Review by Chaos Control

Reviewed: 08/02/07 | Updated: 08/13/07

I've seen grocery stores more interesting than this

There is simply no easy way through life. Every day, you have just 24 hours to get closer to your dreams. Along the way, you will find people who will help you, and many more challenges to overcome. Often times, you will feel like giving up, but this is your life, so you must live it to the fullest. However, when you look at life from the Harvest Moon angle, you get a confusing mess of chores and activities that leave no breathing space on the calender. With so many things to do, like farming, fishing, ranching, mining, and wooing, you will find yourself balancing a precarious schedule that threatens to collapse at any moment. Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl is a port from the old Harvest Moon game, Back to Nature, but is also suspiciously similar to Friends of Mineral Town as well. Many game concepts remain unchanged, but one major difference is the choice to play Destiny (as a boy) or Fate (as a girl). That's great and all, but that still doesn't make this game any more exciting than your local supermarket.

No matter what gender you choose to play as, your character will end up on an old, unused farm and told to make a living for themselves. Of course, this isn't easy because you start off very poor. While you struggle to scrape some cash together, days will change into months, and the seasons will change, too. Changing times means different crops to grow and new festivals and competitions. The story of Harvest Moon is how you live each day, interact with the villagers, and find someone to marry. Luckily, you are allowed to rename almost everything on your farm.

Money is the spice of life. It is the blood that keeps your farm growing and prosperous. It is also stunningly elusive at the beginning of the game. You are in for some tough times, because you have no animals, crops, or anything. Your first source of income will most likely be wild plants. Harvesting wild plants to use as gifts is really cheap, but effective considering tight finances. After triggering a certain event, you will obtain a fishing rod. This will probably be your next source of income. Fishing can earn you some rare and valuable specimens, but the timing of your reflexes can be tricky. After you've got a little spare change, the most useful animal at the beginning is the chicken. While 1,500 gold per chicken isn't exactly a bargain, all you really need to do is produce that first egg. You can then incubate that egg to give birth your own chicken empire. Unfortunately, you can't open your own Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, but you can sell the eggs your chickens lay daily for some quick cash.

A more tedious way to make money, and the core of this game, is farming. Initially, your farming field is littered with weeds and logs, so your first job is cleaning up. Afterwards, you would use a hoe to till the land and a watering can to water your plants. This is really a boring and time consuming chore, because you need to take care of each seed individually, so growing even a dozen crops will take its toll on your character. Stamina will be a limiting factor at the beginning, since everything you do takes some of it away. With no way to cook and restore energy, your only option is to use the Hot Springs. The spa won't really do any good if you don't rest for at least an hour, so a good portion of your day is lost already. For the first few days, you won't have much time to leave your farm other than to buy supplies.

Unlike crops, animals can take of themselves, somewhat. Animals like chickens, sheep, cows, and horses require nothing more than fresh food and a hug every day. In return, they will be the ones filling your wallet and your stomach. Eggs make good gifts, as well as quick meals. Sheep can produce wool for cash. After going through the lengthy business of impregnating a cow and giving birth, it will finally produce milk. The horse is your most useful animal, because riding it around will save loads of stamina and time. Hugging your animals will make them happy, and increase their affection towards you. Neglecting them or leaving them out in the rain will lower their affection. Happier animals means higher production!

Once you've built up your farm a bit, you can take on the huge task of mining. You can get some seriously good items from mining, but using tools will take up energy and time. Mining will provide a stable income, and the minerals you can get are excellent gift ideas because they are free. You will need your tools to mine, and your tools are very poor quality at the beginning. After using your tools a certain number of times and getting a certain ore, you can get someone in town to upgrade your tool.

Don't forget to suck up to the local residents either, as they will give you cool stuff for being "friends". Women in the village will be happy with flowers, jewelry, and other cute stuff. Men will like farm products, minerals, and food items. While talking to people, they will sometimes hint at their favorite items, and it is your job to bring it to them. Once you've nailed their favorite item, just keep repeating. Surely this does not work in real life, because real people will see past your sneaky intentions. But, please the people, and they will give you stuff in return, like recipes. Villagers have their own daily schedules, which is good. At certain times, they visit different places, talk to different people, or just hang around at home. Stalk them often to learn their habits.

