Nothing spells romance like spa-boiled eggs.
Harvest Moon isn’t a tough series to figure out. You raise animals, plant certain food during various times of the year, participate in festival mini games, and try your hand at romance. Coming out way back in 2003, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town has all of this. It’s more or less a port of the previous PlayStation Harvest Moon title, Back to Nature. But Mineral Town takes a lot of likeable qualities about that title and refines them, making it one of the more enjoyable Harvest Moons of not only it’s time, but also to date.
The story of the game has you as a boy who is tasked with running a farm after an old friend of his dies. The goal of the game is to restore the farm back to how it once was, as it’s now in disarray. This all involves having the boy raise animals such as chickens, cows and sheep in order to produce content that you can ship out for profit. On top of that, you can also collect minerals, plants, and other items that will help produce enough income to help upgrade your tools and buy items that will help restore the farm to it’s previous prestige. While doing these kind of tasks can be pretty mundane at the start, it becomes less of a chore as your level up the tools and upgrade them with ores that will make farm life a bit easier.
Beyond maintaining the farm, there’s also the romance and festival mini games to toy around with. There’s a number of lovely ladies to woo, and they all have favorite items that will help boost their affection towards you. One new aspect of romance not seen in other games are rivals, who will also try and spark a romance, so that’s another aspect you have to watch out for. It took a long while before I was ready to move on to marriage and children (isn’t that true for all of us?), but it’s something that you can build up over a period of time, and I found it rewarding to finally get married after spending forever giving Ann spa boiled eggs and upgrading the house. The festival mini games are a fun diversion as well. One has you cooking up a favorite dish, another has you racing your horse and playing frisbee with your dog, and so on. They’re superficial, but it’s a nice break in between maintaining your farm and talking to girls.
There are some problems, although they’re minor gripes. The script, for one, could be a bit better. Sometimes the translation felt a little off, and since this was a game about romance, it can be melodramatic at times. But I never got bored with the game's story, and the reward of having a successful farm and marriage at the end of the game was a nice conclusion. The only other complaint is equipping items and weapons. You only get three slots in the beginning of the game. You can later upgrade to a larger rucksack, but I wish things were a little easier to start. It takes a while to get used to Harvest Moon games, but if you can withstand the plodding nature for the first year, once things get going it can be a pretty fun game.
Mineral Town takes everything about Harvest Moon and ties it up into one refined, enjoyable package. Seeing your farm slowly transform into a barren wasteland of dirt, rocks and twigs into a bustling, productive area of distribution is fun to witness. The romance aspect of the game is also fun, though it takes a while to get used to. In fact, a lot of the game can take time to get used to. The script’s rather abrasive delivery can be off putting sometimes, and the game doesn’t hold your hand. But if you can look past all of that, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is one of the best in the series to date.