Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming

Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming
Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS, iOS
Genre Pathetic puzzler
Score 3  Clock score of 3
Buy from Amazon

Once a series becomes too large for its own good, spin-offs and genre breaking games are inevitable. The success of these tangents rests on many factors, including the potential new genre and charisma of side characters now carrying their own game (Wario did this particularly well). When someone thinks Harvest Moon, their mind is probably drawn to the obvious farming or dating aspects. The pace of the games are slow and require hours upon hours of playing for the player to feel immersed in their new agriculture world. When the series is focused on this, the games can be very good. They even managed to spin off the Rune Factory series successfully after injecting some action RPG elements into the somewhat stale formula.

What you can't imagine them spinning off though is a fast-paced puzzle game set in the Harvest Moon world, but they've tried twice already. Natsume's first attempt was Puzzle de Harvest Moon in 2007, a game I played for about 20 minutes before getting bored. The game was received poorly, I guess there just aren't a lot of gamers begging for a mediocre puzzle game based on crops.

Well, they tried again in 2009, this time with Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming. From what I can tell, it seems to be almost the exact same puzzle game as we played a few years prior, but this time wrapped in a text heavy story featuring the brain dead characters of Sunshine Islands. Yay...

Gameplay: The Nintendo DS is an excellent platform for tile based puzzle games as all the actions of moving tiles around and swapping them with another are very natural using the stylus. Natsume succeeds at getting right, but that's about it. The actual puzzle elements are just kind of dull and uninventive. The point of Frantic Farming is to harvest crops with your little farm elf (aka the slaves from Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town). The elf walks around harvesting fully grown crops, and won't continue harvesting unless more crops are placed in the four tiled directions around him. You can chain a few potatos in a row and he'll harvest them all quickly while giving you a bit of a point bonus.

Whenever you harvest a crop, you water the four crops around it, increasing their growth stage by one, and then the harvested crop is replaced by a random seedling. So the point is to chain as much as you can while leaving at least one fully grown crop on the field to be harvested. If there aren't any crops left, you lose. You can be beating your opponent by a 100,000 points with 10 seconds to spare, but unless you've got an eggplant to pull, you're screwed.

Frantic is probably a good way to describe this game, as Merriam-Webster defines the word as "marked by fast and nervous, disordered, or anxiety-driven activity." There's not a lot of planning you can put into each round of Frantic Farming as there is a ton of randomness involved and a huge number of factors you need to keep track of while playing. Reviewers of Puzzle de Harvest Moon said they felt like they were scribbling on the screen, I would say that still holds true for its sequel.

Harvest Moon Frantic Farming Gameplay Story
Fun Factor and Story: I'm going to group these together because there's really no point in playing Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming if you're not interested in at least the gameplay or the story, and unfortunately neither of them are very good. But even if you find you like one of these aspects, the other one is always getting in the way. There is as much time spent on inane conversations between characters as there is actually frantically farming.

The story is mind-numbingly dumb. Crops have suddenly grown to tall heights all around town. Everywhere our main characters go, plants spring up around them. They find some excuse to battle it out or team up and harvest all the crops, and then you go to the next part of town and do the same thing over again. After a few games of this, the plants disappear forever and everyone parties. There is no explanation on why the crops are there in the first place, and there is no explanation on why they disappear.

Well, I shouldn't really put it like that. You play through the same time period with every character in the game, and I guess this is supposed to give you a bit more information on the situation from each unique point of view. But all it does is put you in Groundhog Day hell where the same crappy events happen over and over again. No new information is doled out except that the Witch Princess probably fixed everything. Of course, you can't play as the Witch Princess until the end, so whatever.

The characters are just pathetically shallow. Maybe if Frantic Farming didn't spend so much time in boring conversations about the crops that, once again, have appeared again, then I could have had some fun. But basically an okay puzzle game is broken up by long cutscenes seemingly written by a fourth grader. I found myself just slamming on the A button trying to keep the game moving as fast as possible (and attempting to keep my sanity).

The game's one redeeming mode is puzzle mode, where you're challenged to harvest all the crops on a field in a limited number of crop swaps. You basically have to prepare the field just right and set your harvest elf off, hoping he'll grab everything in one go. This was actually reasonably enjoyable, the only problem was you had to play story mode to unlock more puzzles.

Graphics and Sound: The game looks decent, it's pretty easy to tell what crops are what while actually puzzling, and the anime style represents the 11 year old looking characters good enough. There's really nothing special going on here, if you've played any of the DS Harvest Moon games (great looking Rune Factory series excluded) you've already seen all the sprites.

Overall: 3

I wasn't expecting a lot. Maybe a pretty good puzzle game wrapped in the regular Harvest Moon story where money and love rules over everything. But instead we get a puzzle game that unfortunately lives up to its name way too much wrapped in an awful Drawn to Life style story. Avoid this, even if you're a die hard Harvest Moon fan who even enjoys puzzle games. There are much, much better games out there.

At one point I actually said to myself that this looks and plays like a game on the iPhone, and turns out I was right, Frantic Farming was also released on iOS. I attribute some of this suckiness to the limited iOS platform. But not all of it. Sometimes games just stink.

Harvest Moon Frantic Farming Character Select