Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
Review by so_hai
"Does The "Harvest Moon" Wax or Wane?"
This title sees you play as a solitary boy who has, out of nowhere, inherited a farm. From day one, it is your responsibility to care for the property and animals and somehow make a profit. Essentially, this title is a real-time business-simulator, and it has surprisingly deep game play and long-term consequences from player decisions - in the similar style, but lesser extent to the "Civilization" series. Eventually, I'm sure most players (well, those that stick with it anyway), will end up in similar circumstances, but, it's not about what you do so much, but about how you get there.
The game play itself is real-time, and you actually control your character and move him throughout the town and farms. The layout is top-view style, like the 2D "Zelda" series, and you are limited to four-way directional control - as this is not an action game, this is a suitable limitation. Again, like the original "Harvest Moon" and many role-playing titles, the world is grid-like in that the entire world is broken up into rough player-sized squares. This is never illustrated more clearly than when you "till" your field. The entire crop field is eventually carved up into these squares, and each one represents a potential vegetable or plant bed which will be harvest-ready in due time. So really, this game asks players to have a green thumb!
This game, long before "Animal Crossing" remixed the formula, lets players do anything they wish to do, in pretty much any order they wish to do it in. The day is yours, and you can spend the time doing whatever you like. Of course, goofing off is not much of an option in this game as the interactivity is fairly limited, but avoiding your chores and going fishing, horse-riding, or chatting is all you may want to be doing. And thankfully (and originally) this game does not punish you for it. Actually, quite cunningly, all activities add to your skill-level and earning power in one way or the other.
The core money-making facility this game offers you is your vast crop-field. It's massive, and actually using every square inch is difficult, and potentially financially ruining. But other than this, there is a chicken-coop, and a cow and sheep barn. You can imagine all of the products and items that would go along with this "Old McDonald's Farm" sort of setup, and you'd be right if you were thinking along all the dairy and wool product-lines. Gathering eggs, wool, milk and vegetables all add to your wealth - they are shipped out daily from your farm, and, someone is kind enough to pick this stuff up for you for no charge. Thanks friends of Mineral Town!
The one detriment this game may suffer from is in its sheer repetitiveness. Those who like their actions to have a direct consequence, as like in an action game, will find little reward in this title. Most of the goals that are set are mid-to-long term ones, and the ultimate goal might even turn some players off to begin with, (you'll have to look it up to see for yourself!) But, once a game play rhythm has been established, and once you've come up with your own routine, the farming life can be pretty satisfying. Watching and caring for crops and animals in this simplified and even cartoony way can give an odd sense of progression that is missing in other role-playing-games or simulators.
The graphical qualities of this game are very simple. It's at about a Super-NES level at best, and those who prefer their humans to look like humans, rather than the all-too-popular squished looking figurines in most role-playing-games may be turned off here. Luckily, these poor renditions of townsfolk are augmented by some nice looking character portraits that pop-up when they engage in their limited and repeated conversations. Morning and evening are portrayed with the obvious darkening of the outdoors, but it's not to the extent that it might have been.
Musically, this title repeats its (infamous?) melody when inside the town's limits. Other tracks are cycled in sync with the four seasons, and some of these are quite charming and suitable. Sound-effects are simple and again, quite cartoonish. Focus is really supposed to be on your personal progression throughout the game, the aesthetic and functional qualities are basic at best. Compare this to say the great looking "Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon", and "Friends of Mineral Town" looks like a "Warioware" mini-game!
Speaking of which, befriending a group of strange "sprites" will help you on your never-ending farming life. These guys, when bribed appropriately, will help you out in their own funny way. And, eventually, you'll be able to play some simple mini-games that they will host for you. Farming is the theme of choice for these games! These cheeky guys need constant kick-backs and friendly treatment to stay on your side - I often wonder if they're worth the effort.
So, if you enjoy long-term goals in your games and the little bits of accomplishment that trickle through, this game might be for you. Long bus trips and boring train rides may make this game even more appropriate, as dipping in and out of your save game periodically harms this games accessibility and ease of play. "Harvest Moon: MFoMT" deserves top marks for originality and average marks for game play.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/30/08
Game Release: Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (EU, 03/26/04)
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