REVIEW: Harvest Moon GB/GBC

this article is part of an ongoing series examining the entire Harvest Moon franchise. see the main article and index here.

This is probably the most basic of all the Harvest Moon games, since it’s all the farming with none of the socializing or marrying. Its simplicity also puts it near the top of my own personal Harvest Moon list, since it’s so easy to pick up and play.

I hope you love to farm.

QUICK FACT: This is the only Harvest Moon game that lets you farm in winter.
QUICK FACT: This is also the only game that has all the social elements stripped out. You can’t even make friends.

GAME LENGTH: Grandpa evaluates you at the end of the year, but the game goes on infinitely. You won’t want to play for longer than two years, however, since most of the goals and items can be obtained in one year, and the second is used for the last few items and reaping the benefits of everything.  You can play for longer, to get the end-of-the year items (there are three total, and you can’t obtain one in your first year of play), but you probably won’t want to.  With no social elements, playing for longer than that leaves you with nothing to do except earn more money than the game can keep track of. There’s a lot of replay value, though, since getting the “Master” status from grandpa in two year takes a lot of work and planning.

GB/GBC Differences: Literally, the only difference between these two versions is that the GBC was optimized for Game Boy Color and the Super Game Boy attachment for the SNES (you could play with a cute frame on your TV). There aren’t any of the usual version differences, like different people/crops/events, they are exactly the same game.

The plot is the most basic of Harvest Moon plots: Grandpa’s dead, and you inherit the farm.  At the end of every year, Grandpa’s ghost evaluates you.  If he finds you lacking, he’ll increase the size of your farm by 50% and check back next year.  If he’s pleased, he’ll give you some items (including the game-breaking umbrella,an item that makes it rain every day and hasn’t appeared since).  Your game does not end, and you can farm your little heart out indefinitely or start over with a brand new farm and plan to please grandpa in as little time as possible.  Doing it in one year is not happening, but I like to try for two for Ranch Master.  To get all of Grandpa’s Ranch Master items, you need to play for four years and get the title every time in all years but the first, which is difficult.  Very difficult.  Many people won’t have the patience for this.

Weirdly, you can choose between a girl and boy character, a feature offered in all three Harvest Moon GB games, but then disappeared from the series for about eight years.  Your farm is huge, and has the same layout as the SNES version.  There are two crops per season, but a secret code is needed to access both at once, otherwise you’ll only have access to one at once.  All of the crops are pretty familiar, with renewable crops in the summer, but this version also has winter crops.  Growing broccoli and peanuts in the wintertime is extremely rewarding.  If you have access to the sprinkler and saddle bags before the summer crops mature, and you go crazy planting them, you can max out your money by the end of summer.  Crop planning and strategy is in full effect, so you’ll either want to use rows (for renewable crops) or c-shaped plots for easy sprinkler access.  Plant them close together, but remember you need access to every plant in a plot.

Tools are fairly straightforward, and you get all the basics plus one upgrade.  Harvest Sprites make an early rudimentary appearance under your tool shed, as does the Harvest Goddess.  They do some of the tool upgrades, and characters in town do others once certain events have been triggered.  Apparently there is some complex timer system (seen here) that you’re supposed to use to upgrade your tools, but… I’ve played this game dozens of times and never seen or used that.  It’s possible that it’s a new feature added to the GBC version, but I’m nearly positive that there’s no difference between the two.  I just checked an old save file to confirm, and yeah, I have all the upgraded tools without having to use the timer.

The power berry system is in full effect here, where your (invisible) stamina increases depending on the number of power berries you’ve found.  I love this system, and miss it very much when I’m preparing complicated/expensive health elixers in later games.

There are no other areas outside your farm and the small cave under your shed.  No mines, no forests, no social areas, nothing.  The winter crops are probably compensation for taking away all the marrying and socializing you were supposed to be doing in the fall and winter in the original Harvest Moon.

You can keep four cows and four chickens, and the same time-tested rules apply: you’ll want to use incubated eggs to generate more chickens (though the chickens take a long time to mature in this game, if I recall), and you can use Miracle Potion on your cows to make more, but they take so long to mature that it’s easier to just buy medium cows.  Only cows can go outside, and that’s handled via cutscene, so there’s no running around or wild dogs or anything.  Cow affection increases the size of milk, and there are butter and cheese makers available starting with the second game year.

There is almost no socializing whatsoever, and the town is handled via a menu.  There are a scant few events throughout the year where some of the residents will show up on your farm or elsewhere, but otherwise the villagers are just for looking at.

As a side note, you can upgrade your house twice.  It serves no real purpose other than Grandpa wants you to do it, since you have no wife to move in, but that feature is still there for lumber nuts.  You chop all the lumber on your own farm, though, and wind up buying anything else you need since there’s no other places that generate it.

I picked this up as a youngster, and fell victim to the confusing and not explained “clear the land first, then hoe, then plant the seeds, which fall in a 3×3 area” rules.  It didn’t take me very long to figure out, especially since I had Nintendo Power, but it’s one of those things that isn’t explained in the game itself.  Hoeing the ground isn’t intuitive, nor is the fact that the seed plots are 3×3.  But now that you know, there’s no problem.

This is ancient and archaic compared to even the SNES version of the game, but as I said, it’s among my favorites since I played it so much, especially on car trips.  Stripping out everything except farming makes it way more of a numbers game than the others, and you have nothing to focus on aside from how much you can do before your stamina runs out, and how much you can ship during the day before the deadline comes up (crops thrown in after the deadline will “rot” and not count). You wind up setting goals for when you’ll purchase your next cow, when you’ll upgrade your house or get this or that, and yeah, Grandpa’s deadline in one year is an awesome, manic challenge. There’s almost no fun playing the second year or further since you have probably bought and done everything the first year (other than the makers and any items Grandpa gave you), but all the same, that “Ranch Master in two years” challenge is one that has had me playing the game over and over again.

RANK: A favorite, but that’s tinted with nostalgia.  As much as I do like to farm, this is realistically one of the lesser games, probably scoring towards the bottom of the list.  Better than some of the spinoff games, though.

Also, Europe got a super-dope box for this:


1 Comment »

  1. […] Harvest Moon (SNES – 1997) BS Harvest Moon (SNES Satellaview – 1996 – JP only) Harvest Moon GB/C (Game Boy/Game Boy Color – 1997)* Harvest Moon 64 (Nintendo 64 – 1999) Harvest Moon 2 GBC (Game Boy Color – 2000) Harvest […]

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