It’s coming to the end of Spring on Sunset Farm. My crops of cucumber and strawberries have been bountiful. I have used my slowly accrued income to build myself a lumber shed out of wood. Sometimes I stand outside the shed and admire its majesty.

(Yes, I built a wooden shed to hold my wood and only my wood. Why I couldn’t just build a shed to hold everything? Harvest Moon DS does not have the answer.)

This is my first month on Harvest Moon DS and, majestic sheds aside, I feel a bit lost.

Farming is hard. So very, very hard.

Everything beyond the farm seems out of my reach. It’s a confusing mass of buildings, people with disconcertingly large mouths, and magical sprites that run an underground casino. Who is who? Why are they here? Why can’t I remember anyone’s names?

Harvest Moon DS won’t tell you. It isn’t here to tell you anything. You have to figure it out.

Even from the first cut-scene, it assumes you’ve played a Harvest Moon game before, making jokes about previous games (spoiler alert: I hadn’t played any before this one). So why would it need to help you? You understand it all, right?

Spoiler alert again: I am so confused all of the time. I cannot find anything. I am supposed to be able to fish, and mine, and cook in the game. Where can I even get a fishing rod? They don’t seem to sell it anywhere and no one is helping me! Every character just tells me to work hard!

But maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe I should relish this opportunity to explore – to really become part of the world. Maybe Harvest Moon DS is encouraging me to learn the map, talk to characters. Maybe I should just let these things happen naturally, instead of forcing them. Develop over time.

There’s a map… but I get lost SO MUCH.

Oh, there’s a website with a walk-through on it? Well maybe just a little peak…

So I looked up how to get a fishing rod. You have to go to Galen’s house on a Saturday between 12pm and 2pm and he will give you one.

How was I supposed to figure that out? That doesn’t seem like something I would do naturally. That is really specific. I could play through most of the game without figuring that out!

Further questions: Where is Galen’s house? Also, who is Galen?

I’m resisting looking at the guide anymore. I want to gain some of this knowledge organically through the game.

Who knows. By the end of summer, I might have learned how to fish.

The hopeful game designer in me whispers that this is all about progression. We start off basically useless, but the characters around us tell us to work hard, they tell us that if we slack off, we won’t reap the benefits. If we keep working, all will be okay.

In a way, the game mirrors this philosophy. It won’t help you, because you need to put in the work. You do the work, you get the rewards. That’s what it is, right?

Then why do I keep finding myself yelling at my Nintendo DS?

“Seriously, you’re tired already? You’ve only watered 7 strawberries!”

“How am I supposed to find the mine?”

“Why doesn’t the television work in my house?” <- this really annoys me. I spent 5000 gold on that television and it doesn’t do anything!

Maybe when I can water 8 or 9 strawberries without the little ‘wiping head with handkerchief’ animation playing, I’ll feel so powerful. But, if every step of the way is a struggle, if every little part of the game is frustrating, why would I want to keep playing?

Perhaps a little hand-holding wouldn’t have been too awful. At least the game could tell me why my television doesn’t work…


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