Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl is a bundle of two games--Harvest Moon: Back to Nature and the previously unreleased-in-the-US Harvest Moon for Girls, both badly ported from the PS1. Except for minor differences, most notably the protagonist's gender, they're actually the same game. Though this is a direct port of a pair of games that are roughly seven years old, the series has gone out of its way to evolve as little as possible over time, and as a result the simple yet surprisingly deep gameplay is functionally the same as in nearlyevery other entry in the series. This, of course, will be comforting to the stalwart fan community hooked on its quirky combination of farm RPG and dating sim, but it'll appeal little to virtually everyone else.
Harvest Moon puts you completely in charge of planning and maintaining all aspects of a farm, from the fields to the livestock, while trying to remain fiscally sound. The four seasons, each of which is composed of 30 in-game days, are punctuated with various local events for you to participate in so as to take your mind off your daily chores, but neglecting them for too long can prove detrimental. Your field needs to be weeded and plowed so you can plant crops, which must be watered and harvested, and your animals need to be fed and shown that you love them through regular care; but be sure not to go overboard and forget about your own health, as you can only work so long before collapsing from exhaustion. Once your tasks are done, the day is yours to spend as you please, though most likely your pursuit of a suitable partner and, ultimately, your marriage, will generally take up your free time.
Upon loading the game, you are presented with a cheerful prompt that asks you to make a simple selection between boy and girl, after which the appropriate game's title screen is loaded and you're ready to begin. But make no mistake, this decision is entirely superficial, as no matter which you pick, the village, farm, and people you encounter are identical save for the backstory and goals. The boy, who is the grandson of a deceased local farmer, has come to claim the land he once cherished as a child, and hopefully find the girl he befriended during that summer so long ago. However, things aren't quite so simple, as the mayor of nearby Mineral Town hangs a metaphorical Sword of Damocles above your head, explaining that the now-dilapidated farm is yours so long as you can return it to working order and gain the acceptance of your fellow villagers within three years.
The girl, on the other hand, has a much more melancholy story, contrary to the rose-colored life the boy seemed to lead: She was a runaway aboard a passenger ship that wrecked during a storm, and at the beginning of the game she washes up on the beach of Mineral Town, where she is discovered by one of its inhabitants. When she awakens, the mayor hears her tale and, moved by her misfortune, offers to give her an uninhabited farm so she can start over and hopefully find love and happiness.
Despite your selection, the game that begins is essentially about effective management of the limited amount of time in each day. Whenever you're not indoors, the clock ticks by in increments of 10 minutes that roughly translate to five seconds of real-world time, forcing you to keep on your toes to figure out how best to cram in everything you need to do and still have time to explore the forest and forage, woo potential mates, and participate in local events as they occur. Though this sounds like a daunting task, once a routine is settled on, it becomes surprisingly easy to do as long as your schedule is followed consistently. Unfortunately, though, once you get to this stage, the mindless, almost mechanical repetition of the same actions again and again without fail becomes incredibly tedious.