Shepherd's Crossing is a series of Farm Life Sim games by Success Games. The first game, simply titled Shepherd's Crossing, was released in 2003 for the Playstation 2 (though it wasn't translated and exported until 2008). The second game, Shepherd's Crossing 2, was released for the Nintendo DS in 2010. They are among the earliest examples of the Farm Life Sim genre that aren't part of the Story of Seasons franchise, and they're quite different from others of their genre as a result.
In both games, you play as a young person (young man in the first game, young man or woman in the second) who has recently moved to Shepherd's Crossing, a tiny village high in the mountains. You have come because you've been offered free land... as long as you develop it into a farm and become a part of the community. As its name suggests, Shepherd's Crossing is known for its sheep, and raising a thriving flock will truly make you a part of the village. But you can't just expect the locals to start selling you precious sheep right away! You'll need to work your way up by raising other livestock first, as well as planting crops and gathering other materials.
This series has a higher focus on animal husbandry than other Farm Life Sim games. You'll raise large flocks of livestock, from small animals like marmots and rabbits to poultry like ducks and geese to large animals like goats and yaks (and, of course, sheep). You'll need to grow hay to feed your larger animals, while your smaller animals can feed on scraps left over from your farming. You can breed livestock with different colors to fill out your Diary. You can also butcher livestock for meat, to feed carnivorous animals like dogs and ferrets, and for pelts. In both games, you unlock the next tier of livestock by showing you can successfully raise one particular animal. Of course, you can still grow crops, and some of them are essential for feeding your flocks.
In Shepherd's Crossing the first, there is no money. Instead, the entire game works on a barter system, with certain items being able to be traded for others. You start off with only a field full of Grass, which you'll have to turn into Hay. But you can trade Hay for your first animals, Marmots... and from there, everything else. You'll need to trade your way through the market up to the sheep you so desire. Somewhat unusually for a sim game, there is no In-Universe Game Clock—you can Take Your Time to do whatever you need, as the days only advance when you decide they do.
Alongside your livestock, you can raise dogs (and a few other animals) to hunt. Hunting takes the form of a turn-based battle system where you use the abilities of your dogs to hunt game. You can collect skills such as digging in holes and nipping at heels, teach them to your hunting partners, and use them to take down foes ranging from feral chickens to dangerous lynxes and bears. Hunting can get you useful items, such as meat and pelts, but it can also get you the game's only currency—Hunting Points. You can trade Hunting Points for more skills, useful farm items, and decorations to make your farm lively.
Shepherd's Crossing 2 is more traditional. The game has a more traditional marketplace where you buy and sell things with conventional currency. Instead of an In-Universe Game Clock, the game uses a system wherein every action you do takes up a certain amount of time. Planting seeds takes a small amount of time, while chopping down a tree takes longer, for example. When you've used up a full day's worth of time, the clock advances. The game becomes more about managing the amount of time you have available with your actions. You can no longer go hunting, but the game has a greater focus on Item Crafting to compensate.
You are not just farming for wealth in the sequel, but sustenance, as well. You must keep stockpiles of various kinds of food, as well as firewood, to survive. If you run out of supplies, it's Game Over! However, this means you can now cook as well, and you can fill your belly with delicious dishes such as apple pie, bread bowl soup, and homemade ham. You can also give dishes to your fellow villagers, who have an expanded role in this game. You can even get married, but you must fulfill the marriage customs of Shephard's Crossing to do so! Men must present their intendeds with a flock of healthy, full-grown sheep, while women must knit their beaus handmade blankets.
This series contains examples of:
- All or Nothing: In the first game's hunts, you only get to keep your Hunting Points to spend if you beat (or tie) your hunting partner's score. If you don't get more points than they do, no matter how well you do, you don't get to keep those points (or unlock the hunt).
- Anti-Frustration Features: In the first game, you can't pick up fences with your bare hands—you have to have the glove tool equipped to move fences. This is so you don't accidentally set your animals loose. Unfortunately, "gates" such as the Stone Ornament and the Deck don't count as fences...
