GBA REVIEW: HARVEST MOON: MORE FRIENDS OF MINERAL TOWN

Someone at Natsume had a brainstorm. It's not the biggest and brightest storm I've ever encountered but it has the potential to be big news to the developers and publishers of videogames.

Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town is virtually identical to the two-year old version of Friends of Mineral Town except that it's played from the perspective of the opposite sex. The original game featured a boy farmer. This version features a female version. I know that this worked for Ms. Pac-Man but I don't think that programmers ever thought it would work for other games. As a review I think it's just an annoying gimmick designed to milk a popular formula. But if this game becomes popular we might see games such as Splinter Cell Starring Samantha Fisher or Maxine Payne.

How different is this game from its testosterone-fuelled counterpart? Not much. I'm not being a chauvinist when I say that the premise is highly unrealistic. Not too many girls take on the task of moving from the city to restore an old farm. Not that they can't do it, but they have more sense than guys that are too dumb to know they will certainly fail at such an attempt. I've met a lot of farmers in my time and I can tell you that it's the woman that has the most sense of the household - although that's not really saying much.

In any case, the girl decides to put some sweat equity into an abandon farm. She raises crops and livestock for her living and heads to town on occasion to interact with the locals and look for a gentleman to settle down with. There is a lot of micromanagement to perform and it's done in such a way that it's actually fun, even if being on a farm is the last thing you would ever want to do in your life. There's a certain charm and comfort that comes from playing this game. I like the original so there's no reason that I wouldn't like this one with the exception of the fact that I've already played it as a male. It's not different enough to recommend even renting the game but if it's your first exposure to this RPG then by all means give it a shot.

Crops have to be planted, watered and eventually cultivated. Like the livestock, when your produce is ready you can sell it and use the money to upgrade your farm. You can purchase new tools, additions to your home and more animals. You'll start off with some very primitive tools such as an axe, scythe and hoe and eventually upgrade to a tractor and other modern machinery to make your life easier and your business more productive.

You can only do so much work in a day. Whether it's milking cows, planting seeds, fishing or visiting in town, you will eventually have to get to bed around 9 pm if you're going to tackle tomorrow's chores. A time limit will keep you in line. Time runs constantly but it will stop if you're playing a mini-game. Using tools will run down your stamina but you can increase it by eating some food, of which there should be a good supply if you're a good farmer.

For obvious reasons events in the game are not in real-time. An average day can last 20 minutes. The days will give way to seasons in which crops and livestock will grow until they reach maturity and can be taken to market and sold. Eventually you will complete a year cycle. There is no limit to how many years you can play, so just keep going until you get bored. After about 50 hours you've pretty much done everything you can do.

Sprites can be paid to look after the farm for you while you head to town with some of your prized cooking. Once you learn how to cook you will attract members of the opposite sex and eventually find the man of your dreams and raise a family - if that's what you want to do. There are so many things to do in this game that it's staggering. What is interesting is that it all relates to the premise. Even the way you interact with other characters will have an effect on your development.

The only real differences in this version are a fish pond where you can store fish for later and a mirror in your home for changing outfits. There might be a different character or two and some of the dialog has been changed but it still looks and sounds like the same old game which isn't a bad thing unless you're looking for something original. The original music is good and I don't mind listing to it again since it's very relaxing. You can connect with the Gamecube version of Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life for some unlockables such as the ability to change the music and some new mini-games.

If you've played Friends of Mineral Town there's nothing to see here. Move along. If this is all new to you, then you're in for a real treat. There's no other RPG like it - except for the other one that's exactly like it.

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System: GBA
Dev: Marvelhouse
Pub: Natsume
Release: July 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
3.5