The Horse Race
So, it's time to start Save the Homeland. This diary came at a very... interesting time in my life. As I was playing and writing the beginning of this, a game in which the setup of the story revolves around the inheritance of a farm after the player character's grandfather has passed away, I lost my own grandfather to cancer.
He lived a long life, loved by many, doing the things he loved to do. And now he is finally able to rest from his struggles with his health.
It's time for me to get back to updating my diaries, so this one is dedicated to my grandfather, who will be missed by us all. Go Cubs!
We'll start off by talking about the introduction to the game and some of the basic game flow and mechanics.
If we wait around the title screen long enough, we can get a variety of attract sequences, which even have unique music that you don't hear anywhere else in the game! It shows various parts of the gameplay, but with a more dynamic camera since no one needs to control the player character.
But we're not here to watch sequences, we're here to play. When we start a new game, we're introduced to the game's story through the "Letter from Dad" scene that was covered in the masterpost. In short, the land where our grandfather's old farm stands is going to be turned into a theme park, so we're asked by our father to clear the place out and give our regards to the local townsfolk.
Upon arriving, though, we end up meeting some interesting tiny people called the Harvest Sprites who introduce us to their Harvest Goddess and ask us to help them save the land from being turned into a theme park. We're prompted to enter our name when we introduce ourselves to the Goddess, and then she asks us a few questions to determine what kind of person we are.
First she asks us what we would do if we found an abandoned puppy in the rain -- take it home or ignore it. Then we're asked what we'd do if we found someone else's litter on the ground -- dispose of it properly or ignore it. Lastly, she asks what we'd do if we found someone else's money on the ground -- keep it or "turn it in."
As far as I know, these questions have no impact on the gameplay at all. After hearing the answers, the Goddess and the Sprites have a little huddle meeting to discuss what you've said. I went through it twice to see different stuff the Goddess would say -- if you answer all of the "good" answers (rescue the pup, clean up the garbage, and turn in the money), the Goddess comments that you seem too good to be true. If you answer two bad and one good (this is what I got by answering honestly -- ignore the pup, pick up the trash, and keep the money) the Goddess comments that you're not exactly good, but your answers make you seem "most human."
To defend my answers, I don't have the means to care for a pup nor would I know what to do with it. So I'm certainly not in a position to take it home. And honestly I'd probably just ignore the money, but that wasn't an answer, but my choice would still not lead to the money being returned, so I chose the 'keep' option. And I really do pick up other people's trash IRL so that one was easy.
After that, no matter what answers were given, the Goddess tells us that she realizes now that we were chosen by fate to be the savior of this land, and graciously asks us for our assistance. But we also learn from a private conversation the Sprites have down on the ground that she's just bullshitting and there's no fated savior or anything -- she's just trying to hype us up to convince us to offer our help.
We agree to help, and change our plans to now live on the farm and take care of it while trying to think of a way we can stop the theme park's construction. We're able to name the farm, which I named "Rainbo" ("Rainbow" wouldn't fit), which was suggested by reader and stream pal Kittie.
After settling into our new home (I don't know what kind of life we led before this where we can just decide to live here at a moment's notice), the Sprites appear again the next morning and teach us about farmwork. They say they always watched our grandfather farm so they know everything about it. They introduce us to the basic farm amenities -- the fields for growing crops, the pasture for feeding animals, the coop for raising chickens, and the barn for raising cows and horses. Oh, and a silo for storing the fodder we cut from the pasture. There's also a dog bowl though we have no dog, and a well for gathering water to fill our watering can.
And with that, we're given control of our character and can start playing the game. Other than "find a way to save the land," we're given no real direction, and can choose to play the game however we see fit. One of my favorite things about the Harvest Moon series is just that -- the game lends itself to a variety of play styles.
The game uses a real-time system in which every second or so, a game "minute" goes by. As the daily time goes by, people in town go about their schedules, and shops open and close, and we must go to bed at night. In addition to the daily clock passing, the game follows a calendar, which gives way to the passing of longer periods of time -- the weather changes, crops grow and wilt, animals grow old and give birth, seasons change...
The game calendar has a normal seven-day week, and a year consists of four 30-day "seasons." Each day we must tend to any chores we bring upon ourselves (for example, if we plant crops, we must water or harvest them as needed, and if we have animals, we must feed and care for them), and we can spend the rest of the day doing other things and looking for a way to save the land.
While we're the "chosen one," we're not going to save the valley alone. As we befriend our neighbors and spend more time with them, we'll come across clues and ideas of ways we can save the village, and we work together with our friends to manifest a solution. There are many solutions, and who you choose to befriend and what kinds of activities you partake in will likely move you down one or more of the paths to find one of the endings to the game.
It's this focus on interpersonal relationships that makes Save the Homeland quite unique. While all of the games have some sort of friendship system in which you can become closer to townsfolk, this game revolves around it completely, making befriending and interacting with your neighbors the key to progressing in the game, rather than the typical goal of building up your farm and getting rich.
I'll go into the exact nature of the game's time mechanics and other systems as we go. So for now, let's get our first day on the farm started...!