Victor Intereactive Software - 1997
Machine: Nintendo Gameboy, and many others
This game has appeared on several formats, but it seemed to work on the Gameboy most effectively. This is a farming game. No, don't run off... there aren't any tractors involved, ruthless protection of property or dubious relationships with family members. This is actually a really cool game. You inherit a farm that has fallen into decline. Your mission is to renew the fortunes of the farm, and ultimately become Ranch Master. Initially you find yourself in your small hut (which you can extend later on) with only the company of your loveable dog or cat, depending upon your preference. You can grow crops and sell the proceeds in the nearby town. You can grow chickens which yield precious eggs, and also raise cows for milk. The game is broken down into days that pass in about five minutes of real time; this means you have to water your crops, feed your chickens and cows within that time. The character that you control gets tired and he needs a proper night's sleep in order to recuperate his stamina for the next day. But never mind him: this game is absolutely exhausting for the actual player because it is so hectic. It's just so relentless; occasionally you are given a break from your watering duties because of rain, but still you wonder how you manage. It's ace! Not only is there the day to day running of your farm, but there's a bizarre subplot involving pixies who give you magic farming tools in return for giant mushrooms and such.
This game is totally open ended, rather like Sim City but with pixies in it. The game tells you very little on how to run your farm, so much of it is down your innate agricultural skills. The game is highly addictive and you'll suddenly find yourself being really disappointed when your tomatoes don't grow properly. Or you might get upset when one of your cows gets depressed. You'll also be shocked (and appalled) that you squealed in delight when one of the pixies presented you with a magic hoe or some other enchanted gardening implement. This game suits the Gameboy perfectly because of the immediacy of the gameplay and the fact that the game gobbles up time at an unbelievable rate (perfect for long journeys.) It also shows that these sort of open ended games can be made on machines other than the PC. More pertinently these games are now fundamentally part of video game culture, and are as accessible as any shoot 'em up or platformer. Anyway, I'm just off to brush my cow.
Bubbaray 05 Apr '03
Harvest Moon Farms - A brilliant fansite with masses of stuff to see.
Wikipedia's Harvest Moon page - Lots of great information.