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Memory Pak: When Harvest Moon Taught Me About Death


Welcome to the latest instalment in our new column, Memory Pak, where we’re going to be doing a deep-dive into some of the most memorable moments in gaming – good and bad. We hope you’ve got some tissues ready because this one’s going to be a bit of a weepy.

People play Harvest Moon games for their peaceful, repetitive gameplay, in which the seasons turn, the crops grow, and the townsfolk always stay the same. No one plays Harvest Moon to come face-to-face with death – but sometimes, a spoonful of medicine helps the sugar go down.

I have been in love with Harvest Moon ever since I played A Wonderful Life on the GameCube. To put it in terms that non-Harvest-Moon fans would understand, that’s like me saying Majora’s Mask is my favourite Zelda (which it is): it’s the one game in the series that really does things differently.

Most of these sedate pastoral farm life simulators focus on crops and marriage, and everything else just funnels into those two goals. Make money to buy things to make more crops to give to your girlfriend so she’ll marry you. If only real life were that simple, eh?

Celia and the Farmer

I married Celia in my playthrough (which I shared with my little brother). No offence to Celia fans meant here, but Celia is the most boring option of the three bachelorettes: Celia, Muffy, and Nami. Nami is the town’s standoffish tomboy with a heart of gold; Muffy is a bubbly, flirty blonde who helps run the bar. Celia is the equivalent of underdone toast. You should never trust a woman who falls in love with you purely because you give her one egg a day.

But that’s not the point of this Memory Pak column, so enough about my marriage regrets. Once you’ve married someone in A Wonderful Life, the game skips you to Chapter Two, in which you already have a kid, and they’re already a toddler. But the game also kills off Nina, the elderly wife of Galen, in an unexpected twist that leaves poor Galen even more reclusive and grumpy than he was before.

(Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is not the first game in the series to deal with death, though. That honour goes to Ellen in Harvest Moon 64, the 72-year-old who will die in front of you if you talk to her at the wrong time. 72 isn’t even that old, Natsume.)

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