Video Game: Harvest Moon 64

"The farm's pretty run down. You've got your work cut out, but don't get discouraged!"
The Mayor

Harvest Moon 64 is the third game in the Harvest Moon series, released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64. An Even Better Sequel to the original, it cemented the franchise as a successful (and profitable) Cult Classic. Harvest Moon 64 sticks to the series formula — indeed, helped codify it — and generally expands on original concept. The player's grandfather has recently died and the player has decided to move in and work the farm in grandpa's place. You have just over two years (until the end of the third Spring) to whip the farm into shape, become an active part of the local community, woo, wed, and bed a local bachelorette, and generally become a successful and responsible adult. At the end of this period, your father visits and grades your progress, marking the conclusion of the game as such, though there's nothing to keep you from playing indefinitely after that.

HM64 is, like the rest of the series, a Simulation Game that combines aspects of business, social, and space management games into a single whole. It holds something of an odd place in the franchise — while it helped solidify much of the series' gameplay, it still suffers from quite a bit of Early Installment Weirdness and much of its content was ignored or altered for later Harvest Moon games. It's generally regarded as one of the best games in the franchise, but due to its age relatively few current fans have played it. It didn't help that Harvest Moon: Back to Nature (released at about the same time) had a different set of characters which took precedence over the HM64 versions for quite some time, leaving them in something of a Canon Discontinuity limbo. New games have reintroduced some long-missing characters, however (such as Elli appearing in Tree of Tranquility), so that part of HM64's history seems to be over.

This game provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The Japanese strategy guide goes very in-depth into everyone; stating ages, likes, their personality, among other stuff. It also mentions how Elli and Pete are the Official Couple, and how Rick has a crush on Karen.
  • Arcadia: Flower Bud Village is very Arcadian, mixed with a bit of (the positive version of) Eagle Land. Details  It's a close-knit pastoral community where the worst thing that ever happens is a beloved elder dying peacefully in their sleep, or a youngster succumbing to the lure of the big city and leaving home.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The art style is very chibi and cute, but the story deals with some decidedly un-childish subjects, such as the death of loved ones to the prospect of financial ruin and a crumbling family life due to a failing business. Of course, things can work out in the end (if the player puts enough effort into it), so it's not all doom and gloom — but it's certainly not as much of a Sugar Bowl as the art would suggest.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The mythical "Party Picture", the last picture in the photo album, and the most difficult to acquire. Awarded after your dad visits at the end of the third Spring, if you've fulfilled all the requirements for it. Note that these requirements are so stringent that it wasn't until May 2011 (nearly twelve years after the original release of the game!) that the fandom conclusively determined the exact requirements.
  • Christmas Rushed: Widely thought to be the reason for the general lack of polish, such as the large number of typos and the like; the game was released on November 30th, 1999.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The local church is very Catholic flavored, but actually worships the Harvest Goddess.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The characterization in this game is quite different from the next game, Back to Nature. Characters relations to each other, and rival pairings, are different too. It's also more fluid and natural then a lot of future games.
  • Generation Xerox: Various characters are nigh-identical to their grandparents in the first game. The Player Character and his grandfather, Ann/Ann, Popuri/Nina, and Elli/Ellen all qualify.
  • Good Bad Translation: There were more than a few quirks with the translation, like items being called different things depending on where you checked, but the most amusing was definitely Natsume spelling their own name wrong on the title screen. (They used "Natume", which is technically correct, but obviously inconsistent with the usual translation.)
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: Go ahead, let an animal die. Then sit through a scene where you hold a funeral for it. Try not to feel bad then.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: Game time passes unless you're either indoors or paused; the single biggest pressure in the game is getting all the stuff you need to accomplish done in the amount of time available to you.
  • Japanese Holidays: Several of the festivals are based on them. Specifically, the Firefly Festival is very reminiscent of Bon, and the Starry Night Festival is somewhat similar to the Japanese celebration of Christmas (taking place on the 24th of Winter helps). There's also New Years Eve and New Years Day.
  • Kissing Cousins: Your grandfather, the protagonist of the original Harvest Moon, canonically married one of the bachelorettes from that game. All of the bachelorettes of this game are their granddaughters. This means that one of the five girls has the same grandparents as you — making you cousins. The trope is presumably averted, however, since it's never stated which bachelorette is your cousin, so it's safe to assume that it's not the one you married. However you can still have Squick induced if you court all the girls.
  • Lost Forever: Cliff, Karen, and Kai will all leave the village if you don't befriend them quickly enough (though Kai will stick around if Karen does, given that she's his Love Interest). There are also numerous photos with a limited window of opportunity — some are one time only events, and all of the girls' pictures will be unavailable after you get married.
  • Magic Realism: Flower Bud Village is a normal rural community... except for the Harvest Sprites, Kappa, and Harvest Goddess... and the suspiciously apropos dreams you occasionally have... and the trail of smoke into the sky whenever an elder dies...
  • More Friends, More Benefits: One of the positive ending messages requires you to have the highest relationship level with all five girls, even though you can only marry one.
  • Mythology Gag: Ken from the Game Boy titles appears unnamed.
  • Nature Spirit: A handful. There's the three Harvest Sprites, the Kappa that lives in the pond, and the Harvest Goddess herself.
  • NPC Scheduling: Character locations depend on the time of day, day of the week, and sometimes weather, not counting periodic exceptions like festivals and relationship events. Usually characters have a "working" location where they are most days, a handful of different "time off" locations that they randomly pick between on their days off, and an alternate location for bad weather if they would've been outside otherwise.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Numerous, but the most common is probably the "full album run", a form of 100% Completion combined with Speed Run (since you have to do it all before you hit the Playable Epilogue, with many intermediate deadlines for accomplishments imposed by scripted in-game events before that). See Bragging Rights Reward above.
  • Shout-Out: If Karen and Kai get married, their child will be dressed up in a Pikachu outfit.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: A Harvest Moon game released for the Nintendo 64, creatively named Harvest Moon 64.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You can get some really heartwarming scenes — for both your PC and others — by being nice to people and getting certain events.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can also be a terrible, horrible person — try giving people weeds and rocks, for example. Or just hacking at your animals with your tools. Or refusing to feed them.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Naturally, if you abuse your friends and animals, they'll like you less. In the animals' case, this will usually mean they earn you less money, if they don't just flat out die from your abuse. Killing off animals makes everyone in town like you less — and in the case of particularly animal-friendly characters like Ann, a lot less.