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Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town

The Harvest Moon series has spanned across many platforms through the years. Well good news fans, Natsume is back with Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the Gameboy Advance, and it plays better than ever.

The story is wonderfully set up in a small cutscene, this cutscence portrays you as a little boy on the farm, the farm that you have long since left. When your friend (farm owner) dies you find out that the farm has been willed to you. When you return to the farm you find it in less than presentable shape, meaning that your going to have to bring it back up to snuff. The tasks required for that are long and tiring for your little farmer, so he needs much rest and relaxation. After you have finished cleaning up your farm you can start planting crops, fishing, collecting plants, mining for gold and other valuables ect. A short while in you will recieve a horse, this horse needs much attention and love, just like your dog and any other animals you buy for you farm. Your new horse can be named whatever you like, in fact so can every animal on the farm. Beware, if you fail to take care of your horse it will be taken away.

The core gameplay consists of collecting, mining, walking, feeding, watering, planting and everything else that farm work entails. Sure this may sound like all work and no fun but trust me friends, it is wholey rewarding. Why watching a seed progress into a turnip is like watching a child grow. That is just the farm work, the title "Friends of Mineral Town" wouldn't make much sense at all if there weren't friends in the game, well don't worry folks, this gameis very social indeed. Meeting people and listening to their stories can be quite interesting, it takes you away from the hard labor of your day. You have tools that are required for your farm work, these tools are limited in use early on but once you have made some money you can take them into town and have them upgraded, upgrades go from iron to steel to gold, gold having the ability to break large rocks that get in your way of planting. Fishing is quite fun, in small doses anyway. Fishing is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get, you may get a boot or a carp, it depends soley on chance from my experience. If you nail a big catch you will make quite a bit of money, it's not a bad way to earn a living, but the real money is in collecting, collecting flowers, herbs and mushrooms can turn a hefty profit. And so can taking a daily trip to the Mineral Town mine, where you can dig for gold,  ore and pretty gems.  Now you may ask, "how on earth would I carry all this back to the farm?", well with a ruck sack of course!
Yes your little farmer has an invaluable ruck sack, though it can only carry a few items at a time so I recommend going to the market and buying a basket, those can carry many items at a time, also eating a mushroom or herb will restore some energy. All this work would make one tired for sure, that is where the hotsprings can help, sitting in the hotspring gives your farmer extra energy for when he turns blue (literally). Beware, working your little guy too hard can and will put him in the hospital, so be careful. You can compete in cooking contests, buy grape juice(yeah right) from the winery, presents, medicine,  jewelery, and many other products in the local store.  Mineral Town can be a confusing place to navigate,  but the map helps infinitly as you can get a good idea of where you want to go, you can acess this map by pressing L + Start, and the farm map can be acessed by pressing L + Select. Be careful with the store, the owner will be disappointed if you enter the buy menu and pull out without purchase, unless you don't care what he thinks, then your golden. The "Harvest Sprites" as they are called can help you on the farm,  but these little elven types come at a price, gifts, you will have to give them presents to make them like you, I know, they are quite materialistic, but it is the only way, once you have won them over you will find yourselft doing much less work on your farm, which is always good if your a homer type. Planting is a big part of this game, you have to till the land before planting, then you have the planting and watering on top of that, so as you can imagine this is all very physical, rendering your little guy useless by the end of the day, so give him his rest at the proper hour and he will wake up accordingly. I actually had him sleeping in the day and working at night, that mirrors my own life actually. This game goes on forever,  there is literally no end to how long you can play. The two last big things that I've neglected so far in this review are marriage and farm add ons, for the right price Gotz the woodcutter will build onto your home,  you will also need the required amount of lumber for this aswell. Marriage is a tricky buisness, not Fable tricky but tricky nonetheless, it takes time to woo your girl, gifts, care and attention in general will win her over eventually, so don't worry, she will come around.
Visually, Friends of Mineral Town is a treat, it is the best looking game on the GBA in my opinion. Colors are deep and rich, though there are patches of blandly textured grass but otherwise this is the best looking handheld farming sim on the market, actually it is the only one on the market, but that is what makes the Harvest Moon series so unique, it's wholey original and extremely satisying. As day turns to night, as seasons change, the games true beauty shines. Winter is my favourite season due to the beauty that it so wonderfully displays. Overall this game will not disappoint visually.

The sound is good, it's clear and precise for a GBA cart. The sound is here. No complaints.

Overall this is the best game in the series.


-Brandon Stanway (xplay25)