By Sam Marchello
Most people who play the Harvest Moon series tend to enjoy the level of relaxation that these games provide. With the ample amount of chores to partake in, players have many options to generate profit to make their ranch a success. Of all the chores that Harvest Moon offers, fishing has always been a favourite of mine and is easily one of the most profitable. While fishing is fairly straight-forward in each game, part of my joy came from simply dropping my rod into the water and seeing how much I could improve on my previous catches in terms of size and weight. The bigger the fish, the better the profit that one could receive.
In spite of its very straight-forward nature in terms of gameplay, fishing serves a few other interesting purposes outside of generating revenue. For starters, in each Harvest Moon there is always a bachelor or bachelorette who can be wooed based on the types of fish caught. In recent games, characters like Denny and Lanna from Island of Happiness and Sunshine Islands were folks who could be won over by discussing fishing as a common interest or by giving them fish as a daily gift. Just don't give them fish bones as presents or prepare to be scolded in horror!
Fishing plays a major role in certain friendships, even non-romantic ones. For some of the restaurants and diners, particularly in Island of Happiness and Sunshine Islands, the owners will provide recipes for the player's rancher when given fish as an ingredient to work with. These recipes become additionally useful for providing nourishment for the rancher, as well as wonderful gifts for the townspeople. In other games, like Hero of Leaf Valley and Save the Homeland, fishing becomes an even more involved process where players will have to be aware of line tension, water depth, and the distance in which they can cast their line. In these two particular games, fishing is treated as an actual standard minigame, and not just as one of the game's many tasks.
Outside of certain Harvest Moon titles treating fishing as either a hectic minigame or a static errand, titles such as A Wonderful Life and Grand Bazaar offer a unique gameplay mechanic that determines the level of profit an item will receive: the quality system. This mechanic rates the quality of created products or scavenged items and bases them on a star-rating system. The better the score, the more profit the rancher will receive for that item. This applies to the fishing system as well, as larger fish might not necessarily mean a higher rating. What factors into the ratings are the type of fish, how common it is, and its overall weight. Rare fish may fetch a better price, but if it's puny in size, the player may not get as much for it if the other factors do not apply. Regardless of whether players enjoyed it or not, the quality system adds an extra layer of depth that forced players to be more careful about selecting products that they would share with the townspeople.
Weather and season also play an important part in terms of how fishing works in the Harvest Moon series. Players will often be able to catch more fish on rainy or cloudy days compared to sunny ones. When the seasons change, different fish can be caught as well. Sometimes players won't be able to make certain recipes if a fish is out of season. Since fishing can be done all year long, there's no shortage in terms of what can be sold or shipped, making this particular job a breeze to roll in some easy dough.
Although fishing isn't treated as unique or interesting in the Harvest Moon series, you can't deny its integral role to how the games function. Not only is fishing important to the overall gameplay, but it's also a way of bonding with the townspeople and generating profit. Even though fishing in the Harvest Moon series is very straight-forward and not the most creative, I can't deny the many hours I've spent attempting to reel in a prize-winning catch.
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