Friday, January 17, 2014

Fiona + Toby 4Eva: A Harvest Moon Love Story

Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is one in a series of farm sim games. You run a virtual farm with livestock and crops, you can supplement your harvest with fishing and mining, and you can make friends and develop a romantic attachment. It's just like real farm life except with no dangerous chemicals and none of your animals ever get taken down by coyotes.

My avatar, Fiona, moved to the island of Castanet why? I assume to escape some sort of terrible home life. Upon moving there, the Mayor of nearby Harmonica Town just handed over an abandoned farm, complete with house, barn, chicken coop and field. It was probably the site of a horrific family slaying, hence its abandoned status, but the Mayor certainly wasn't going to tell Fiona that.

Time marched on, and Fiona acquired poultry, livestock, more fields and some friends. Her friendship levels with every freaking thing in the game- from villagers to her animals to random wild animals that show no fear of humans and thus will probably soon be hunted to extinction- were meticulously recorded on a graph with a bunch of little hearts. She could make more friends the old-fashioned way: by giving them stuff. Fish, flowers, food, stuff she cooked people just wanted stuff, and Fiona was pathetically happy to feed their materialism in the interest of gaining their friendship.

After a while though, she was no longer content with just having friends. Fiona had been working this damned farm for a year and a half. The farm was expanding- she upgraded her coop, her barn and bought two more fields, and she was sick to death of watering plot after plot, every single day. Fiona needed a spouse.

Now, marriage equality apparently isn't a thing in Castanet, so she had to marry a dude. And there was a wealth of dudes to choose from! Dr. Jin, the bespectacled Harmonica Town surgeon; Owen, the miner; Gil, the mayor's insufferably stuck-up son; Chase, who feels it's acceptable for a man to wear barrettes in his hair the possibilities were endless.

So, after about fifteen minutes of deep thought, Fiona settled her marital sights on Toby.

Why? Who knows the ways of true love? Maybe it was because he bears a slight resemblance to Ginko from Mushi-shi.

Toby wears traditional Japanese clothing, and he's obsessed with fishing. I mean obsessed. He lived in a back room at the local fish shop. At any time of day, he could be found fishing off a pier in Harmonica Town. If Fiona spoke to him, he gave her advice on how to fish better.

Fiona upgraded her house to two-person size and changed the color scheme to Hello Kitty pink. Things were going well. She began plying Toby with seafood gifts: clam soup, decent herb fish, seafood gratin, butter-steamed mussels. And he fell right into her fishy trap. As the days passed the hearts on his friendship meter began to climb. One day, he showed up at her door at 6:00 a.m. (the time you wake up in the game) with Eel Rice for her lunch. Shortly after he invited her to attend the Harvest Festival. On Harmony Day he gave her a strawberry shortcake. Oh, this young man was falling hard for my little ginger avatar.

But then came the day. The love confession, staple of high school anime in every era. He requested Fiona meet him at the lighthouse, where he asked her to go out with him. And Fiona, whose back ached from hauling that watering can around, accepted.

But now that they were officially dating, she began to panic. Did she really want to spend the rest of her game life with a beach bum who wore sandals, even in winter? Did she want the genetic possibility of having their babies pop out with white hair? Suddenly frantic, Fiona began to give Dr. Jin cup after cup of herbal tea, the thing he loved most in the world, as a backup plan. But she had to keep Toby interested, so she kept handing over the fish dishes. It was a stressful and busy time. Strangely, even though they were a couple, Toby's main topic of conversation with Fiona was still advice on fishing.

And then one day Fiona woke up and she knew. She knew she couldn't water another field. She'd lose her damned mind. And she was tired of being alone with the cows and chickens and sheep and ducks and silkworms and the horse. She needed human interaction. She needed someone to make her breakfast in the morning. Someone laid back to complement her driven, type A personality.

She needed Toby.

At this point Fiona had already learned the Castanet tradition of going to the top of the mountain to find a blue bird and take one of its feathers as a way to propose. It took an entire day to get to the top of that mountain, but she persevered. She found the bird. She got the blue feather. She climbed down and sought out Toby and performed the bullshit ritual these people had for marriage proposals. Toby was embarrassed; after all, he should be the one to propose in this starkly traditional landscape. But he accepted eagerly, with a nice little speech. The happy couple went to the Mayor, who set the wedding date without consulting the people involved. Toby and Fiona were to be married in the pseudo-Catholic church in Harmonica Town, in a mere six days.

In those six days, Toby continued to talk about fishing, and Fiona worked the farm. On the sixth day of winter, they were married, a process that (just like in real life) took the entire freaking day. Fiona made the eclectic choice of wearing pom-poms in her hair, and Toby stuck to his traditional Japanese fashions. Luckily someone there had a video camera and

Married life wasn't so different from single life, at least not for Fiona, but it had its perks. Every morning Toby presented her with a box lunch. She could ask him to do chores (usually watering, although some days she let him fish). They attended festivals together. They could take walks together too, but unfortunately this consisted of Fiona walking around and Toby following at her heels like a pathetic puppy, and was pretty irritating, so they don't do that much. She still occasionally gives him gifts consisting entirely of seafood. Other than that they pretty much ignore each other.

Overall they are very happy.

And then today Fiona found a letter in their mailbox from the Mayor, who is always up in her business. It's a list of the things they have to do to prepare for the birth of their first child. I'm not sure why Mayor Hamilton feels he has the right to dictate Fiona and Toby's reproductive choices, but it was useful information nonetheless.

The next step in their relationship looms large.

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