- And Your Reward Is Parenthood: In the sequel, you'll have a child one year after getting married. This child looks exactly like your Player Character.
- Artificial Stupidity:
- The hunting partners in the first game are incapable of planning ahead, and will only make decisions based on the current state of the battle. If they face foes that are guaranteed to hide or burrow on their first turn, such as marmots, they'll do nothing but attack even if the player knows the prey will hide. This does mean, however, that the player can exploit this to get ahead in points, as the AI will never try to collect an animal that hasn't fallen—but if you know an animal will be defeated that turn, you can attack then and then collect them in the same turn.
- In the second game, hungry animals have no AI to help them find food. That means that, even if a hungry animal has access to food, they might still starve if their semi-random pathing doesn't take them near a food bin. Pinning in the animals alleviates this.
- Boring, but Practical:
- Hunting marmots in the first game. They don't attack, so they're no risk to your dogs. They can be dealt with using basic skills, only requiring the "Search" skill, which the low-tier Basset Hound starts with. And each marmot hunt, done properly, provides around 18-20 Hunting Points—the most efficient source of them until you unlock some of the late-game, well, game.
- Poultry animals in the second game. In addition to regularly providing eggs, which you can sell or cook with, they're the most prolific breeders in the game, making them an excellent source of meat. They can also eat farming scraps, unlike rabbits and cavies, which require grass/hay.
- Chain of Deals: The market in the first game is basically one long chain of deals. You must trade certain items for certain other items in order to advance.
- Counter-Attack: Many enemies in the first game's hunts can use these. If an enemy "aims for a reverse," then they've entered counter stance. You can also do this yourself by learning the move Bramble Run, though only rabbits can use it, which limits its usefulness.
- Creature-Breeding Mechanic: Breeding farm animals is an important part of the game.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Hunter in Shephard's Crossing 2. Even if you marry him, he's still only referred to as "Hunter."
- Exposition Fairy: Your guide in both games is Brammy/Brummy, a sapient talking duck with a wine bottle whose existence is completely unexplained.
- Farm Life Sim: One of the earliest pre-Stardew Valley, non-Story of Seasons examples of the genre. As a result, it's very different from other games of its genre.
- Food Porn: The first game has the "Dishes" section of the Diary, which exists for no reason other than to show pictures of delicious-looking food, since you can't cook in the game. The second game does let you cook, and Brummy lovingly describes the tastes of everything from bread bowl soup to fresh sausage.
- Friendless Background: The Hunter provides valuable services to Shephard's Crossing, but no one is really friends with him. Part of this is by choice, but if you decide to marry him, he lets on that he does get lonely.
- Furry Confusion: Brammy and his relatives are talking ducks, but you can butcher ducks for meat. He even gets a bit nervous about the prospect... but also drools over ham and sausages.
- Gameplay Automation: In the first game, Brammy's relatives (and some dog breeds) will collect certain items or products and deliver them to matching signs or crates. This lets you plant all your seeds in one place, or collect all of your produce of one type in one area, without having to do it yourself. If you decide you don't want one of Brammy's relatives helping you, you can trade them back to the market for decorations, though you can always re-hire them.
- Game Gourmet: In the second game, you can cook lots of different kinds of food, both for yourself and to share with the villagers. Cooked meals allow you to turn side-dish foods like meat and vegetables into main-dish foods.
- G-Rated Sex: Animal breeding is an important part of both games. The second game shows when a female animal is in heat, but nothing detailed is shown—if a receptive female animal is in an area with male animals nearby, she'll likely become pregnant.
- Hyperactive Metabolism: In the first game, you heal wounded dogs by giving them meat.
- In-Universe Game Clock: A rare aversion, given that this trope is almost omnipresent in the genre. In the first game, there's no limit on days at all, and time only advances when you say so. In the second, you have a combined time meter/Sprint Meter that fills as you perform certain exhausting actions.
