Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town - Staff Review  

Feminine Farming
by Anna Marie Neufeld

20 - 50 hours


Rating definitions 

   The Harvest Moon series has had several forays on the Game Boy systems, with three for the GB/GBC, and one for the GBA. It is the type of game that works very well on a portable system: it can be picked up, played for a few minutes (or a few hours), and then saved and put away for another time. While there has been the opportunity to be a female in previous titles, North America had never seen a Harvest Moon game with a female lead, though there had been remakes of previous titles in Japan in this fashion. It came as a pleasant surprise to see that the "for girls" remake of the Game Boy Advance title would be brought to an excited North American audience. Titled Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town, the newest iteration of the series takes the gameplay of its predecessors and puts a woman's touch to the game. Though it excels and fails in the same areas that the previous titles did, it gives the game a much different perspective, showing the series in a new light.

   The game focuses on achieving social status, rather than levels and combat. While it is true that the main character paid a fair price for her farm, unless the community accepts her presence at the end of three years, she may be asked to leave and return to the city she came from. If she wishes the farm to prosper, she will need to balance various livestock and crops during the year. While the farm begins in a run-down fashion, it is equipped with tools to aid her in clearing the fields, such as a hoe, hammer, scythe, and axe. Once the obstacles are removed, seeds can be acquired from the local store, and are planted in a three by three grid. Plants must be watered daily. Thankfully, these tasks become easier as time goes by; tools that are used will gain experience, and then can be upgraded with the appropriate mineral, which can be dug out of the local mine. Once a plant matures, it can be harvested and sold. Some plants only produce one harvest, while others will give perpetual harvests over the span of the season they were planted in. Grass, once planted, needs no tending or replanting, and can be used as fodder for animals.

Splish Hot Spring Relives Stress

   Sheep and cows are kept in the barn, and create wool and milk for the farmer to sell; tools will need to be purchased to harvest these assets. The better they are cared for, including being fed and brushed daily, the better quality their contributions. More of each can be purchased, or they can be bred via the ever-popular miracle pill. The farm may also keep a dog and a horse, though neither directly contribute to the moneymaking aspect of the farm. Chickens can also be kept, either in their coop, or left outside to find food for themselves. Eggs may be sold or incubated to hatch more chickens. Feed can either be purchased or corn can be milled for it. Animals become especially important during the winter, as no crops can be grown while the snow falls except inside a hothouse. Lastly, there are often various plants which the character may harvest from the nearby mountainside, many of which can be sold for a small profit; alternatively, there are the aforementioned minerals which can be mined and sold for some extra cash. These items replenish daily and can help get a beginner farmer started on extra cash to buy either crops or animals for her farm. Despite all the long hours needed to get the farm to a successful state, a balance between the farm's duties and socializing must always be kept.

   The music has changed very little from the previous version of the game, though in a peculiar move the music now seems to be slightly off tune from the original soundtrack. Whether this is deliberate or accidental is difficult to tell, but becomes very noticable when the player falls ill and the music is played flatly. The visuals on the other hand seem to have maintained the same level of quality that was found in the previous game; the flaw of this approach was that for those that have played the game with the male as the main character, things will become rather boring. Some changes, even minor palette swaps for the dog and horse, would have been a nice change of pace for veterans to the series.

   Any Harvest Moon game will be as long or as short as the player makes it. Those who fill their days with leisurely activities such as gathering fruits and herbs in the woods or fishing will find their gameplay hours will be on the shorter side, perhaps 20 hours. Those that fill their days with caring for animals as well as crops - time freezes when inside buildings such as the barn, coop, or shops in town - will find their clock ticking upwards to more than 50 hours. This ties directly into the difficulty of the game. Farmers who use their time and assets to their advantage, or have previous experience with other games in the series will find it a breeze to succeed in their duties. For those who squander their time or money will find it tougher to make do with the little they have. Both facets depend heavily upon the actions of the player.

   The menu system is identical to that found in Friends of Mineral Town, in that it is simple, efficient, and accessible quickly through various button combinations. This is especially handy when doing repeated actions such as checking on the choice of tools, status of animals, or harvesting produce. The menu also includes maps for the farm and the town, which are handy for beginners. The farm map shows a greater detail of locations for animals including the dog and horse, and crops, as well as when the farm's buildings have been built up. The localization shows a marked lack of care has been put into fixing the errors found in the previous title; in fact, more have cropped up especially in regard to typographical errors. Considering the large amount of text in the game, a solid localization should have been tantamount.

Messy A Cute Puppy

   The story is different from Friends of Mineral Town, both in setting up the game and as time passes. Whereas the male lead character inherited the farm when his grandfather passes away, the female lead instead buys the farm based off an exciting ad, only to find she has a bit of a pig in a poke. Nevertheless, she forges ahead with the restoration of the farmland and begins to interact with the community. Like the previous title, there are several bachelors which she may choose to woo, and they may eventually marry. The rival women are much more aggressive than their male counterparts, and so many players of this title will see the cutscenes which strengthen the relationships of the other couples, whereas it was less likely in the previous title. However, there is very little added in the way of originality to the game. There are changes in how people react to the main character, and the aforementioned storyline changes, but little else differs, which may be a blessing to those who never played the original male-led title but for Harvest Moon veterans this lack of change may be somewhat stifling.

   Despite the seemingly long list of flaws found in the newest iteration of the farming system, there is an undeniable underlying sense of fun in the game which cannot be quantifed by simply looking at the individual parts of the game. Once a player gets into the game they will likely find themself hopelessly addicted, even considering the minor hiccups in the game. For those who are familiar with the series, they may end up picking up the game just to see a female's perspective within the game. Those new to the series have the choice of picking up either this title, or Friends of Mineral Town, as both perspectives are equally enjoyable and those who have never played shouldn't miss out on getting into the series one way or another.

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