Petting Horses for Fun and Profit
I found the perfect thing to help me out! I've taken on part-timing at the Brownie Farm, helping Bob out with his animals. Animal husbandry seems like it might be difficult, so this will get me in some good practice before I start raising some cows and stuff on our farm. It's been a nice experience so far. There's a girl that works there named Gwen who seems a bit difficult to get along with, but I'll do my best to remain friendly.
I've been practicing growing vegetables and it's going very well. All the neighbors seem to appreciate them as well. I feel like I'm going to end up giving them all away as gifts!
I've seen some stray dogs around the valley. When I try to approach them, they just get scared and run away. I've started leaving food out for them in front of the house, so hopefully they'll at least be fed, the poor things. I don't know where they go when it rains.
Overall, I already feel like I'm starting to settle in here. Now to find a way to stay settled...
So last time, we walked through "a day in the life" of Save the Homeland, but from now on I'll only be covering new mechanics and features, as well as any important scenes that occur, so each entry will consist of any number of days depending on how much content there was to write about over that span of in-game time. Some stuff will also be a bit non-linear, since I might choose to describe certain things together even if they happened separate from one another in game-time. I'm already finding this game to be a bit of challenge to write for -- I knew it would be different and a bit weird, but it's a lot harder to really come up with a format that works than I had imagined.
The very first thing we do on the second day is run up to the Brownie Farm. This place is past Lyla's flower shop and stuff, in the little corner of the valley we haven't explored yet. Though the reason I came here first wasn't simply because we hadn't been here yet, but because there's something important I wanted to start doing here. But when we arrived, it was locked, because we got here too early.
I've changed my habits in some Harvest Moon games recently. I used to always be pretty strict about doing all chores for the day before ever leaving the farmland, no matter the game. But depending on the game and situation, I've found this can actually be detrimental. The realization came about when playing the original Harvest Moon for the SNES -- in that game, the time window for things you can do outside of your farm is very small, and working on your farm would easily make you miss out on the ability to go to shops, talk to people, or forage in the mountain.
When I first played back when the game was new, I would just only go into town or whatever on days I didn't have chores, or only had little chores. This usually meant purposely not planting new crops and stuff so I could have a 'free day.' I remember keeping this mentality into Harvest Moon 64, where it was still quite frustrating, and I'd just not do much on the farm at all to make time to go into town.
After that, the series got a bit more lenient, sometimes even too lenient, and it would often be quite possible to do all your farming chores and do everything you wanted to do outside of your farm, too, in that order. The time management aspect of the game kind of went away in favor of a more casual simulation gameplay. So it was only somewhat recently (like, as in, in the past few years?) that I came up with the brilliant idea that you can do some of your chores after returning home!!!
I know, I know. Of course, it required breaking up strict routines which felt very ~wrong~ for a while, but now I feel like I can get even more out of the games by having different schedules and routines based on in-game necessity.
In this case, though, I didn't think much about it and just dashed straight to the other farm as soon as I woke up, saving my chores for later... but there's really no point because it made me get here way too early. And we barely have any chores back on the farm since we've only planted a small handful of seeds. So I could have just watered them before coming...
OK, I talked WAY too much about that...
Since we have some spare time, though, we can explore around the surrounding area. Like most video games, you're free to just barge into people's houses and rummage through their things, and they don't even mind when they are present! So we head into the house of the farmer we were going to visit. He's not there, but we can get a bit of an idea of how he lives by looking around his house. He's got the normal stuff -- table, bed, you know. He also has a big dumbell with a towel, the only person in the game to own exercise equipment as far as I know. We also find a kid's diary, so a child must live here with him. The diary also gives us a game hint because the kid talks about gathering items in the woods and by the lake and selling them to make some extra money. But we already knew that! Smarter than a fifth grader.
Since being indoors causes the game clock to stop, we actually didn't spend much time invading the other farmer's house. We still have a while to kill before the Farmer's Shop opens, so we head a little past the farm up the hill to the villa. This is the highest point in the valley, and a seemingly wealthy group of people live here, evident by their much more lavish house and yard.
Inside we find that they own a lot of stuff, including some very cool cooking utensils which we get quite excited about. We meet Martha, the older lady who lives here, who seems sweet and gentle. And loaded, because she seems to own this whole place and is even willing to buy stuff from us! I guess rather than go shopping themselves, they'd prefer to get stuff straight from the source. We can sell milk, eggs, fish, herbs, and some by-products like yogurt to Martha. It's a bit out of the way, but the variety of things we can sell here is very nice, and if we're ever in the area anyway, it can be quite convenient.