- Item Crafting: The second game lets you craft many different types of items, such as weaving straw husks into baskets you can use to store food. If you play as a female character, you'll especially need to craft the blankets you need to get married.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: In the first game, Shephards (the dogs) are this. They can learn to collect every type of game except cattle, can learn many different assist skills, and also get the very useful Distract/Surprise combo.
- Lamarck Was Right: In the first game, feeding your animals different food affects the color of their offspring. Differently-colored animals can then have more babies of their coloration normally. In the second game, however, animals will have differently-colored babies randomly.
- Manual Leader, A.I. Party: Downplayed example in the first game. You can control up to three dogs of your own. However, your hunting partner brings up to three dogs of their own that are completely AI controlled.
- New Skill as Reward: In the first game, whenever you beat a hunt for the first time, you gain access to a new skill. You can also purchase new skills with your hunting points. In the sequel, each time you advance in the story, new recipes get added to your recipe log—though you can also find those recipes yourself by experimenting.
- Overprotective Dad: In a rare example of a dad being overprotective of a son, the mayor of Shephard's Crossing is nervous about letting his son marry the PC. He needs a lot of convincing first.
- Prank Date: In the sequel, if you decide to marry Hunter, he initially assumes your proposal is a setup for one of these. You reassure him that it's genuine.
- Puni Plush: The art style in the first game is soft and vague like this. The second game trades it in for a more detailed anime art style.
- Romance Sidequest: In the sequel, you can get married by completing the village's marriage customs. The better the social standing of the person you want to marry, the more sheep or blankets you must give them. In particular, it's treated more like an Arranged Marriage that you're paying for than a true romance. The hardest person in the game to marry is the Mayor's own son, whom he is very reluctant to let go of.
- RPG Elements: The hunts in the first game take the form of turn-based battles, in which you must use your dogs' abilities wisely to bring in game.
- Sheathe Your Sword: The "hunts" against sheep, alpaca, and yak are actually you rounding up animals which have escaped their owners. As such, you don't want to do damage to them; you instead need to use techniques to collect them without hurting them.
- Skill Slot System: In the first game, each breed of dog has a certain number of skill slots it can use on abilities. Unlike in other games, though, you CAN'T unlearn taught skills, so choose wisely.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Your Exposition Fairy is named Brammy in the first game and Brummy in the second, but it's still clearly the same character.
- Status Effects: The first game's hunts have some typical effects, such as Fear (prevents doing anything but standing there or running away), Distracted (opens you up to certain attacks), and drawing aggro, but also has more "hunt-based" things such as being up a tree or in a hole.
- Tastes Like Friendship: In the sequel, you can share your dishes with the villagers. They'll tell you about their lives and themselves when you bring them food.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: According to the marriage traditions of Shepherd's Crossing, a woman who wishes to propose to a man must knit him a blanket. A male character who wishes to propose only has to give his intended sheep. The local old woman also has many spinning-and-knitting related stories to tell.
- Unbuilt Trope: While not a Trope Maker or Trope Codifier, the game nonetheless is extremely different from other Farm Life Sim games, but predates the genre's boom by many, many years. The Romance Sidequest in the second game, in particular, could be mistaken for a deconstruction of the usual cutesy Fourth Date Marriage often seen in farm sims, but is an extremely early example.
- Useless Useful Spell: Many of the hiding and concealing skills that you can teach your hunting animals are weak, since most of the most dangerous foes in the hunts don't directly attack you, but instead have brutal counterattacks that trigger when you attack them. One of the most prominent examples is Bramble Run, an absolutely vicious counterattack usable only by rabbits. It's extremely effective when used by your opponents, as it renders them nearly untouchable to your dogs. But since the most dangerous foes don't directly attack, it will almost never trigger against enemies when you use it.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Where Shepherd's Crossing is actually located is left ambiguous. The first game has a vaguely European vibe, but the second game has aspects of both Himalayan and South American cultures.
- Wizard Needs Food Badly: In the sequel, you have stocks of food and firewood you need to maintain. If you run out of food, it's Game Over.