Who knew farming could be so fun and addicting? Apparently the developers over at Natsume did when they conceived Harvest Moon, which has grown into quite the lucrative crop for the company over the years. This particular iteration for the GBA happens to be a remake of Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the PS1 and is an improvement in almost every way. In my opinion, Friends of Mineral Town is Harvest Moon at its finest and its purest form, making it my personal favorite game from the series.
Unlike most of the games from the series, we actually don’t play as some mysterious youth with a convenient stroke of amnesia. The protagonist in this game actually had prior history with Mineral Town, having visited the farm once as a child. Over the years, he kept writing letters with the old farmer in charge there until the letters stopped coming one day. Our hero travels to Mineral Town and finds out that the old farmer passed away, leaving behind his farm to the player in his will. Unfortunately, the farm is not in the best of conditions, and it’s up to us to revitalize the lifeless plot of earth to its former glory!
FoMT perfects the formula that the series had been building up throughout the years since its birth on the SNES back in 1996. Like any good simulation game, it’s up to you how you play, and there’s plenty to keep you busy in this game. Harvesting crops from your farm will be your primary source of income, but that doesn’t stop you from catching some fish or even going mining. Some of my fondest memories with this game was preparing for an all-out spelunking expedition throughout the mines for a get rich quick scheme. Lots of money was definitely a necessity, as you needed it for upgrades to your house, seeds, and assorted knickknacks for your humble abode. It’s spend money to make more money; capitalism at its finest.
An interesting mechanic this game employed was the Harvest Sprites, who you could befriend and have act as
slaves hired help on your farm. This provided a huge boost in farming efficiency, and if you were good enough, you probably didn’t ever have to lift finger to tend to your crops or your animals.
When you weren’t slaving away on your farm plot, you were most likely skirt-chasing some girl in the town. I personally went after Mary the librarian the first time I played this game. Then I realized I didn’t really like that type of girl and courted Elli the nurse on my second playthrough. I like to think Harvest Moon helped me with developing my taste in fictional girls (j/k). Although every time I play a Harvest Moon game, I always seem to stop playing after I get married. Hopefully this habit is not a reflection of myself in real life.
The graphics in FoMT were simple and had that nice rustic feel to it. The sprites were cute, and the character portraits were nicely illustrated, offering a variety of poses for different emotions. The music and scenery would change with the seasons, but unfortunately the town music never seemed to change, which was a bummer. The BGM was great and catchy overall, despite the GBA’s notoriously bad sound capabilities.
If I were to recommend anyone to get into the Harvest Moon series, I’d tell them to start with Friends of Mineral Town. It’s the formula at its best before the series expanded to new territory. I’m happy that series is still thriving today, and I must say that A New Beginning on the 3DS looks pretty good. I might have to pick up a 3DS to play it!
- Being a GBA game, the sound is expected to be a bit tinny.
- Typos and glitches are present, but less so than other Natsume games.
- Great environment and setting, which makes for a enjoyable stay while you farm your heart out.
- Encapsulates the heart of the harvesting spirit that the series aims for.