The player progresses by:
- Preparing the fields using tools. Before any crops can be planted, numerous weeds, rocks, and tree stumps must be cleared from the ground. Then the player must till the soil before it can be cultivated.
- Planting crops (turnip, potato, tomato and corn) on cultivated land, watering it, then harvesting the vegetables and selling them for profit.
- Raising livestock. In this version of Harvest Moon, only chicken and cows, which produce eggs and milk are available. By planting grass and harvesting it into hay, the player can feed these animals.
- Enlarging the farmhouse. By using the axe to gather wood, the player can chop up enough tree stumps to build a larger house. This requires money as well as wood.
- Getting married. Five girls in town are potential brides. By giving gifts, visiting on the correct days, and fulfilling specific requirements for each girl, the player can get married and have his wife move onto the farm with him.
- Having children. Within the game's time frame, it is possible for the player's wife to have two babies. One child will develop into a toddler given enough time.
Each year is divided into four seasons of thirty days each, and the player only has a set amount of time each day before it becomes dark. However, the clock stops at 6pm; unlike in later Harvest Moon games, the player can effectively stay outside as long as he wants without penalty, as long as he doesn't run out of energy.
The player takes on the role of a young farmer, default Pete, whose parents left him in charge of his late grandfather's farm. Over a two-and-a-half year time period, the player must develop the decrepit, weed-choked farm into a money-maker, and if possible, get married and have children.
At the game's end, the player is evaluated on a number of factors to determine his success or failure. The player's farm is evaluated by the player's father at the middle of the third year.
- In the censored version of the game released in North America, all alcoholic beverages are referred to as "juice," even though anyone who drinks said "juice" clearly becomes intoxicated.
- While many elements of the game were Westernized for its American release, some Japanese references were overlooked. For example, although the church is presented as presumably "Christian-like" due to the cross, townspeople sometimes discuss the church and its religion in Shinto terms, such as referring to the existence of both a "god of the harvest" and a "god of business."
- This in term does not label any religion in the series, but draws influence from them.
- In the Japanese version, the title is made from planks of wood nailed together. For all other releases, this was replaced with a 3D-rendered sign.
- Fences are rendered superfluous and outright useless in the first iteration of the series; broken fences attract wild dogs, rather than keep them out.
- The bachelorettes will wear a blue dress with aprons after they are married to the player. Their hair will be tied in braids (The only difference is Ellen, whose hair is short, but will grow long and be tied up as well).
- The characters from this game are reused in the 2005 game, Harvest Moon: Magical Melody. Their parents' names are revealed as well.
- Harvest Moon SNES release dates
- Harvest Moon Instruction Booklet © Natsume Inc. 1997
- Title at Moby Games
- Title at Gamefaqs