There are also two younger gals living here, but we'll talk more about them later. And now we've explored everywhere in the valley! Yeah, this place isn't that big. And that's the entire game world. But I think that's part of what's nice about these games -- you really get that feeling of being in a small community, without having to think of the bigger world outside. Except for, well, the looming destruction of everyone's entire way of life due to capitalism deciding they are worth less than an amusement park. But uh, yeah, happy, cozy farm life.
Because the yard at the villa is so huge, we spend enough time just walking to it that the Farmer's Shop is now open, and we go in to meet the owner of the farm, Bob.
Bob is the resident bara dude, more ripped than Tony Nese, with a strangely tiny waist. Basically he's a hotter version of Zack, the shipment guy from the previous game in the series. Though a lot of people seem to like Zack more. Their personalities are quite different, though. Bob is a loud, cheerful guy, the type with those laughs and an emotive face. He seems to really love fire (please don't burn my farm down...) because he has big fireball tattoos on both of his arms, and even wears fire-themed work gear.
Anyway, we didn't just come here to ogle this muscle boy. We're here to do some work. There's a lot of work to do at the farm, so Bob is always looking for part-timers to help out for the day on a sort of whenever-you-want basis. There's a poster about it in the shop, but I already know about it because I've played this a lot of times before. And it's an option in the menu if you talk to him across the counter.
The part-time work is pretty simple. We only have a couple main tasks. The first thing we must do is place fodder in all of the bins inside the stable. There's a fodder bin at one end of the barn which connects to Bob's silo, and we can pull fodder from it. There will only be eight pieces of fodder available from the bin per day, and there are six troughs we must fill. The only real way to mess this up is to forget to do it or to accidentally throw fodder on the ground like... more than three times.
But there's a bit of an exploit here, too! While doing part time work, we don't have access to our normal inventory -- we have only the stuff we're given from Bob, which is nothing more than a brush for the animals and a cow milker. But we're still able to put the extra bundles of fodder into our bag, and when we leave, they will transfer to our normal inventory! Two bundles of fodder isn't really much of anything, but since we're indoors in the stable, we're getting it without having to spend any time or energy, and after doing many part-time days, they really add up! So we can amass a little collection before we actually have to start using fodder ourselves.
Our other two jobs are just as simple. One is just to milk the cow, and the other is to brush all the animals. Since we also have to brush the cow, this basically just is one big task. Milking the cow is easy, as is brushing. Equip the appropriate tool and press the tool-action button in front of the animal (well, to the side of the animal... the animal is in front of you...)
While these are pretty easy tasks, these also serve as a bit of tutorial before you ever get your own animals. You'll recognize the basics of animal care (feeding, grooming, and milking) by doing the part-time work, and the only consequence for failure is a scolding from Bob and a little docked pay. Previous games in the series had nothing like this -- you saved up for your first animal and then basically had to guess how to take care of it based on simple instructions provided by NPCs. And especially in the original games, the translation was pretty iffy, so it was really easy to miss out on something and end up hurting your animals. I wonder how many letters Nintendo Power got asking frantically, "Why do my chickens keep dying!?" when the SNES game was first released...
There are several horses in the pasture, and we have to make sure to brush them all. Each one is a different color and they stand pretty far away from one another and don't move around too much, so it's not particularly hard, but they're far enough away that you'll probably only ever have one or two on the screen at once, and if you're not thorough spinning the game camera around and looking for them (or if you're one of those kinds of people who fully rely on the auto-camera in games and don't move it yourself...) you could miss one. I've done it before.
We also talk to all the animals. I'm not sure if that's required for the part time work or not, but it doesn't take any time at all. You just press the talking button next to an animal and you'll get a little dialogue box that pops up with some flavor text. In the beginning, all we do is say "I wonder if he'll bite me..." when talking to all the horses. I guess we're afraid of them. Or they are kinda mean horses. IDK.
After finishing our duties, we leave the farm and Bob gives us some money at the back of the Farmer's Shop building. You're actually paid by the hour, and usually when you're done, the next hour is about to tick over, so I like to run around the horse track surrounding the pasture or just go talk to all the horses again or something to kill some extra time. Without spending too much extra time, we get an entire extra hour's pay!
Bob also allows us to keep the milk that we got from the cow. Insert dirty joke about Bob giving us milk behind his shop. I think this is where the part-time inventory transfers over to your normal inventory, and that's why you also get to keep the fodders you stashed away in your pockets when you're done. So with money, milk, and stolen dead grass, we're off to finish our day.
