. The game was never released outside of Japan and as with all other Satellaview titles it has never been re-released as a stand-alone title. Online Satellaview emulation enthusiasts refer to the game unofficially as "BS Makiba Monogatari."A single rerun of the broadcasts was conducted in the same weekly format from November 4, 1996 to November 30, 1996 at 5:00 to 5:50PM. The BS-X download location changed to Bagupotamia Temple. The episodes were known as:
- First Time "Outdoor Life" (はじめての“あうとどあＬＩＦＥ” Hajimeteno "Autodoa Life" ) released on September 2, 1996
- Fruitful Land and Mind! (大地と心に溢れる実り！ Daichi to Kokoro ni Afure ru Minori! ) released on September 9, 1996
- We Are All Alive (僕らはみんな生きている Bokura Haminna Iki Teiru ) released on September 16, 1996
- Aim for Ranch Master! (牧場マスターを目指せ！ Bokujō Masuta wo Mezase! ) released on September 23, 1996
With the exception of HonestGamers, who gave 'Harvest Moon' a 3/10, the game received mainly positive reviews and has a Gamerankings standing of 69.52%.
- Super NES Games (pdf). Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-03-25 Retrieved on 2008-04-26
- Kameb (2008-02-12). スーパーファミコンアワー番組表 (Japanese). The Satellaview History Museum. Retrieved on 2009-03-29
- Harvest Moon on Gamerankings. Gamerankings. Retrieved on 2009-06-29
- Lucas M. Thomas (February 11, 2008). Harvest Moon Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2008-02-12