Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Delight of Trivial Dialogue in Harvest Moon


When I have my (very brief) moments of weariness and experience a crisis of faith in any Harvest Moon game, wondering how long it will take to collect enough income for the prized Greenhouse or when I will be able to reach the lowest floor in any Mine, something always restores my energy. Often it is an unexpected Event... or even a little piece of dialogue.

In Sunshine Islands, for example, Freya found Popuri at the Diner on a snowy Saturday afternoon in Winter. When she spoke to her, Popuri confided: 'Just between you and me, Karen's a terrible cook.'

That is no secret, by the way, to any veteran player of Harvest Moon. In FoMT and MFoMT, Karen invariably entered some utterly destroyed 'Burnt Dish' in the Cooking Contest year after year. We have followed her Cooking disasters from game to game... It did bring a smile to my face, however, hearing Popuri confess this little fact to me in Sunshine Islands. After all, how many years has Karen beeen striving unsuccessfully in the kitchen? Blessed with beauty, intelligence, humour and boundless energy, able to hold her own at the bar or in the workplace against any man, it is only fitting that Karen should have one flaw. She cannot cook.

Players who complain about 'too much dialogue' in any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game are missing the point entirely. They shouldn't be playing these games if they cannot immerse themselves in these two wildly diverting, complex universes where characters are three-dimensional and have histories that carry over from game to game and village to village. Harvest Moon and Rune Factory truly are interactive novels where we, the players, are privileged to be allowed to enter into the universe and interact freely, actually changing the destinies of other characters as well as creating a marvelous life for ourselves.

You cannot expect to plumb the depths of Island of Happiness or Sunshine Islands in a year or two. Furthermore, there is a philosophical lesson to be learned in any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game. Impatience is the root of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life and your world. If you learn patience and have an attention to detail, you will be rewarded with every possible benefit that these worlds offer. If you begin to count the days until you will earn enough money for a specific upgrade, you will be unhappy with yourself and your life until you achieve that goal and furthermore, probably neglect other details and aspects of life in the process. You must tread gently and carefully in Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, paying attention to other people as well as other living creatures, whether plants or animals. Every life has its own worth. Neglect one and you have made your own universe a smaller place.

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