Review by Phweemaggot

"You don't see this kind of thing too often..."

Most people, when confronted with a game about farming, will split into one of three reactionary categories:
1. ”Neat!”
2. ”The hell?”
3. “That’s...strange...”
You in the first should stop wasting your time and go buy this game. Those in the second need to stay in their seats and listen to me. And you others better pay attention to my rant too, just to be safe.

The sounds incorporated into this game blend in very well with the calm farm setting. The puppy yelps excitedly, the chickens croon in high pitches, and the horse neighs contently. The chicken sounds are also used when scrolling through your rucksack, which is somewhat annoying. The background music, changing with every season, conveys a mood to fit with changes in the terrain. My favorite is the autumn tune, with an eerie, downbeat tone that matches the dying of plants and a beginning to the bleak, white winter.

The characters are well detailed, both the plain sprites and the portraits shown during conversations. The girls in this game also have blushing portraits for when they receive gifts, which are very cute. The terrain is somewhat detailed, but becomes boring to look at after a while.

You have arrived at the farm of an old man whom you befriended when you and your parents stayed with him. You had been exchanging letters for a long time since, until finally, he just stopped responding. Concerned for the old man, you flew out to check in on him. The mayor of the town meets with you on the farm, informing you that he had died, and left his farm to someone with your name. Talk about coincidence! Except, of course, that’s it’s not a coincidence, and the farm’s yours.

Now that you’re in charge of a farm, it’s time for you to make some changes to fit your style. For instance, the previous owner profited from selling weeds, stumps, and large, unmovable rocks. Maybe you should clear that out, and try your hand at selling real crops. Till the ground, plant the seeds, and get ready to spend lots of time watering and picking your bounty.

Another way to profit is to invest in livestock. The more you tend to your animals, the more they love you, and the more money you can make from them. For instance, a well-looked-after chicken with plenty of space to roam, and a place of shelter during harsh weather will produce better eggs for the market then a chicken which is cooped up, denied food, and only allowed outside when it rains. This works the same way with cows and their milk and the wool of sheep. Animals that are taken care of well also do better in the festival competitions occasionally held in town.

Of course, crops are only right to be sold occasionally, and you’ll need to spend a lot of time with that cow before it gives enough milk to make up for the 5,000G you spent on it, the 2,000G for the milking machine, and the food you had to give it when it wouldn’t go outside and chew on the grass. So the only dependable, steady source of income is picking up random things scattered across the landscape. You can sell whatever you find laying in someone’s backyard. Oh, but don’t worry though. The next day, there’ll be a brand new odd bit of grass or poisonous mushroom, sitting right where you found the last one.

Work has been interesting, but you’d like to do something to relax. Why not hit on the girls in town? There are five in all for you to become involved with, not counting the sixth not-as-obvious stupidly-hard-to-attain secret one. The way this game works, however, the only way you can win over the girls is by giving them things. This can sometimes make a large dent in your funds. The girl you chase after may be satisfied with getting an egg (free, once you have chickens), or she might have a craving for 300G a bottle wine instead. You must be aware of these things, because, despite what all your past experience may be telling you, most, if not all of the girls, do NOT want a chunk of gold bigger then your head.

Most of the girls, however, also enjoy foods that you can make in your own home. And now the kitchen will come in handy! All the utensils that you bought off of the Home Shopping Network will have a use! Your best bet to find out recipes is to watch Dueling Chefs, a TV program shown on Tuesdays. I urge you, only use recipes you hear of there. I can tell you, no matter how simple it seems, just sticking an egg in the frying pan doesn’t work.

Eventually, it comes down to having a good relationship with a girl, or making lots of money. Neither way ends well. Either you’re poor, or you wake up one day to find the girl of your dreams marrying that squinty-eyed kid down the road. This is why you need to improve your tools. When you destroy the rocks in the mines, you find metals hidden inside of them. Handing these over to the blacksmith along with a tool and some cash will get you a greatly improved piece of equipment. The better ore you use, the more it helps. They can widen the range of your watering can or scythe or improve on the strength of your ax or hammer. Of course, the tool is unusable until the blacksmith is finished with it. You could also get a bigger rucksack, so you don’t need to go home to get other tools, or a basket to carry all of the items you want to sell. Of course, the basket can not be in your rucksack. It’s either in your hands or laying on the ground somewhere.

But overall, your best bet is to hire the harvest sprites to do your work. A few gifts and they’re ready to water your plants, tend to your animals, and harvest your crops. They’re also good fore relieving boredom, since they offer you some addictive minigames to play.

This game has decent controls. It’s hard to screw up with only four buttons, but they somehow manage it. For one, there are two ways to take something out of your rucksack. Go into the start menu, open the rucksack, select an item, close the rucksack, exit out of the start menu. The other is hit A+B, select an item, close the rucksack. Despite the time it saves, the second is more trouble then it’s worth. If you time it just a bit off, poof! That expensive wine splatters on the ground, the egg your holding gets thrown into the hot spring for good, or, if you’re lucky, it just gives you a description of the box you put all of your goods into to sell. I would’ve appreciated if they dealt with that somehow.

There is really no way to win this game. You can get the best house possible, Get married, have a kid, and make a fortune, but this game never ends. As such, replay is not that important a category.

Sound-10 Just perfect.
Graphics-9 Somewhat cartoony, but it was done well.
Gameplay-9 Monotonous, but never boring.
Controls-7 With all the money I’ve lost trying that damn A+B thing, I could buy a new cow.
Replay Value-N/A None.

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is a unique little game with great gameplay mechanics that can keep you addicted forever. Give it a try, if you’d like a break from the endless hordes of shooting, fighting, and sports games appearing on so many systems.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/18/04

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