I give the very first farming simulation game...a 65/100.
Most people who play video games like them for the action and for being able to kill monsters and save the world. Others like more simple fare, like low key visual novels or games where you can just relax and not worry about fighting monsters or saving the world. Harvest Moon is one such game. Back in the late 1990s, people didn't think a game about farming, socializing, and marrying a pretty woman would sell well. Who would want to play a game about farming, they said? But one localization company, Natsume, brought Harvest Moon over, and from Harvest Moon 64 onward, the game had a steady hold here in America. Even now, new games are coming out every other year, though now that Natsume doesn't own the Bokujo Monogatari series, XSEED is releasing it under the name Story of Seasons. Now, I was born in 1993 so I never played a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES. I mostly played handheld games on every incarnation of the GameBoy after the GameBoy Color, and even then I only played Pokemon or Kirby games. I only recently got into Harvest Moon and only just this year played the original on the Wii U's Virtual Console. I definitely don't regret it, though as of now, it is VERY primitive and dated.
The story is about as simple as you can get. You play as a farmer whose grandfather recently died, and you inherited his farm. Your job is to clean up the farm, grow some crops and sell them to make money, raise livestock (only chickens and cows), upgrade your house, and then find a woman you can marry and have a family with. Since you only play as a boy, you can choose between five girls: Nina, the cheerful florist, Ellen, a kind, friendly girl who works with animals and whose family runs the restaurant, Maria, the mayor's daughter and faithful churchgoer, Eve, the flirty barmaid, and Ann, a rough, tomboyish inventor who loves making tools. But even if you don't marry a girl, the game has many different endings you can access. You can become a successful chicken farmer, a cow farmer, or you can womanize all the girls but never marry them, or you can even end the game just slacking off and doing nothing, though that one takes a LOT of effort. Unlike later HM games where you can play for as long as you want without a specific end point, the original here ends after two-and-a-half in-game years.
The gameplay is also as simple as you can get. All you really do is use tools and talk to people, that's it. The storyline is also pretty simple, where you just own a farm and start a family until the end of the third summer and that's it. There's only one way you can get a girl to like you and that's constantly giving them gifts they like every day. For example, Nina loves flowers and perfume, and Ellen likes milk and eggs. Unlike later Harvest Moon games, there are no heart events, and the characters are pretty barebones and one-dimensional. They have very little personality and don't really do much, so they stay the same even after you marry them. The side characters are even worse, as they don't even have any names, much less even the most basic personality traits. So...yeah, as far as characterization, gameplay, and story goes, Harvest Moon SNES is pretty barebones and primitive, even by today's standards.
Also, unlike other Harvest Moon games, you're only able to grow crops during just two seasons, spring and summer, not all four seasons. During the fall and winter, you can't plant any crops, so if you don't have a steady supply of cows and chickens that make milk and eggs, your income is going to be very limited, especially if you want to upgrade your house. Also, upgrading your house is absolutely needed if you want to marry a girl, and if you upgrade your house once before the first summer ends, you can get a watch which tells you the time. However, that is the only way to be able to tell the time, and you HAVE to do it before summer of year 1 ends, otherwise, you're not gonna be able to tell what time it is. Time itself also goes pretty fast, so you won't have a lot of time to do what you want. Thankfully, it's not as bad as Harvest Moon 64's super fast time passage, so that hasn't been a problem for me. There also isn't much to do outside the farm, especially once you get married, so you have a lot of time on your hands, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing.
Let's face it, Harvest Moon SNES is a pretty bland and barebones game. But that being said, do I hate the game? No, I don't. I like it, and I still play it from time to time, even if I do prefer games like Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. Heck, some people I know say that the newest Harvest Moon games have TOO much to do and consider that a bad thing. Honestly, I'd rather have too much to do than nothing at all. Even so, if we didn't have this game, the Harvest Moon series as we know it probably wouldn't exist, so I can at least respect the legacy that it's left. It's not a great game, but I still find it pretty enjoyable and I intend on playing more of it, namely to access the other endings and marry other bachelorettes. The art style is pretty good and the music is fun and catchy as well, especially the spring time music, which is my favorite. Even if the original Harvest Moon isn't the best game ever, it still did manage to bring a famous franchise into the open, so who can fault it for setting the groundwork for the games we love?
Not the best HM game, but still a pretty fun game and without it, Harvest Moon wouldn't be here. Feel free to play it if you just wanna sit back, relax, and kill some time.