What's New? (4th Jan, 2008)

New PAL releases.

Hello! It would appear that I am the first What's New guest columnist. I know I'm not as funny as Tom, or as attractive, or in possession of as many awards, but he can't be bothered this week after a stressful month of sitting at home waiting for furniture so I will just have to do.

He's not exactly given me much to work with this week, has he? But happily, one of the two games out this week happens to be my Third Favourite Game of All Time: Harvest Moon for the SNES on the Virtual Console. Yay! Consequently I am commandeering the impartial vessel of Fact that is What's New for my own evil ends, and I'm going to try and persuade you all to buy it. Mwahahaha.

When I first got hold of Harvest Moon, I played it for months. I played it until my tiny patch of potatoes was a near-industrial corn-and-tomato production empire. I played until I had a wife and child, and I played until that child grew into a toddler and she had another one. I was entirely captivated by its lovely depiction of an idealised rural life, spent stroking cows and collecting flowers and popping down to the bar after work for a chat and an intoxicating 'juice' with the townsfolk.

It was the first game I'd ever played that made me wait. It made me wait for crops to grow, made me have to be patient and save up if I wanted to buy a cow. It presented me with items in shops that took more than a year's worth of hard farmwork to afford, and you'd have to give people an egg everyday for more than a season if they were to become your friend. (Sadly this is a tactic that has never served me particularly well in real life.)

For me, Harvest Moon is probably the loveliest, most captivatingly addictive, most comfortingly self-contained game series in the world. It's pure escapism, rewarding all your honest hard work with money and happiness in a tiny alternate universe. Like Pokémon, and other Japanese inventions too numerous to mention, it's about investment and reward; it's built around the value of hard work and perseverance, which in itself is just a gorgeous idea, and one that's been almost forgotten in an age of instant gaming gratification. Even Final Fantasy's started to play itself.

When I went to interview the Man Who Made Harvest Moon, Yashuhiro Wada, I was genuinely starstruck. (To be honest, he was probably as astonished by that as anyone). I asked him why he made Harvest Moon, and he said that he "wanted to convey the goodness of rural life", and make something gentle and friendly. Harvest Moon has grown into a baffling behemoth over the years, with squillions of different crops and animals and townspeople, but the SNES original is as simple as it gets. If you've never tried the series, buy it - there's no chance you'll be overwhelmed, and every chance you'll fall a little in love.

Plus, let me tell you, chicks dig Harvest Moon. Anyone lady who looks at your Wii will know that you're a hard-working, lovely and honest chap who'll probably give daily gifts to his sweetheart and make friends with her dad. Score.

This week:

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