After taking a few game weeks to settle down, you can begin the best part of the game: Finding a mate. Dating in this game is nothing more than giving your sweetheart their favorite items, and answering their questions positively. Doing this will increase their heart meter, which will ultimately determine whether they will marry you. Personally, I played as a boy, and I realized that bachelorettes are exactly the same as their Friends of Mineral Town counterparts. Their personalities and tastes are almost identical as well. Among your romantic possibilities, you could have a book nerd, a tomboy, or a drunkard. Hum. If I could choose, I wouldn't take any of the five possible wives, and choose to marry the blonde girl on the cover of the game box. At least she would help out on the farm instead of just chatting! But that's not how life works, and sometimes you just have to grumble and move on.

Good thing that you don't have to live in that dinky shack you call home all the time. You can expand and remodel your house with the help of a local carpenter (for some big cha-ching). You can build a new kitchen (!) to cook meals for everybody in town. There is also a TV in your house, which will occasionally have commercials that will sell utensils you need for cooking. A person that can cook well will have potential lovers swarming around in no time!

There is even more you can do right on your farm! You've got a nice little pond, where you can throw in the fish you catch. Put some feed in the pond, and watch your fish multiply like rabbits. Once again, this is a great source for money. There is even a nice apple tree which will give you a few apples a day. Plant some flower patches nearby to attract bees, who will build hives so you can confiscate their honey.

Fortunately, Mineral Town isn't that big, so you don't have to worry about getting lost. You won't even be thinking about it, because you will be racing against time to get everything you want done. The day just isn't long enough. Throughout the year, you will be doing mostly the same stuff, with little change. You gotta keep track of people's birthday's so you can give them gifts, raising their opinion of you. The entirety of Mineral Town can be completely explored in short time, if you can keep your head straight and keep all your chores organized.

Graphically, I'm not exactly impressed. The view of the game screen is kind of isometric, and you can see all the characters move around with dimensions. The graphics are a bit odd, especially when your eggs look like giant soccer balls. Characters are modeled strangely, with their heads being bigger than the rest of their bodies, and potential wives don't look particularly attractive. The natural environment, like trees and plants, look like cardboard cut outs. And don't look at the water! No, zombies aren't gonna emerge, but the water does look like something I could make using Paint. Plus, it's funny watching a little head holding a huge sickle trying to cut the grass. At least, when you talk to people, you will see a little cut out of their faces, exposing their facial expressions. Overall, the graphics are passable at best, but otherwise extremely laughable.

Sound? This game has sound? I didn't realize it at first, because I had the sound turned off! I plan to leave it off, because they really aren't necessary. Sure Harvest Moon has a little tune to go along with your daily work, but it gets repetitive and annoying. It's not really a big deal, however. There are sound effects too, like when you tilling the farmland, or mining. I don't feel much of a difference with or without these sound effects, because they are standard and add little to the feel of the game.

Some people actually enjoy doing the same mindless chores over and over again with some cartoonish graphics. Those type of people will play this game for a good time, and probably get through this entire game. Other people like me will agree that this game does have merits, but playing a clone of something you've done before isn't as exciting. Sure, there is a lot you can do in this game. There are many social events scattered all over the calender, and more hobbies you can take on like fishing. Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl is fun for a while, but the boredom factor will set in quickly, and then it's time for a new game.

If you've advanced pretty far into the game, you will probably never want to give everything up and restart the game. The beginning times are especially tough, so getting past the first couple months is an achievement of its own. One play through will give you enough time to absorb every atom of fun out of the game unless your interest expires first.

Compared to console Harvest Moon games, like A Wonderful Life: Special Edition, there is considerably more to do. Maybe a little too much. Gamers who like to take things slow and easy should avoid this game, because the rush of chores to do will be overwhelming. Gamers who have played and enjoyed previous Harvest Moon games should buy this game anyway, since it isn't an absolute waste. Being accustomed to farm life already will certainly make things more comfortable. I recommend that casual gamers stick with something else, unless you can borrow from a friend. The idea of raising a farm by your own two hands and finding true love sounds cool, but recycling the same game (and brides) and slapping on a new title won't make this game last for more than a shopping trip.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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