Lessons in Love from Dating the Undateables in Harvest Moon
Do you settle for the girl-next-door, simple and easy to impress? Or do you rock up to the school reunion with a goddess on your arm?
In the Harvest Moon games, as wholesome as they might seem at first glance, love isn't about connection. It's not about who you like best. It's about winning, and the only way to win is to get the girl who's hardest to get.
My first Harvest Moon girlfriend was the "easy one." Her name was Celia. She was shy and sweet, the girlfriend equivalent of candy floss: perfectly pleasant but left no real lasting impression. She lived next door, working on the neighboring farm. Her needs were simple; she liked eggs and milk and basically anything, as long as it came from a farm. I was a farmer. It wasn't difficult to impress her.
We settled down, we had children together. We were happy, but we weren't passionate. She was the first girl I'd met in town, a childhood sweetheart. I just wanted to get married. She just wanted eggs.
There was another girl in town. Muffy. She wore a scarlet dress, her bouffant blonde hair curling on her shoulders. She was temptation personified—the temptation of a life not lived, of something more exotic that I'd missed out on. She flirted with me at the bar where she worked, and when I proposed to Celia, her heart broke. She never married.
I restarted my save file. Celia forgot me. Muffy fell in love with me.
Turned out Muffy was just as boring, though. If Celia was the easiest girl to woo, then Muffy was the next easiest. There are only three bachelorette options in the GameCube's Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, and they're all quite dull. It's not until later games that your love life gets a little more interesting.
In the DS game, I dated a mermaid who lived in a creepy scientist's basement. Then there was a princess who slept on the 255th floor of a mine filled with monsters. The butler to a prince from a far-off land, who only turned up after you built them both a palace to live in. The Witch Princess, who needs death and decay as a tribute before she'll fall for you. And the Harvest Goddess, who will only marry absolute perfection.
Harvest Moon is a game series that doesn't have high scores or difficulty settings. What you put in, like farming, is what you get out. And yet, secretly, the love options are challenging you, asking you to prove your worth. Do you settle for the girl-next-door, who's simple and easy to impress, or do you rock up to the school reunion with a goddamn goddess on your arm?
Harvest Moon isn't real life, and I'm not interested in trying to layer it over my own love life. Unless anyone wants to send me diamonds.
(An aside: this is not how real life works. Love is not a competition, and girls aren't usually that impressed by eggs.)
The way the Harvest Moon romance system works is this: You give a gift to a girl every day, and slowly, every so slowly, her affection for you—a hidden statistic—goes up. Occasionally, you'll trigger a Heart Scene, in which you have to do the right thing (usually just being nice to her, it's not that hard) to increase her affection even more.
With the girls that are hard to get, these scenes are more of a challenge. Leia, the mermaid from the basement, is called back to the sea by her mother, meaning you only get to see her once a week. That's one opportunity per week to convince a girl to stay with you, in the duck pond in your garden, for the rest of her life.
The girl from the mine, Keria, will be asleep every time you visit her, and her Heart Scenes require hard-to-get items—which means you've made your way down to floor 255 just to have to go back, get the item, and do the same thing all over again. Also, her favorite gifts are diamonds. Bet you miss the egg girl now, don't you?
Here is where I'd usually bring this to a nice, neat conclusion. But what can I conclude from this, exactly? The women that are hard to get are the ones worth having? God, no. Sometimes relationships are easy, and sometimes they aren't, but that has no bearing on their worth.
But Harvest Moon isn't real life, and I'm not interested in trying to layer it over my own love life. Unless anyone wants to send me diamonds.
I got a rush out of dating the undateables. The ones that had ridiculous restrictions on them, the ones that required years and years of dedication to woo. Sometimes it's nice to know that you've got a range of options in front of you, and you put the effort in even though you didn't have to, even though there was no reward except the knowledge that you did something most people couldn't be bothered to do. In real life, though, I guess I'll just keep dating the egg boys.