Harvest Moon (Sample, Super Nintendo)
Feeding chickens? Planting seeds? Chopping wood? These things sound awfully chore-like. Don’t we escape into video games to combat the mundanity of everyday existence? How could watering plants and milking cows be any fun at all?
I don’t entirely know the answer to that, but trust me, farm simulating is fun. And plenty addicting, too. Once you get your hands dirty in the world of Harvest Moon, there’s no going back to the slums of Sim City. Nintendo farm living is the life for me.
The long-running Harvest Moon series continues to crop up on new systems, with over 30 unique titles to date, but its roots reach all the way back to the Super Nintendo. The original game tells a simple coming-of-age story. After passing away, your grandfather has left his family a dilapidated farm to tend to, but with your parents gone, your task is to hold down the fort to prove that you’re a responsible and capable young man.
The road ahead to manhood through food horticulture won’t be easy. You’ll plow and sow the land until you pass out, which will happen often if you don’t pace yourself.
As the seasons change, you’ll have to learn the importance of crop rotation and maybe think about shifting your attention to livestock, or else risk losing everything that grandpappy ever worked for.
But life isn’t all about pressure and hard work. To unwind, there’s a town nearby that you can poke around in and waste away your off-hours. You can choose to be as good as a choir boy by attending services at the church, or ease your shot nerves by getting loaded on “juice” at the bar located on the other side of town.
No man’s an island, or, in this case, a farm; in the town, you’ll also have an opportunity to socialize with the townsfolk.
Unfortunately, everyone seems to be going though one big existential crisis after another.
WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON; I, TOO, WANT TO DO GARDEN FOREVER!
At least you’ll meet some respectable young ladies. Present a gift to a gal or ask her out on a date, and she may grant you a kiss.
As your relationship blooms, you can stalk your love by reading how she feels about you in her bedside diary, or instead play hard to get by standing her up and going on an all-day fishing trip in the mountains, then return only to throw your catch right in her face.
However you roll the dice in the game of love, if you a woo your woman long enough, she might just let you marry her and start a family together on the ranch.
Then the decisions become even more complicated as you struggle with whether to stay true and devoted or play around behind her back; waiting for wifey to slip fast asleep, so you can tiptoe out of the house to skinny dip with a flirtatious blonde. Whatever you choose to do is entirely up to you.
Just remember to feed the cow!
The beauty of Harvest Moon is that you make the game work for you and your own play style. That rewarding sense of free will, and perhaps developing an obsessive compulsion to dig up all of the incessant weeds that never stop growing, is what’ll motivate you to rough it out until the end.
Stay far away from the town drunk. He’s known to be rather “grabby.”
When a Super Nintendo prototype appeared on eBay, I got on my bib-overalls and John Deere cap. Hayrides and cider, here I come!
Before getting into the prototype, I’d like to share a short story to show just how crazily dedicated I am. When I received Harvest Moon in the mail and noticed that its EPROM chips were exposed, I sealed up the shipping container and headed out to find some stickers. I may still buy video games, the occasional toy, and Boo Berry cereal, when it’s seasonally available, but years and years have passed since I’ve plunked down money on stickers.
It was time for that to change.
Growing up, I used to put a whole piggy bank’s worth of quarters into grocery store vending machines to keep the levers cranking and the cheap plastic capsules of those wonderfully scratchy, oversized lenticulars coming. But that was more than a decade ago. Does anyone even buy stickies nowadays?
Apparently not at the grocery store, or at least not the ones in Northeast Philly.
I wound up finally at a bookstore, getting down on my knees to scan the children’s shelves. It was a humbling experience, to say the least, as I absorbed the glares from damn judgmental little jerks who were never taught by their parents not to stare. Kids these days have no manners.
On second thought, times have changed, and I probably looked like “stranger danger” material pouring over piles of glittery sticker books.
You did the right thing, kids.
In the end, I chose a set of stickers that were most appropriate for a video game set in Green Acres, a sticker activity book entitled Mr. McGregor’s Garden. Coincidentally, the book was first published in 1997, the same year as the Super Nintendo game was released stateside.
U5 16/64/256K SRAM [Empty Slot]
My favorite sticker? The bulbous head of lettuce that’s as big as a rake. That Mr. McGregor must use a mixture of Miracle Grow and plutonium. Looking at them now, I’m so glad that I didn’t undress the bananas of their Chiquita labels at the grocery store. You cannot grow banana trees in Harvest Moon, so that would’ve just looked silly!
The back of the development board has what appears to be a thin layer of pink Styrofoam. This is often seen on review samples sent to gaming magazines. At one point, cellophane wrap would have most likely enclosed the entire board to prevent the removal and copying of the EPROM chips. Somebody along the way must have tossed out that wrapping.
One of only two known Harvest Moon Super Nintendo prototypes, the other is on a long development board, this particular copy came to me by way of Alexandre Fernandes, a Portuguese video game collector.
Harvest Moon would have been better off staying in Portugal because this “prototype” is byte-for-byte identical to the final North American retail game. A thin paperback filled with vegetable stickers remains my only solace in this whole ordeal.