reviews\ Aug 15, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl - PSP - Review

Leave it to Natsume to create a successful franchise out of a series of games that have you taking an abandoned farm and turning it into a fully functional one just by doing the same things over and over again. The Harvest Moon series has always been a wildly unique, downright cute and surprisingly fun franchise that plays like nothing you’ve ever played before. While a Harvest Moon game has already appeared in a portable format such as the Game Boy Advance as well as the Nintendo DS, it’s good to see the series on Sony’s PSP. Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl might not be a fresh new Harvest Moon game but fans new and old will still like this one nonetheless.

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl PSP screenshots

In actuality, Boy & Girl is really two classic Harvest Moon games rolled into one deliciously nearly perfect portable package. This UMD basically includes the Harvest Moon: Back to Nature game that has you taking up the role of a boy and his farm as well as the Harvest Moon game that put a girl as the lead character. You’re given the choice between playing as the boy and playing as the girl and while the game’s goal remains the same, both characters have their own unique story and both characters are treated differently throughout the game.

If you pick the boy, you find yourself in Mineral Town where you spent many a summer on your grandfather’s farm. Your return to the farm isn’t a joyous one since your grandfather has passed away and now you are the owner of his farm that is in need of a capable farmer. You will be working the farm, preparing produce to sell and wooing the local town girls to see who you would like to have as a wife. As a girl, you start off aboard a ship on your way to an unknown destination. Suddenly, a storm hits and you are tossed into the ocean. You wake up on the beaches of Mineral Town where the Mayor offers you a home in exchange for taking care of the abandoned farm. Taking up the challenge, our girl works the land as well as picking out a local boy to claim as your sweetheart. 

As I mentioned, the stories might be different but the main goal is always the same no matter the sex of your character. Your abandoned and rundown farm starts out a mess and the fields are filled with debris such as boulders and tree limbs you must clear before you work the soil. Your farm comes complete with chicken coops, barns, stables and a wood shed. Your house also comes fully furnished and comes with a television where you can watch everything from the news to the weather channel as well as some other entertaining shows. You’ll even have a puppy to keep you company (and you don’t even have to feed him but you do have to give him plenty of hugs too keep your pooch happy).

Working the farm is not a simple chore either and not because your character quickly gets exhausted but because it requires your full attention as the days, months and years pass. Each season not only introduces new difficulties for your farm but it also holidays that are actually fun to participate in as well as brush up on your social skills. You can decide what to plant on your fields since the Mineral Town general store has a variety of seeds for the right price. You can purchase new tools or upgrade the ones you have to help you plant and then harvest whatever you decide to grow to put into a bin so your produce can be sold in town. Yes, it requires a lot of patience and the same repetitive till, plant, water and harvest pattern but somehow these chores are actually fun.

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl PSP screenshots

You can also purchase livestock such as chickens, cows, sheep, horses and fish. Each animal type requires specific changes to your farm in order for them to produce items like eggs, milk or wool. For example, if you want chickens you’ll have your chicken coop remodeled and you’ll have to buy chicken feed. If you want to sell milk and cheese, you’ll have to grow plenty of grass for them to eat and you’ll have to brush them every now and then. Taking care of livestock is certainly a chore but it adds plenty of challenges and a change of pace from working the land. Speaking of change of pace, you can stray from your farm long enough to lend a helping hand in a vineyard, mine for minerals in a mine and even go fishing.

The dating aspect of the game is familiar territory for those who have played Japanese dating simulators. Whether you’re a boy or a girl you’ll encounter a number of single ladies and guys, each with their own personalities as well as their likes and dislikes. You’ll be wooing them by offering them gifts that suit their personalities as well as go on dates. Once you’ve chosen your guy or girl of your dreams you can eventually get married and share the farm with your mate.

As you can see, the game has plenty to offer and there’s never a shortage of things to do in this rather lengthy game but all is not perfect in Mineral Town. For one thing, the controls can be a bit unresponsive at times. There are also moments where the game would run into some delays like when you’re brushing your horse, listening to townspeople tell a tale or picking up your pup.

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl PSP screenshots

The game’s graphics, unfortunately, aren’t as colorful or as cute as the console version. In fact, even the last Nintendo DS game looked better than Boy & Girl. This is too bad since the PSP is more than capable of outshining the DS graphics. Instead, we’re treated to some murky textures and fuzzy backgrounds. The characters are still super cute but the graphics could have been better. At least the music is still upbeat and catchy and varies from season to season. This is a good thing since there’s no voice acting or sound effects to be heard in this game.

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl is still a refreshing and addictive experience that might not have made a smooth transition from the console to the PSP but it’s still a fun experience worth checking out. The game’s few sore spots are certainly overshadowed by the number of great things this game has to offer those looking for a lengthy, interesting and fun title you should definitely buy if you’re new to the series or a long-time fan. 

Review Scoring Details for Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl

Gameplay: 7.0
You wake up, hug your puppy, and then work the land until your character gets too tired to pick up a hoe. Yes, it sounds dull but - surprisingly - it isn’t. The boy’s story differs from the girl’s story but the outcome and goal is always the same. Sadly, sometimes the controls can be a bit unresponsive.

Graphics: 5.5
The murky textures and soft lighting just have no place on the PSP and the characters all look like big-headed Hobbits. I must admit, though, the characters are somewhat adorable either way.

Sound: 6.5
The different tunes are actually catchy but you’ll wish there was a more diverse number of tunes in this game since there’s no voice acting to be found. Oh, the sound effects are almost nonexistent so don’t expect to hear much in this game.

Difficulty: Medium
There’s a lot of land to cover and you have to fight a number of obstacles that can sometimes make working your farm a tad frustrating (like exhaustion and the harsh winters). You would think that hooking up with a potential mate is hard but it isn’t and taking care of animals isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Concept: 7.5
If somebody asked me if I would enjoy playing a game where you would plant potatoes and prepare for the spring harvest by working the land I would probably laugh but Harvest Moon somehow makes these chores a fun experience. Boy & Girl possesses a number of things to see and do in this game and the different stories for the boy and girl characters give gamers an excuse to play all over again. Also, there’s dating and other town activities to participate in throughout the harvest year.

Overall: 7.0
Still unique and oddly enjoyable, Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl might not be as perfect as the console games but it’s still just as interesting on the PSP. A few framerate and control issues aside, it’s hard not to enjoy your stay in Mineral Town and the farm life that awaits you. If you’re a loyal fan of the series and you’re looking for a good portable fix of the Harvest Moon games then you can’t go wrong with this one.


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