Review by Tails 64
"2,500 words about the Magic of Harvest Moon"
Back in the summer of 2001, I was surfing the Internet, looking to see if there were any Nintendo 64 gems I missed along the way. One game seemed to attract many people - Harvest Moon 64. Harvest Moon, a farming game is fun? I was doubtful at first, but I bought the game and loved it. There were a few problems, though. Such as the poor graphics and music, and that time goes way too fast in the game. Now, two and a half years later, another Harvest Moon game comes out: Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. I eagerly waited, I wanted November to come faster! Now, it has FINALLY arrived. Was it worth the wait?...Definitely.
The first thing that leaped out at me from the game was the beautiful graphics. The environments are all very rich in detail. The town and houses are all realistic, touched-up with pretty little details. The surroundings also change depending upon the current season. In winter, expect the fields and forest to be covered with an icy glaze of frost and snow. In spring, expect to see the beauty of nature as it escapes the shell of the cold weather. The character models are also done well; they look as realistic as the environments. When you talk to a character, you can see the character artwork right above the text. Each character has many expressions, all looking wonderful. Some of the expressions are quite comical and downright funny, especially when one of the girls is blushing. The animation also lives up to the quality of everything else in this department. Any complaints in this department? One VERY little one sometimes, when you talk to a villager, you magically pop-up on the wrong side of the wrong side of the person. Overall, the graphics are spectacular, the best ever seen on a GameBoy Advance in my opinion (yes, even better than Golden Sun).
The audio portion of this game is almost as wonderful as the graphics. All of the music is very well composed, even on a portable system. The music is supposed to bring out the mood of the season, place, or event you are in at the time. During the wild days of summer, the music is bright, poppy, and has an overall cheerful feeling. In the calm days of autumn, the music is sober and calm; the sounds truly made me feel as though I was at a farm on a calm day in autumn. My favorite part of the music is the love event music. As time progresses, the other people of Mineral Town get a boyfriend or girlfriend. To develop their relationship, they are sometimes involved in events together. These events sometimes show the girl "busting through" the hard shell of the boy and realizing that they have a soft and sweet side. Other events have them in dramatic events together, such as a boy accidentally bringing up one of the girl's darkest memories. The music really helps to bring this mood out, it is wonderful. My only complaint about the music is the fact that it repeats itself a bit too much for my tastes. The sound effects are good as well. You'll be hearing the Moos and Barks of the farm. There are no voice samples, but that is okay; most voice samples on a portable gaming system suck.
As soon as you turn on the game for the first time, you are told to name yourself, your dog, your farm, and eventually your horse. This is a nice touch, I named my farm the LoveShack, my dog Spunky, and my horse SeaBiscut. You are then shown a flashback. As a young boy, you got lost in a farming village. Luckily, an old man running a farm found you and showed you around the farm, you had a great time. Years later, you return to the farm because the old man had not replied to any of your letters for quite some time. The mayor of the village, Thomas, told you that the old man has died, and he left the farm to you. Now, it is your job to revive the farm and befriend the residents of Mineral Town!
The farming portion of this game is very deep - as deep as any of the console Harvest Moon games. You start off with just a little shack and a large, ugly field. It is all up to you to manage your time and tasks; the game is very non-linear and will never spoon-feed you objectives. This is the greatest part of the Harvest Moon universe to most people, as there is never anyone quite experiencing the game like you. Want to just work on the farm and have no friends? Go ahead. Want to woo all of the lovely young ladies of the village and ignore your farm? Go ahead. Want to balance your life between work and fun? Go ahead. Want to kill your animals in anyway possible and scare the residents of Mineral Town? You can do that, too. Do yourself a favor and do not use a guide as you play this game. It is much more fun to experiment and learn from your mistakes than read off a piece of paper - trust me.
On the farm, you have two basic tasks: Grow crops and care for animals. When planting crops, there is a lot to consider. To start off, you must choose what you are going to plant. Some crops are worth more than others, but take more time to grow. With certain crops, they grow upon a vine; therefore you can receive multiple harvests from them. Once you have chosen what you are going to plant, you must choose how you are going to go about planting the seeds. When you plant the seeds, they go into a three-by-three square of any tilled soil. What about the crop in the middle that cannot be reached? Is there any way to tend to the vegetable? That is something I shall let you ponder upon. Finally, you must water the crops each day, so you must consider where they are on the field. They must be close to the shipping bin, or it will take all day to harvest.
You should also raise animals on the farm. You can raise chickens, cows, and sheep. Chickens are a very quick way of earning a little bit of cash. However, they do not live too long - only about three years. Plus, forget to feed them once, and the results can be quite unpleasant. Cows are considered the "big guns" of moneymaking, as their milk can be sold for high prices. However, they are quite expensive to buy and care for their needs. Sheep can grow fabulous wool that a girl would love to receive as a gift, but do not sell for high prices. With all the animals, you must consider the weather. Every morning, you can watch your television to find information relating to news, tips, shopping, and weather. If a hurricane strikes, you cannot feed your animals that day, uh-oh. Which animals should you buy? That is something else to consider in this deep game.
