After much thought I have decided to write this blog post. I find many say the series are the same. While some don’t think that is true I decided to compare and decide for myself if there are any grounds for saying the games are the same. Both games are focused on creating a fantasy life so I will be comparing the basic elements of recreating that fantasy life.
The biggest part of creating a game about life itself is how time is structured. Both games use vastly different timers. One focusing on it’s own unique timer (HarvestMoon) and the other connects to the console clock to reflect real time and dates (Animal Crossing). To start with lets look at how each game handles the passage of time.
Animal Crossing is a gradual and realistic reflection of real life. The seasons slowly change to the extent you might not notice the changes straight away. In a sense it is much more slow paced life where your not discouraged from standing and watching virtual life slip away. Depending on when you play the game depends on what is available and current events. Having to wait for shops to open or find yourself missing the closing time of shop you wanted to visit is a common occurrence for some. This forces players to alter the time in order to better fit their lifestyles which kind of defeats the purpose of having the game connect to console clock.
HarvestMoon has varied methods of it’s own in game clock and calander. Most of the time the day lasts approximately 30 mins although that is largely dependent on when you choose your character to go to sleep. The days themselves feel to slip by at times. In some games it goes by so fast you never finish what you wanted to do within that day. In other games the timer can be too generous and leaves you with most of the day devoid of stuff to do. There are others which hit the right mark with the timer which makes it so you never feel rushed or left waiting for something. When it comes to changing of seasons this is a sudden change where you wake up one morning and suddenly snow is on the floor and there are no leaves in the trees. The sudden transformation can be very strange.
The next part of any life sim is the chores which must be done on a regular basis. These are things you must do not just to progress but also if left could hinder the game.
With Animal Crossing the daily chores are check mail and talk to neighbours. The mail box can become full up so it’s essential to check the mail for that reason alone and not just because of free money and items that can be delivered. Talking to neighbours is important as they like to move out if they feel ignored or not liked. You can beg and plead with them to stay but if you don’t play the game for a few days one will have moved out. Everything else is extra but many would consider removing weeds part of the chores. This freedom can lead to laziness on part of the player though. However at same time the player isn’t forced to do tons of things within a gaming session. You can drop in and out of the game.
With Harvest Moon however if you don’t take care of your farm your pretty much doomed from get go. A lot of how you go about this depends on what kind of farm you have. One filled with crops tends to require you to water and clear field of any weeds and other junk that magically appears over night. If you have tons of animals instead you will obviously need to feed them as well as brush and talk to them. You can have both as well making it a busy start to the day. Your pretty much obliged to do these chores because otherwise it will lead to punishment later on. Animals and crops dying due to neglect. Also most of what you can do is based on characters stamina. Doing too much causes character to collapse losing precious farming time.
An essential tactic for either game is to make as much money as possible to buy stuff. If you don’t make money your not going to be able to do a right lot.
In Animal Crossing making money is a simple case of collecting stuff to sell. Which doesn’t sound difficult but a lot of how much you make is dependent on what you find. In a sense luck. There is no way of knowing if you will find anything worth a lot. There isn’t a lot you can do to ensure you can make a lot of money save planting trees that provide fruit. However none of the activities you do for money feel labour intensive. Your not having to work very hard to make money but there isn’t a huge list of things you can do to ensure you make a lot of money.
In Harvest Moon making money is really down to the effort you put in. Watering crops and giving them fertiliser will increase their quality and how much they sell for. With animals it is feeding and petting them. Likewise you can cook with the food you have harvested to make which can sell for more to. However the less effort you put into your farm the less you get in return. Although they are other means to just looking after farm to make money and that comes down to foraging, mining and fishing but some of that does come down to luck.
What comes after making money is obviously how you will spend it. What’s the point in getting a ton of money if you have nothing to use it for.
