Sunday, February 14, 2016

Harvest Moon GB

For the GameBoy Color I had exactly four games: Link's Awakening DX, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages and Harvest Moon GB. One of these is the odd one out...

Actually it's not even that odd, because it still uses the same overheard perspective as the GBC Zelda games. Back in the day I even imagined, how it would be to have a hybrid of both games. Like settling on Koholinth and starting your own farm there, while you still go and explore dungeons, kill monsters, etc. - I know that games like this exists by now, where I mostly got my fix from Minecraft, but I also like to take a trip down memory lane.

Which is probably why I own the four exact same games on the 3DS Virtual Console and just for the old times' sake I had returned to this game as well, when I replayed all the GBC Zeldas earlier this year. Harvest Moon GB a watered down version of the vastly superior Super Nintendo Harvest Moon, but at the time I didn't have a Super Nintendo, so I didn't really care about that. It wasn't until years later that I discovered the beauty of the SNES version on emulators and the Wii Virtual Console.

By now Harvest Moon has become a big franchise with the latest outlets being Story of Seasons on the 3DS, but I've personally only ever played the originals, Harvest Moon on the SNES and this one. I've never really gotten into any of the sequels, because for me they lacked the unique charm of the originals. It's the farm, the characters in town and the music that have really grown on me. I'm sure that some of the sequels might be very good, but when I play Harvest Moon, I do it for the retro feels.

And this would actually be the first time that I will have completed the game for the GBC. Back in school we used to borrow GameBoy games a lot. And since this game only had one save, I lost all my progress a couple of times. It also consumes the battery a lot faster with the timer feature, so eventually the battery died and I never bothered with the game again. Luckily that's not an issue on the Virtual Console.

And they even managed to keep the timer features on the VC in tact, though they are only important to upgrade your Sickle and Hoe. You give those to the dwarfs in the cave below your farm and they tell you to return in 12 and 24 hours respectively. You would assume that this means ingame time, but it actually means real time. You have to activate the timer feature and turn the game off for 24 hours. When I originally played the game, I didn't have internet access, so I actually had to call Nintendo's hotline to figure this out!

Another cryptic thing was that you get different crops in Fall and Winter based on your ingame name. You have to start it with a symbol to get all possible crops, so I'm ❤TT in the game... which can be funny in the conversations with the town's folks.

Anyway, this is how I've organized my farm:

It's exactly 1671 squares of plowed soil, while you need 1600 squares to "win" the game. I planted all the grass, because it looks nice and because you can easily make so much money to afford it. But actually the small patches of grass next to your house and the tool shed are more than enough to feed your animals. The giant field of grass to the east is on the farm expansion, which you receive after the first year, where the fence marks the original border.

The 21 crop fields in the southwest are, where the magic happens. I put them there, because they are close to the shipping bin, which is important early in the game, before you get the horse and saddle (where you can put in the crops alternatively). But they are arranged in a way, where you can efficiently water them with the Sprinkler and harvest them with the horse in a short time. This is especially interesting with the regrowing Tomatoes and Broccoli in Summer and Winter. You can easily farm more than half of it and water all of it in a day and then repeat the next day to get a nice farming cycle, where you reach the full 99999 Gold in a short time and ultimately dominate the game.

Winning the game was another mystery back in the day, because the requirements weren't exactly transparent. You need:

  • 1600 squares of plowed soil
  • 4500 shipped items
  • 65536 Gold
  • 250 Happiness (out of 255)
  • Six Power Berries
  • Four adults of each animal
  • Largest house

Especially the happiness rating isn't exactly clear and there is many misinformation about all of this on the internet. Many of the guides just tell you wrong things. I found that this Ushi no Tane site is pretty good and accurate, but it does not cover the happiness rating. Luckily there's one post on GameFAQs, where someone looked into this with interesting results of what increases and decreases happiness. Simply put, as long as your cows don't get sold, sick or dead, you're fine. The church offers a way to gamble with your happiness (lol), which you can use, if you should fall short, but by the end of the 2nd year you should have reached the maximum by normal activities anyway. You don't even have to attend any of the celebrations like Christmas.

The happiness of cows is another example, where the guides are misleading. Most guides will tell you to feed, brush, milk, walk and talk to them every day, however, only the feeding is purely necessary, so they won't get unhappy or sick. Everything else just boosts the happiness of a cow, but is optional. I wish, I would have known this 16 years ago, because now I found that milking them and talking to them (which is the fastest) is more than enough and saves you the other troubles, which saves quite some time. Walking them even makes them unhappy in the rain and moles might scare them. So, don't ever walk them.

Also, some guides tell you to pray in the church ten times per day every day to get blessed cow, which can't ever get sick. However, it's purely random, so you don't have to pray every day and certainly not ten times, which would be annoying.

Anyway... you can't win the first year, because it's impossible to find more than five Power Berries without the farm expansion or the Pickax, which gives you access to the west caves for mining. And by the end of year 2 you're basically done with the game. At that point I shipped over 11,000 items (this is cumulative over the years), had maximum money, planted all the grass, bought 99 of all nine seeds and all foods and so on. There was nothing left to buy, except for the occasional refill of food and drinks, which gets covered by the milk and eggs that you sell. At that point there's nothing left to do except for feeding your animals and the dwarfs each day and skip as fast as possible through the year to get the remaining rewards.

Each year you can earn something:

  • Year 1: Ranch Expansion
  • Year 2: Ranch Master Trophy + Credits
  • Year 3: Fishing Rod
  • Year 4: Pickax
  • Year 5: Umbrella

If you don't meet the Ranch Master requirements in year 2, you will get the Fishing Rod instead. You need to win in order to get the Pickax and the Umbrella the following years though. And the year, where you earn the Ranch Master trophy, you won't get any of the other items (which most guides also tell you wrong and got me worried / confused at first, because I expected the Fishing Rod).

However, collecting these rare items is only for the sake of completion. The Fishing Rod works like in Minecraft or the bobber fishing in Twilight Princess. It's slow, but also powerful, because you fish in the underground cave, where the time doesn't progress. So, you could infinitely ship things and earn endless money in one day. But you don't really need that anymore. The Pickax gives you access to the mines, where you can find more Power Berries and gold. Power Berries boost your stamina, but that's also not a concern anymore.

And the magic Umbrella lets it rain the next day, so you don't have to water your crops. However, there's no need for shipping crops anymore. And even if there would be, it's only partly helpful, because the regrow-able crops still need to be watered again, after you pluck them, even if it rains. Which is a bad oversight in this GBC game. But getting these items so late in the game is not very rewarding, so they probably should have been available on other means.

Okay, this post now turned more into a guide, but since most guides about this game tell you wrong stuff, it might be helpful for someone out there... I just felt the urge to document my discoveries about this old favorite. It's weird how you may return to some beloved games from your childhood to find some closure, but that's also what I'm doing with the Zelda games at the moment. I will return blogging about Zelda soon.

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