Month: October 2017

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (2003)

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (2003)

Ambivalence is the keyword in articulating how I feel about Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. On the one hand I’m disappointed by its vicious insistence on making life unnecessarily difficult for the player. But another, more placid part of me is able to look past this impudence and celebrate it for the innovations that pushed the boundaries of the farming / social sim genres and raised their mass market appeal. Even so, milestone accomplishments don’t always age well and it’s one of life’s inescapable ironies that Friends of Mineral Town’s very responsibility for the success of RPG farming sims has since sparked competitors that have fine-tuned its ideas and execution so that it now feels antiquated. (It’s the Nokia 3310 all over again.)

Friends of Mineral Town (FoMT) is popularly seen as high-water mark for Harvest Moon; the last of the classics before a quality decline took hold that goaded the series to oblivion’s edge. FoMT innovated on Harvest Moon 1-3 for GameBoy (Color) by expanding the social experience and fuelling collectionist impulses – features that that would become staples for the genre at large. Yet in hindsight it’s also evident that the full potential of these ideas is not realised in FoMT, which is rightfully remembered better for force of concept than infallible implementation. That’s okay though, for it’s not at all fair to hold Friends of Mineral Town to the exacting standards of modern behemoths even though doing so helpfully puts the spotlight on its shortcomings and untapped potential (so we’ll do it anyway – the world isn’t fair!).

What’s patently not okay are the problems uniquely, and avoidably, its own. The early-game in particular buckles under singularly frustrating design decisions that play keep-away with the classic Harvest Moon experience for a good many hours. I’d hazard that these initial layers of ‘this sucks’ are stacked sufficiently high that they’ll repel less persistent players before the game finally opens up and becomes modestly enjoyable – for a while. And for that, the graying hair is no excuse.

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Posted by ChronoCritic in Retrospectives