You can play as two of the main protagonists: Pete and Sara. For the boy character, you have already successfully ran your own farm, the one back in Harvest Moon 2. The mayor of your old town tells you that his friend's daughter needs help taking care of her dad's farm, since she has no prior experience. If you agree to this, you'll go while everyone else in the village takes care of your farm.
When playing as Sara, however, the start of the game plays out differently. You see a cutscene of Sara as a young girl out in the field of the farm with her father. The scene goes to people discussing selling the farm. Sara comes into the building and tells everyone that she will run it. Mr. Heinz from Flower Bud Village will say that he knows of someone who can help the girl with the place.
One thing special about this game was that the two protagonists could interact with each other and even get married. The game also introduced their canon names and a new map. There's the Island, where you start at, and the Mainland, which has shops and can only be accessed on Mondays and Thursdays.
This game provides examples of:
- Aerith and Bob: There's Pete, Sara, and Billy versus Bigbee and Lukia.
- And Your Reward Is Parenthood: The boy farmer can marry the girl farmer and have up to two children with her. Sadly, the female farmer's game ends if she gets married.
- But Thou Must!: Subverted when Billy asks you if you lend him your hammer (what would earn you the fishing rod afterwards): If you say no, he asks you again and again, until he finally gives up and says that you must really love your hammer. He also gives you the fishing rod anyway, hoping "you'll love the fishing rod as much as your hammer".
- The Cameo: You might meet some characters from GBC 2 like Mary.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: After fixing your other farm, you Jump At The Call to go help some other guy's farm
- Character Customization: One of the first, if not the first game in the series to show this. At the beginning you can change the color of your clothes and your bandanna (which includes hair color for the girl).
- Creature-Breeding Mechanic: This is the first game out of the series to feature no Miracle Potions and boy animals. Instead, you have to get one boy and one girl animal to make more.
- Demoted to Extra: Horses, to an extent. Now that you can get more of them, they aren't so special anymore.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Definitely. Even in comparison to a few of the other early games this one was kind of... different:
- You can marry the other main character. Yes, this was the first game to actually feature this, but you could marry only the other main character.
- The Harvest Goddess just seems to not exist around here. There's also basically no Harvest Sprites for that matter. One of the more magical beings you'll get is someone like Pak, some creature who helps you know what your animals are thinking.
- Speaking of which, there's also Marla the mermaid. She sends out bottles to sea because she's lonely after waiting for her dead lover for so long. She doesn't know that he died and there seems to be no way to tell her.
- The female protagonist can't work while pregnant, main character or partner.
- There's the Miracle Glove. Equip it, pick something up, throw that something, and it automatically goes to storage. Handy when you have a ton of crops but only 8 or 16 spaces in your bag left.
- There are boy animals. These rarely appear in future games.
- You can get your own boat. You have to get the Fishing Rod from Billy after befriending him, then befriend both him and Elza to get the boat. Takes a while though.
- You can change the color of your character's clothes.
- Cain is a Harvest Goddess worshipper and priest who wears a cross. That's pushing the Crystal Dragon Jesus element. Future games use a yellow medallion with a red symbol instead.
- Game-Favored Gender: Sort of. You can't get married as the girl or else the game ends. As the boy the worse thing that will happen when befriending the other character is that your wife will get pregnant and you will have to do her work while she's out.
- Guide Dang It!: At one point when befriending your partner, you will get a goal for the game. You must have at least 3 of each animal available (horses, cows, chickens, sheep), shipped 300 items, and have a good farm ranking. One good way to raise ranking is to enter horses in the horse races at the Farmer's Union at the Mainland. It's also possible for that reason that the cow judging might help, and befriending some of the villagers, or just anyone, could help. But this is uncertain and other good ways are either non-existent or unknown. Crap.
- Healing Spring: You can get your own as early as Spring 2nd of your 1st year.
- Heroic Mime: Zig-zagged. The main character you didn't choose will actually talk to you. Your own character also talks occasionally.
- Noodle Incident: If you go to the mountains when the volcano erupts there will be a black area to the right of the dead end area. Going far enough into this area will result in an encounter with a monkey who is apparently hiding there. He says but 5 words to you: "Don't tell anyone I'm here!". The game gives no indication as to why this monkey is hiding here, and even less to the fact that he can talk.
- Non Standard Game Over: When playing as the boy character, doing a Refusal of the Call stops the plot in its tracks and leads to this.
- Refusal of the Call: When the mayor of Flower Bud Village, the boy character's old town, comes over to ask if you want to help Sara with the farm you can say no. This can actually get you a Non Standard Game Over.