Facebook has a lot to answer for. Without getting into all that nonsense, I’ll cut to the chase. This week, while bored at home, I spotted a post hailing that week’s “retro gaming classic.” With nothing better to do, I clicked on the link, and soon found myself immersed in a world I had no business being a part of. I’m a 35-year-old man, damn it – but this week, while stuck for something to fill my free time, I actually revisited a little-known game called Girl’s Garden.
I’ll admit, at first, seeing a post titled Girl’s Garden, I fully expected to be clicking a link that would undoubtedly be considered not safe for work. I mean, the connotations of a name like that are enough to make your palms sweaty! However, what I found instead was something far more innocent, and intriguingly much more satisfying.
Girl’s Garden was released back in the olden days of 1984. Developed by an early incarnation of Sega’s Development Division, it is the immersive story of a young woman who must carry out various tasks in order to remain attractive to her player of a boyfriend. It was released exclusively in Japan, though emulators do exist – as I found out to my joy.
At its core, Girl’s Garden is an early example of a dating sim, in which players control the naive heroine Papri, who is frustratingly intent on keeping her shitty boyfriend Minto, despite him having the hots for another girl named Coco. I think the fact that she’s called Coco says a lot about her, but that’s just my opinion.
Amongst the tasks on Papri’s list is flower picking. But it’s not as easy as it seems. If she picks them too early they will die. If she picks them too late Minto will, I dunno, make her eat them. If she picks the wrong ones then she will be mauled by bears (I didn’t make that bit up). Minto must be a right cracker in the sheets to be worth getting mauled by a bear for, right? Wrong! He’s some dumpy little nerd in short shorts and knee socks. Even in 1984 that wasn’t a cool look. Because of this, I found myself losing interest in completing the tasks – and exploring the world instead – because as an adult man pretending to be a young Japanese woman, I simply had more self-respect than that.
Girl’s Garden is genuinely a fun little game and a gem of a find for retro gamers. It’s also the debut game of one Yuji Naka, which is a great piece of trivia, though it bears (no pun intended) no resemblance to his seminal Sonic the Hedgehog games that would make him famous. And rich. In terms of genre, it was pretty groundbreaking, and wouldn’t look out of place as a neat little import for the Nintendo DS or even the Nintendo Switch.
It might need a bit of modernizing, and some of the outdated concepts might offend those out there who are easily offended by 8-bit dating sims, but I can see it being a popular way to kill some time on the journey home.
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