Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
Harvest Moon is a wonderfully addicting game about farming life. There have been many versions that have come out since I first played the PS1 game, with the gameplay being fairly uniform, except for some changes in some of the different versions. Back to Nature (PS1) is very similar to the Friends of Mineral Town and More Friends of Mineral Town version which can be played on the Gameboy Advance, while the Boy and Girl version is its counter-part for the PSP. The PS2 also has some other versions of the game such as A Wonderful Life and Save the Homeland.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature begins with the main character (you), a boy whose grandfather used to own the farm that you spent one of your best summers in. Since your grandfather passed away, the farm has not been taken care of and there are weeds growing all over the field. It’s your job to have to bring the farm back to its original state (within 3 years) or else it’s good-bye Mineral Town (the town you are presently in). For the girl version of the game, there are of course minor differences, like the character’s history and such, but the story still runs the same way.
You start the game by trying to get your run-down farm back to its former glory, by cleaning the field up and filling the farm with life. Slowly and bit by bit, from the money you earn from selling herbs on the mountains and later on from money you earn selling crops you grow on the farm, you’ll be able to buy animals (chickens, cows and sheep), upgrade your tools and upgrade your infrastructure on the farm. The game is not entirely about farming life, since one of the basic necessities in the game still lies in your ability to be friends with the townsfolk. One of my favorite features in this game is the ability for marriage (to one of 5 girls) and if you’re playing a girl, it’s to one of 5 boys. You have to court the girl (or boy) that you plan on marrying, though it’s a common tactic to court everyone and then take your pick, since you eventually have to get-along with everyone anyway.
Courting the girl (or boy) of your dreams is not the only additional requirement, since villagers will be important if you wish to be able to survive the story. Villagers will also be very helpful in giving you recipes and helpful tips throughout the story. For the girls (or boys), if you wish to know your progress, a heart will appear at the end of the dialogue box when you talk to them, which will determine your relationship. Building up relationships also unlocks special scenes throughout the story.
Of course, as a town, one of the things the story’s fun revolves around is the town festivities. There are various festivals throughout the story, for example the Goddess Festival, or the Harvest Festival, the Sheep Festival or the Cow Festival and many others. There is also a Cooking Festival, which will be fun later on when you’ve upgraded your house and unlocked the kitchen, which you can use when you’ve collected ingredients, utensils (which you can buy from TV Home Shopping) and recipes (which you can get from the TV, villagers, and various other sources).
Other interesting features in the game is the ability to fish (once you’ve found a fishing rod), to mine for ores that not only upgrade your tools but allow you to create accessories, the changes in weather, the variety of crops depending on the season, dialogues between the different characters throughout the story, and other such features.
It is a wonderful game that can be very addicting, but also can be very monotonous. With 4 months per year (equal to 4 seasons) and 30 days per season, the game may seem like it passes quite quickly but in fact, it doesn’t. This is based solely from experience. For some days, it seems like there isn’t enough time to do everything you want to do: from gathering herbs, to watering plants, to taking care of the animals and to courting the girls and the villagers. Eventually though, you can unlock the Harvest Sprites who will be able to help you with tasks such as watering and harvesting your crops, and taking care of your animals.
There is a lot of variety and monotony in the game. If you are determined to finish the game, it can be a challenge to a lot of players. The game is wonderfully done, with its variety of music throughout different parts of the game, wonderfully done characters and character profiles, and other such things. The scenery throughout the village is wonderfully done as well. My problem may lie solely on it being just a village, without the ability to leave or mingle with people outside of the town. It can also be very tiring and daunting to have to do so many days every year. But one thing can be admired from all of these. If one marries, one can eventually live with their spouses and even have children, though endings differentiate for the girl and boy characters, with the girl character’s stories ending earlier than that of the boy’s. If you play the boy character, you can watch your child grow into a toddler, which can be very cute.
This game comes well-recommended, and even an impatient person like me finds a lot of fun in games such as these, devoting a lot of hours to playing the game.
This review does not include walk-throughs, character summaries, or tips for the game and such.