When you are finished farming in the morning, you can explore the town. To the south of your farm, you will find a forest. While exploring the forest, you may find the pond containing the legendary Harvest Goddess, a mine, a hot tub, and much more. North of your farm, you will discover the town itself. There are shops, homes, and other buildings in Mineral Town. The shops contain useful supplies for farming, flirting, and eating. Each store is open only on certain hours, and only on certain days. What if an animal is about to die, you need medicine fast, but the store selling animal medicine is closed? Say good-bye to your animal and your reputation. You may also find the church, a health clinic, and an inn. All of the locations in Mineral Town are interesting and important.
Working briskly is fine, but it all means nothing if you have no friends with which to share the good times! Every character has their own unique personality. You may meet people such as Cliff, who are as shy and quiet as a baby sheep, or you may meet people such as Kai, who always seems to get wrapped into trouble. Each person has their own sets of likes and dislikes, 'tis your responsibility to discover them all. In order to make friends, you must give them gifts on a regular basis, as they are quite materialistic. You can also attend festivals, which range from horse racing to peaceful talking. Of course, friendships are completely optional, but they may help you out if you are nice enough.
One of the most famous parts of the game is the fact that you can obtain a wife and then have children. In order to this, you must woo one of the five ladies of Mineral Town. You can woo them all, if you please. The girls are Ann, a tomboy, Elli, a quiet, hard-working girl, Karen, a blonde girl who has been known to drink on occasion, Mary, a shy girl that likes books, and Popuri, a girl with pink hair, red glowing eyes, and a love for chickens. There is also a secret girl to woo. As you are courting the girl, they have a meter that shows how much they love you. Once it is at its maximum, the girl will accept marriage. After that, you can have a child and be head of a family. This marriage system is definitely an important staple in this game.
Does this all seem too much? Does it seem as though this game would be stressful? Take note: these all connect. When you work on the farm, you get cash. When you get cash, you can spend it on gifts for people. You could also spend it on home extensions to increase productivity for more cash, and it is easier to get that cute nurse down at the clinic to fall in love with you if you have a larger home. Therefore, this game is not any more stressful than any other games. However, it is more put together than the overrated game of Animal Crossing. In Animal Crossing, you could run around and do whatever you want - got boring rather quickly. In contrast, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town will always urge you to keep busy.
This game is based on Harvest Moon: Back to Nature for Playstation, which is based on Harvest Moon 64, for Nintendo 64. I never played Back to Nature, but I will describe some differences I noticed between Harvest Moon 64 and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. The big difference is that you are given a perfect amount of time per day, you cannot just snooze your way through, but you do not have to run for your life everywhere like you did in Harvest Moon 64. There are far more events, which is always good. Another notable difference is the fact that the whole world is a bit more hallway-like than the little world of Harvest Moon 64. I also noticed changes in character roles and personalities. Many positions changed, so I will just let you find them out for yourself. As for personalities, my opinions about the characters have shifted greatly. I hated Gray in Harvest Moon 64 (who was Anna's brother in that game). He was always stupid and mean. However, in this game, I noticed that Mary (who was Maria in Harvest Moon 64) brought him to a more cheerful side, and it is wonderful to see their cute couple relationship play out. In Harvest Moon 64, Popuri was an immature snit who had no life out of flowers. However, this time, she is nice, thoughtful, and works on a chicken farm! Kai on the other hand, was a nice guy in Harvest Moon 64, but now he is an irresponsible guy with no care to work at all. Fans of Harvest Moon 64 will have a great time in simply getting to know the new characters behind these familiar faces.
This review is about 2,000 words long so far, and I have not even talked about my absolute favorite part of the game, it grows on you, it just does. I often play for hours at a time, as I do not want to stop. As soon as I stop playing, I wish I were playing again right away. Biggest of all, I LOVE the characters. They all have great charm to them, and I feel like they are real people. You won't like the guys just because they're cool, and you won't just like the girls because they're hot; you will truly see their emotions. When I see love events go by, I feel happy for the lucky guy or girl, and sometimes feel sorry for them if everything is not going to well for them. Each event truly makes me think about the character, as though I knew them for real. Do not expect to marry the girl you are originally aiming for. As you see the girls act and live out each day, you may realize that one girl just seems nicer than your original target, or you may not want to marry the girl because she and the boy pursuing her make too good of a couple to separate. I even dream about this game! If you do not like this game, you have problems.
There are VERY tiny flaws, however. The graphical glitch I mentioned way back in the second paragraph, and the fact that the game starts of a bit slow. That's all.
The almighty question - should you buy it? Well, I love it, but I can see some people who may not like this game. This game is pretty tough, so novices may not enjoy the experience. If you are the kind of video gamer who does not at all care about the characters in the game, you would be missing out on quite a lot in Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. If you do not fit any of these descriptions, for the love of God, GET THIS GAME!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/25/03, Updated 06/21/04
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