Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chase: Cuisine in His Blood?

Chase is one of the bachelors found in Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade. He is the chef at the Sundae Bar/Brass Bar, but he has big dreams of studying with Yolanda (the chef of Sundae Inn/Ocarina Inn) until he is a culinary master.

He seems to have a friendly face, but later conversation with this cook shows that he is not one who normally associates with others, and thus has a closed heart around others. Sometimes he seems to be quite sarcastic, and early attempts at befriending him show that the only thing truly close to his heart is his pet subject--cooking!

But what inspired him to cook in the first place? In Animal Parade, Chase conveys his wish to the player: "My wish? I just want to make people happy with my cooking. I already
do that though. I guess I want to get a little bit better every day."

This perfectionist streak echoes an earlier character of Harvest Moon: Pierre.

Pierre is a descendant of the Gourmet clan, a family honed in the culinary arts. This food gourmet has an ever quenching goal of locating tasty ingredients for his cooking recipes. He may look child-like but he is a master in the kitchen. He is generally optimistic and very passionate when it comes to food.

If you haven't married Pierre, he will be married to your romantic rival, Natalie. She's one tough cookie--a little cold, difficult to get along with. Yet once the player gets to know Natalie the hard shell cracks around her and we are treated to see a stronghearted young woman who is dedicated to her loved ones.

If you observe the heart events of this odd but sweet couple, you can see that they are actually kindred spirits. They both give everything to the things they love. Both are also familiar with the inner complexities of people: Natalie admire's Pierre's dedication and expertise to fine foods when he attempts to catch a shark with Denny.

One of the facets of their relationship is also that of mutual respect of strengths and weaknesses. In their first heart event, Pierre tries to help Natalie overcome her fear of mushrooms by cooking her mushroom dishes every day. Natalie scolds Pierre when he wastes food by not using it all up before it spoiled--a scolding that Pierre submitted to.

When they have a child, Natalie and Pierre go to the city in the mainland. Upon their return, they have their daughter Jean
with them.

But maybe...(and this is just a really weird theory)...

Did Natalie and Pierre have another child after Jean? A child who, perhaps, decided to study in the city before taking on the world?

A Chase?

Now let's hang on a minute and get to the already-established facts. In Tree of Tranquility, Chase claims not to remember the faces of his parents very clearly. Let's take a look at his 5-heart dialogue:

"I don't remember my parents' faces. Maybe that's why... the people at the inn look out for me."

Well, we can see that either he's been away from his parents for years with absolutely no contact or he has a severe memory problem.

(Peace to you all, Chase fans and wives-to-be.)

I find the first to be more probable, Chase being a fiercely independent man. When you start befriending him as a female player, he confides to you that he is uneasy when it comes to love, as he feels that he loses something along the way.
Maybe it stems from his family?

Let's see some possible reasons:

Genetically speaking, Chase seems to fit the bill--purple Gourmet eyes, peach hair, that genetic predisposition of an indomitable spirit. His fearlessness is something he shares with them, his disregard of social conventions a nod to both Natalie's tomboyishness and Pierre's professionalism despite external appearances.

Another thing is Chase's tastes in women (provided he doesn't marry the player character). Chase's love interest is Maya--the sunshiney waitress at Sundae Inn/Ocarina Inn. She's lively, fun, ever optimistic--and an avid food lover. She's headstrong and energetic! Here we can see that she is a little like Chase's true family, Pierre and Natalie. Lively, eager about food and generally wanting to please the people they love.

But wait! you cry. Natalie and Pierre are sweet--but Maya is just a monkey on Chase's back! I admit, I thought of that at first...I mean, at least Natalie and Pierre's first heart event was amicable--Chase nearly "poisoned" Maya!

For this I would like to quote Dr. Joyce Brothers' wonderful article "Why We Love Who We Love", that I had seen in Reader's Digest some years ago:

"There are certainly such 'odd couples' who could scarcely be happier. We all know some drop-dead beautiful person married to an unusually plain wallflower. This is a trade-off some call the equity theory.

When men and women possess a particular asset, such as high intelligence, unusual beauty, a personality that makes others swoon, or a hefty bankroll that has the same effect, some decide to trade their assets for someone else's strong points. The raging beauty may trade her luster for the power and security that come with big bucks. The not-so-talented fellow from a good family may swap his pedigree for a poor but brilliantly talented mate."

So here we can say that Chase has married Maya to benefit from her talents and vice versa. Maya herself proclaims that all her skill went to her tongue--her sense of taste is unmatched! She is a discerning food taster who can tell deliciousness, for sure.

Also, Chase's heart of ice thaws with Maya's sunny disposition. She becomes his ray of sunshine in the bleak clouds of his outlook, sometimes being a little foolish but always earnestly wanting to please. Her silly sweet heart reaches out to him.

In turn, Maya admires Chase's skill and dedication to his craft. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," and Maya wishes to emulate him by attempting to cook a lot! He, in a way, becomes her pillar of strength, her inspiration.

Chase has a loving taste-tester for life, and Maya has a caring husband who can cook her up anything. In a way, Maya fulfills the role of the taste-tester and pupil just like how Natalie became an apprentice--and later, lover--of Pierre.

*akdfasdfklajdfdfslfsdkf <3*

Probably one of the strongest things linking Chase and Pierre is their's probably genetic, as the Gourmet family has been at it for generations. Dakota (Chase's daughter with Maya) may as well be the 10th generation Gourmet, her "grandfather" being the 8th.