Animal Crossing most of the money will go toward your house. Furniture as well as upgrades so you can buy more furniture and fit that in the house. You can get clothing and accessories for your character as well. Most of the stuff you buy will be for decoration purposes rather then making more money. There is no need to feel like you have to buy everything but will be drawn to specific stuff. Since the shops are mostly randomly stocked if you see something you want to buy that day you have to get it same day. This can cause a mad dash with gathering stuff to sell in hope you get enough money in time. Largely depends on time of day your playing though because of store closing time.
Harvest Moon you have to spend money to make it. Buying animals and seeds costs money. Don’t forget if you want to make even more money you have to expand the farm as well which again costs money and possibly materials gathered as well. The bulk of your money will be going towards the farm’s upkeep and expansion. Since most of the shops don’t have random stock there is no pressure to buy something that day unless there is a specific event or date you need it by. Only other reason is changing seasons as some stock in particular seeds are only available within certain seasons.
Obviously when it comes to spending upgrades are top priority but often most expensive.
As always Animal Crossing takes a much more laid back approach to upgrades. The only upgrades that aren’t done by luck (and maybe a bit of skill) are based on the house itself. These expansions add more rooms or just enlarge rooms already available. At the start since all you get is a small shed you will want to improve your house as soon as possible. You could end up with a decent sized house once all the expansions are done. That said there are no disadvantages to living in a shed. You simply upgrade the house to better show off furniture you brought. The tools you can buy and use also have upgrades but most require you to collect everything relating to that tool to unlock it. Having the best fishing rod once you caught all the fish seems a bit pointless.
A lot of things in Harvest Moon can be upgraded and it is often an advantage to do so. House expansions can be just so you can marry and have kids but in some games these expansions can allow you to add on kitchen. The kitchen itself can be upgraded by buying more utensils for it whether the house has one already or not. Meaning you can cook more stuff. You can even get/expand the barn so you have more animals. Sometimes you can expand to get a greenhouse of sorts to grow crops all year. The tools likewise can be upgraded. There is only one problem with a lot of the upgrades is you need a lot of materials for some of them. This requires you to mine for tool upgrades and mostly chop wood for house and barn upgrades. Thankfully stamina can be upgraded as well so it becomes easier to do everything you need to.
No good playing a life sim if you don’t intend to interact with fellow townsfolk.
In Animal Crossing there are a ton of possible villagers but most of them can be shoved into character personality categories. Which can make for a very boring town. However this can be changed as another person can share save file and move into the town. While there are no 2 player mode available another player can still join in the game. It adds a competitiveness to the game as well as new interactions with the NPCs. You can also invite others who have the game to visit the town. In a way the game really a more social game. Each town also has it’s own unique charm. Less likely to encounter exact same town while visiting others. Can also join in events that take place around the year. Often has some sort of requirement to win a prize.
Harvest Moon has fewer villagers but a lot more events and the characters are varied within a game. The games often have a friendship or love meter for those NPCs you can marry. A lot if not all the characters have their own little events. The marriageable ones often having more and sometimes even have events with a rival love interest. Later on you can propose and marry chosen marriage candidate and start a family. However your not going to have your own unique town. There isn’t much in the way of multiplayer experiences. There are festivals you can take part in during in game year but most are social ones often with a marriage candidate. There are some that offer some sort of competition.
Pros and Cons of Animal Crossing
- Plenty to do or not do
- A great deal of customisation options
- Festivals are more interactive
- Good for multiplayer or sharing game
- Feel obliged to play on regular basis
- Not many fun intractable furniture
- Taking a break from game results in loads of weeds
- Some stuff are region exclusive in some games
Overall: While there is plenty to do there is no pressure to do anything. It’s a very laid back game and much better as a social game then playing alone. Playing alone doesn’t really open up all the options available to you.
Pros and Cons of Harvest Moon
- A better idea what to aim for
- Can keep animals
- Upgrades that actually impact on gameplay
- Can have relationships with NPCs
- Can be very harsh at beginning
- May need lots of materials for farm upgrades
- More pressure on being successful
- Customisation can be very limited or there is none
Overall: For most part this is a farming sim. Giving you the chance to live a life of a (fantasy) farmer. Much more cuter then real life but with the pressures of being successful and getting married.