Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
- Platforms: Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console (Wii U). (and a bunch more, but not really… I’ll explain below)
- Suggested Platform: Game Boy Advance
- Developer: Natsume
- Genre: Life Simulator
- Release Date: 11/17/03
- Why Play It?: Fun, relaxing, plenty to do, and very immersive.
- Why Skip It?: If you don’t like life simulators, or other games of the like without action or defined objectives.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for the Harvest Moon series. I’ve played a good portion of the games: Harvest Moon on SNES, Harvest Moon 64, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, this title, obviously, Harvest Moon: Boy and Girl, Harvest Moon DS, Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns, and I own Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, but I haven’t gotten around to playing it yet . I like the simple life of farming, exploring, dating, and just kind of doing whatever. Open ended series’ like the Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing games just click with me, and I tend to spend many hours on them.
Like most Harvest Moon games, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town focuses on an unnamed protagonist with a very minimal back story. Your grandfather has just passed away, and he left the farm to you in his will, since you once spent a great summer as a child on the farm.
When you’re introduced to the farm, you discover that it’s a dilapidated wreck, and that it’ll take a lot of hard work to get it back to working order. The mayor, Thomas, states that the main character has 3 years to get the farm back to working order and get along with the townsfolk. If he can do so, he’ll be allowed to stay. Luckily for our protagonist, it’s very hard to both enjoy FoMT and fail the 3 year expectations, so you’ll probably be just fine. You really have to try to neglect your farm to fail and get the “bad end”. If you do meet the 3 year requirement, the game doesn’t just stop, however.
The gameplay of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is nearly identical to the other titles in the series. You’ll control the main character from a 3/4th’s sort of perspective as you roam around Mineral Town talking to the townspeople, shopping, participating in festivals, cleaning up the farm, planting crops, taking care of your animals, exploring the nearby valley and mine, and courting the eligible bachelorettes. In the beginning of the game, you’re only given a meager amount of resources, but if you put it all into crops, you can ship them once they grow to make some good money. You’ll play through the 4 seasons and they are shortened to 4 30 day months for a total of 120 days per FoMT year. Eventually you’ll make enough money to expand your farm, buy animals and other goods, and upgrade your tools. There are also many hidden objects to find, cooking recipes to create, and other challenges to meet. Daily, you can also give gifts to the townsfolk and eligible bachelorettes to improve your friendship or love rating with them. The bachelorettes will have little hearts next to their portraits that will grow in size and color over time to indicate their feelings for you.
Not only that, but the dialog will change as the girls get more fond of you. Each character in town, bachelorette or not, have a friendship meter (although the actual values are hidden) and they will get friendlier with (or colder towards) you, and you might even learn more about their character. Each character in FoMT has an interesting story, and there are many dialog events that really help solidify the characters. That’s part of what makes FoMT and Harvest Moon games in general so satisfying: the feeling that you really reside in a living, breathing town full of interesting characters with personality. Characters will go about their day whether you interact with them or not. It’s all very satisfying.
The music and presentation of FoMT is all very attractive. Catchy tunes for events and seasons with satisfying sound effects, nice Japanese anime/manga style artwork for character portraits and attractive sprites really pull Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town together.
Let’s talk about a few gripes with FoMT. Firstly, the controls are a hassle if you’re not used to them. With only a few buttons to work with on the GBA, you’ve got a lot of actions that need to be mapped somehow. This results in forgettable combinations of the L and R buttons with the A and B buttons to cycle through your inventory and tools. Another small gripe is that FoMT (and any Harvest Moon game, really) can get very bland. You might end up doing the same things everyday (in game) and get in a routine of relative boredom while you wait for your crops to grow so you can ship them to get more money and really improve your gameplay options. Every day (in game) you’ll probably water your crops, feed your animals, and find your bachelorette of choice to give her a gift. Sometimes this can get kind of monotonous.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is not an original game. What I mean is that not only is it a remake, but it is kind of a remake of a remake. Harvest Moon 64, which many fans agree is the best Harvest Moon, has a different town, but with all the same characters, some of which have roles that make more sense in the world of HM64 compared to the remakes. Harvest Moon 64 got remade into Harvest Moon: Back to Nature for the PlayStation which then got a port to PlayStation Portable with an added girl version, Harvest Moon: Boy and Girl. Finally, HM B+G got remade to Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the boy version, and later, Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town as the girl version.
There are minimal differences between BtN, B+G, and FoMT, but the main difference is the presentation. BtN and B+G have a presentation with 3D graphics similar to HM64 while FoMT got the 2D sprite treatment. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which is the best version. FoMT was my second Harvest Moon game (behind a Wonderful Life) and as a result, it holds a special place in my heart, and on this list. FoMT and MFoMT also have Gamecube connectivity with Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life.
Harvest Moon (especially FoMT), love it or hate it, is just one of those games that I can pick up and play nothing but for a long time. The combination of good presentation, music and sound, as well as the relaxing gameplay and in depth characters always have me coming back for another playthrough.