She already has incredible skills, said to never forget a smell. Counting the fact that her mother Maya was never a good cook shows the strength of genes!
Either that, or Dakota was a very, very lucky girl when it came to the gene pool game. (Although her hair being more peachy and her face being more feminine would be nice...anyway...)

There are issues to this theory, of course. One of the primary ones, I think, is the timeline. If Elli and Blue are adults in ToT and AP (well, in Elli's case), and their age-mates Cliff, Popuri and Karen are adult in the Islands games...that makes Chase and Pierre similar in age (for them to be marriage candidates).

So perhaps Chase is an illegitimate Gourmet? Perhaps that would explain his distance between his past and himself...

Nonetheless, I wouldn't be very surprised if they would be relatives. After all, cooking is in their blood.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stars: The Wizard of Harvest Moon

I am a big Harvest Moon fan, mainly because of the beautifully rendered stories that this life-simulation game franchise has to offer. Harvest Moon is rich with folklore and fable, with symbols of nature myths and deities. I myself have a copy of Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, a game which I found abundantly enjoyable. Here I found a very intriguing character: the Wizard.
The Wizard is a magical being with powers blessed to non-humans. He is a recluse in nature, interested in the twinkling stars above. He seems to be of a great age already--having been acquainted with the Witch Princess many years before--though not as old as the Harvest deities. There are several points that interest me much about this mysterious new character:

1. Eyes
One of the first things that strike you about him is his exotic appearance. He has heterochromic eyes, one being golden and one being green. Heterochromia is used in popular media as a mark of distinction.
His right golden eye may be interpreted by dream symbolism.

The eye is often viewed as the window to the soul, the spiritual self, but it also represents truth, power, clairvoyance. The left eye in particular represents the past and passivity; the right eye, the future and action.
His right eye may be interpreted as the eye that sees the future, his reputation among the townspeople being a fortuneteller first and foremost.

2. Interest in Astrology
When you meet the Wizard for the first time, you will find him gazing at the stars through his telescope. He expresses a deep interest in the heavenly bodies, but why exactly does he do so?

One of the most prominent stars in the game is the eight-pointed star depicted on the mural of the Harvest Goddess (found in Celesta Church, in Perry's bedroom). This mural is vital in ringing the Purple Bell--the bell connected to the hearts of the people. As a symbol, the eight-pointed star is the star of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of fertility, wisdom, wealth, prosperity, light, and many other positive aspects. Lakshmi gives these good virtues to the people, bringing good luck to her believers. This probably ties in the depiction of the star in the mural that receives people's wishes--their hearts' desires.

Symbolically, the star is usually used as a representation of enlightenment and hope (remember the practice of "wishing upon a star"?). The Star used in Tarot cards symbolize positive values such as light, renewal, trust, and so on. All these positive virtues attributed to the star may be due to its state as a heavenly, unattainable thing. Humans have looked toward the skies for centuries to marvel in awe at the stars, and had sought wisdom from them. This establishes the star as both a source of wisdom and a source of everlasting hope.
From this we can draw that the Wizard is an astrologer because he is a truth-seeker--he seeks knowledge from the heavens. This is further reinforced in an event with the Wizard and Witch Princess, where they fight over a Fugue Mushroom (a mushroom with strong magical properties). If you supply him this mushroom during the duration of the event, the Wizard will reveal that he uses these mushrooms to research magical medicine...this affirms his status as a seeker of knowledge, the star being a symbol of such.

Secondly, we can see that the star ties with the Wizard's relative closeness to humanity. While the Witch Princess has her Fugue Forest swampland, the Harvest Goddess her spring and the Harvest King the peak of Garmon Mine, the Wizard lives within Harmonica Town--even offering his "fortune-telling" services! This perhaps represents the star of Lakshmi being an '"humanitarian" star, and the star's meaning of hope and prosperity for humankind in general.

3. Name
Names have always been important in cultures around the world. It is a belief that the power of a thing or person is found within its name. This is true even in modern times, when the meaning of a name can determine the success or failure of a person in society (if subconsciously so).
When you meet the Wizard it is obvious that "Wizard" is not the man's true name. If you are a female player and have married this mysterious young man, you will find out that his name is "Gale". Here I have noticed several interesting things about his name.
When the Green Bell quest starts, you must seek the assistance of the Wizard to find the Witch Princess, who has the Bell. When the Green Bell is rung, livestock will be revitalized and the highest rank of animal products may be obtained.
The Witch Princess' name, if the male player decides to wed this magical mistress, is revealed to be Vivi. If we look carefully at the Green Bell quest, we can draw a parallel from the quest with names.
"Gale" traditionally means "a strong gust of wind" and "Vivi" may be derived from "Vivian"--a name meaning "full of life". Since we need Gale to restore Vivi's true form, we can see that Gale--the wind--is needed to restore Vivi--life--to her original state. This echoes the Green Bell's purpose, which brings forth the wind to restore the life of the animals!

Also, I have found this interesting meaning of Gale: not only is Gale interpreted as "wind", it also means "stranger" in Irish Gaelic. This may explain his hermit-crab like nature at first, so drawn into the celestial stars that he forgets to interact with the earthly world...becoming a stranger in his own world.


How much depth a character can bring! And in a game that is deceptively complex! If you have not played a Harvest Moon game, you are missing out in an immersive world that may indeed have so many secrets.