We get home and water the crops as the evening turns to night. We have spare energy at the end of the day, so we use it to try to dig up some junk. This is an... interesting game mechanic. Basically every time you till one of the squares in your fields, there's a random chance of unearthing an item, and different items have different appearance rate. Basically it's just a variety of stones, but you can also get some Pontana Root or money, too. Nobody really seems to like these things as gifts except for a couple people, and most of them don't even sell that great. But, hey, it's more stuff to collect, so we're going to spend all of our extra energy at the end of every day digging up rocks. How did all this money get here anyway...?
And that's pretty much going to be our routine for a while -- wake up, go do some part-time work, run around and grab some berries and herbs and stuff, return home, water our little seeds, and dig for rocks until we collapse. Then head to bed and do it all over again!
While it seems like the tedium of doing the exact same thing every day would quickly make the game boring and frustrating, it's actually quite the opposite. People love routines that work, and there's enough little stuff sprinkled throughout to break up the monotony of the routines so you're still engaged. There's also a lot of little rewards and goals here and there, like your crops coming in, or being able to afford a tool you want to buy, or something like that.
There's also just the fact that each day is also a little different in the valley. Bob closes his shop on Thursdays and doesn't offer part-time work whenever it rains, so we have to find other things to do on those days. And even as we're running around on our normal 'work days,' the schedules of our neighbors will be different, so we'll run into different people.
In this case, I want to introduce another one of our neighbors -- another part-timer at the Brownie Farm, Gwen.
Gwen is the granddaughter of Woody the carpenter (yes, the carpenter's name is Woody), so she's often in the forest in or near his house, but she also comes to help out at the farm sometimes, too. Though she seems to just stare at the horses and never do any real work. So I don't know if Bob pays her or not.
Gwen isn't all that interested in making friends. She's flippant toward us, and doesn't really seem to see the point of us coming to the farm when this place is going away anyway. She's not outright mean, but she's very direct and doesn't bother with trivial courtesies.
Personally, I like Gwen a lot. I like these kinds of strong-headed characters that don't care about social standards, but not because they hate everyone or something. And Gwen is super cute. She's actually relevant to two of the main plots, and we get to see two different facets of her personality develop in each, so that's nice. Since I'm going to be talking to Gwen a lot, I'm going to be seeing a lot of the early story events of both routes, but I'll only show the ones relevant to the current story I'm aiming for for now.
But for now we're just meeting her. She doesn't seem to care about us, but we're going to try to be her friend. And Bob's, too.
Making friends is pretty simple. Everyone has an affection rating, and you can boost this by giving them presents and talking to them. That's it. The mechanics of friendship get a lot more developed in later games, but in most games they pretty much just boil down to this. Personally I really like the games where ignoring people for a while can diminish their relationship with you, and they won't accept random gifts out of nowhere if all you do is ignore them then suddenly try to give them their favorite thing to boost them back up. But here there's not really any way to make less of friends with anyone -- even giving them items they don't like won't hurt. I guess since befriending people is a core part of progressing in the game, they didn't want to make it too hard, and now it's about who you choose to befriend and win, not so much the method of befriending.
And there's an important scene that triggers during our first few days that I'm going to cover here. This scene only triggers once because we get a key item from it that carries over to successive playthroughs, so I'm going to talk about it now, even though it's not relevant to our current plot.
We arrive at the lake to find the inventor Louis playing a flute, and there are birds gathering around him and listening to the music. We approach him and he explains... pretty much what I just said -- that he was playing his flute and birds were gathering, lol. He wonders if the birds like the sound of the flute, but suddenly Gwen appears and says the birds probably just feel safe around him because he's so "spaced out." Then she tells Louis she has something she needs to discuss with him, and he nervously runs off with her.
But just before leaving, he turns to us again and gives us an old instrument he's had lying around, suggesting we could try playing together sometime. The game calls this a "Flute" as well, but it's very clearly a recorder, and doesn't look anything like the flute Louis was playing. Of course, a recorder is a type of flute, but recorder is more specific, and I actually play the recorder (and have a recorder that looks just like the one in the game lol) so I'm going to continue to call it a recorder from now on. But just know that the game will call it "Flute."
And now we can play it whenever we want! It counts as a tool, and we equip it and press the tool button to put it up to our mouth. While holding it there, we can hold down X and press other buttons to play notes. While the game only tells you you can use the directional pad, you can actually use the face buttons as well, allowing you to play an entire octave of notes! Of course, the first thing I did was play the Final Fantasy IX theme, "The Place I'll Return to Someday," which is one of my favorite things to play on actual recorder, hahaha.
For now, this is just something fun to play around with, and I'll end this entry on this happy note. Get it??? Note?? It's a music joke!!