The fifth installment into the Harvest Moon series for Gameboy Advance does not disappoint. Those that remember Back to Nature will find the same Mineral Town charm in this installment, this time wrapped up in a tiny world inside your GBA. Even compared to more recent games, this one still feels highly more detailed than others, while retaining simplistic charm of older titles.
The story opens with you, a single blonde girl living in the city. Apparently, you are not happy with your life, or your job….the unsatisfied state of your life makes you jump at any given change. Behold! In today’s newspaper, your heroine spots an ad for a rewarding life of farming in Mineral Town. Dreaming of wide open fields, animals galore, and abundant harvests, your character drifts off to sleep, the determination set in her mind to contact the Mineral Town realtor first thing tomorrow…
Only to have your dreams hopelessly crushed upon arrival. You quit your job and up and left town, to be met with a run-down ranch that is not even a shadow of the dream set in your mind. What’s more, the Mayor has the nerve to mock your decision to come here! After a few good whacks at his noggin with your hammer, he apologizes and encourages you to work hard to restore the land. You don’t have a choice, anyway. Better make the most of it!
The graphics of this game are not bad at all for the Gameboy Advance. The landscapes are bright and colorful, character sprites are accurately done, with matching images when you speak with them. The animal sprites are also very cute and endearing. I just love to talk to them and hear them moo, baa, or cluck cutely in response.
This brings me to the sound effects. The sound effects, as stated above, are endearing. The happy woof of the dog and soft whinny of the horse is also nice to hear. The songs for each season are nostalgic for me, having played the game long ago. It ranges from an upbeat spring theme to a sad, lonely tune for winter. The town theme never changes, and is burned forever in my mind. Some may find the cute 8 bit tunes annoying, but I somehow enjoy them.
There is a vast amount of things to do in Mineral Town, from raising a wide variety of crops, tending to livestock, cooking, mining, fishing, and more! You may even find yourself making friends and even finding a love interest to woo! The vast number of festivals also give you time to relax and play a game or compete in a contest!
Your field is quite large, giving anyone the opportunity to grow a unique combination of grass or crops to evenly balance livestock and crop profits. What’s more, your barn and coop may be expanded to hold 16 cows or sheep and 8 chickens! This is far more room than in past games for animals. The best thing is you don’t even have to tend your farm alone! A hut full of harvest sprites are waiting for you to befriend, train, and put to work! These little (slaves) will happily agree to any task you assign for them, no payment required! However, you will need at least 3 friendship hearts to request their help.
There is a variety of lovely town boys to court so that your little blonde girl can live happily ever after. Gray is the shy blacksmith apprentice who keeps to himself, and hopes to one day impress his strict grandfather with his work. Cliff is a wanderer, looking for purpose in his life…and you have the potential to help him find it! Rick works on the Poultry Farm, and spends his time caring for his sickly mother. Kai is the party boy, coming only in summer to stir up trouble and have a good time. Last but not least there is Doctor, who doesn’t have any other name, which is obviously the town physician who cares for the wellbeing of all the townsfolk. You can court any man you take a liking too, but beware! Each lovely suitor has his own love interest, and you must sway his feelings in your direction before your rival steals his heart forever!
The town is also huge. Mineral Town has many shops and attractions to suck away any extra time you have. Play Frisbee with your dog at the beach, have dinner at the Inn, or do a little shopping at the Supermarket. Each building offers something new to do, and plenty of people to meet. Compared to some Harvest Moon games, this one has one of the best variety of village attractions.
Other than farming and wooing the young men, you can also participate in the other actives, such as cooking, fishing, mining, or just watching T.V. Your T.V. has many channels, including weather, news, information for players, and a variety channel with a good assortment of shows. Fall into the world of Demons and Princesses with “My Dear Princess”, buy things from the T.V. Shopping Network, or learn to cook with “Dueling Chefs”. The shows on T.V. are always a joy to watch.
Cooking is also very intricate in this game. It will take time to build a kitchen, but once you have one, there are many recipes to be made! Whether you cook for the Spring Cooking Festival, make meals for the bachelor of your choice, or simply want to have meals on hand to replenish your own stamina, cooking is a joy in its own. The utensils you have to cook with are numerous, if you collect them all. Whip up delicacies with a whisk, oven, seasoning set, knife, frying pan, pot, or others! You can choose from one or use them all together! Then you pick ingredients, and, if successful, the recipe is recorded for later use. To make cooking even more fun, practically any recipe can be tweaked to make it better, necessary if you wish to win the Spring Cooking Festival.
If cooking and farming doesn’t appeal to you, mining and fishing are good ways to bring in some cash flow. Many mysteries lie in the mines, such as cursed tools that hold great powers and glittering gems! There are just as many mysteries in the waters, offering you the chance to fish up pirate treasures or legendary fishes…and you may even occasionally fish up a lake monster!
The festivals of this game are very engaging. Put your chickens up to fight in a Sumo Wrestling match, where the goal is to drive the other chicken out of the ring, or put your culinary expertise to the test in the annual Cooking Festival, where you compete with other villagers to see who can whip up the best meal in the chosen theme. I never miss a single festival; they are all so fun to participate in! Some festivals will even give you leftover ingredients or prizes for attending!
When I first picked up this game, I was blown away by how detailed it is, and how much there is to do. It was a refreshing change from Harvest Moon 64, with all the new added features. Even though 64 will be my favorite of all time, More Friends of Mineral Town still holds a special place in my heart, and hours of endless game play.