All Harvest Moon games are most difficult when you first move into your farm. After all, the farm has been allowed to deteriorate. You arrive at your new home with no skill in Farming, Ranching, Mining or Fishing. In some cases, you are a child of an urban civilisation, who presumably spent more time at a desk than striving towards physical stamina and strength. Your Energy Levels therefore will be very low.
Each game offers its own solution at the start. It is a matter of discovering the activity that can be exploited best. In HM DS/Cute DS, that activity is performed at the Excavation Site, where you can dig for jewelry and artifacts that are worth 2000G when shipped and almost twice that when sold to Van.
Island of Happiness is a little more difficult. You will not even be able to access the Mine until you have built the Bridge to the Forest. The most valuable Crops must be unlocked before you will be able to grow them. In fact, you will be required to unlock almost everything of value in this game...
The best exploitations early in the game probably are the Wonderfuls, but your first Wonderful will be given to you only when:
1. You win any Festival Contest;
2. You reach the 255th Floor of the Mine AFTER having met the Harvest Goddess by making an Offering at her Spring; or
3. You reach the Winter season.
You can control the colour of the Wonderful that you obtain by judicious use of Tools or shipping. Whether or not you have sufficient energy to do so in the first few seasons is another matter.
Possibly the most profitable Wonderful is the Orange Wonderful that will double your yield when set in a Tool. This means that the product obtained through use of any Milker, Clipper, Hammer or Sickle set with an Orange Wonderful will be doubled. This is extremely useful when you need to harvest Grains with the Sickle, increase your yield of Milk and Wool and your yield of any Ores and Gems in the Mine.
Until you are able to obtain any Wonderfuls, however, you probably will make the most money by fishing. In IoH, as in many other HM games, you will not have a Fishing Rod at the start of the game. It is only through friendship with a specific individual that you will be able to obtain one. That individual in IoH is Taro.
Speak to Taro daily to raise his friendship level. As he will give you a weather prediction for the next day that never is wrong, it is a good idea to speak to him in any event... Giving him a Coloured Grass will raise his Friendship more quickly.
Once you have a Fishing Rod, fish as much as you can. This activity will bring new arrivals to the Island and will allow you to make money quickly. Denny and Lanna will arrive only when you have caught specific numbers of fish.
Although you need to fish at every possible location in order to complete your Fishing List and catch the legendary King Fish, you should restrict your fishing probably to the Beach in the early stages of the game as this is the only location where Large Fish are to be caught. Furthermore, in Summer, you can catch Pirate Treasure that ships for 10,000G. In Autumn, you can catch Fossils of Fish that ship for 5,000G each.
To maximise your Fishing profits, save your Game BEFORE you cast your Rod. If you fail to catch a valuable item, reload and try again. That having been said, you probably need to catch a few small fish before you ever will be able to catch the more valuable items. I need to test this in a new game, but that usually is the way it works in Harvest Moon. Chances of catching valuable items increase only when your Fishing experience increases.
Even if you catch only Small Fish, however, shipping them will bring you more profit early in the game than anything else.
A comment by a reader reminded me of another early source of income, although you need to balance shipping with your own need for Recovery items. In your first Spring, your very first source of income will be items that can be collected from the Wilds. Any Wild coloured Grass, Flower or Seaweed can be shipped for profit.
It is only the Flowers that cannot be eaten, so you definitely should ship all flowers.
As far as coloured Wild Grasses and Seaweed are concerned, the Rank of these will depend on the point at which you gather them. Wild Grasses and Flowers gain in Rank, Quality and Size the longer they are left to grow. It is not time of day but the number of days that Flowers and Wild Grasses are left uncollected that is significant here. That is why, when you first unlock any area, the Wild Grasses and Flowers you find there may be of 'S' Rank. If you unlock the area at the start of the season, the rank may be lower, but if it is later in the Season, you may find all wild items to be of 'S' Rank.
Seaweed on the other hand, loses Rank as the hours pass and the best Seaweed is collected at 6.00 a.m. If you wait until the end of the day to gather Seaweed in Spring from the large boulder at the Beach, you probably will find it to be of 'B' Rank. There is no guarantee, however, that an early collection will bring anything higher. I have collected both 'A' and 'B' Ranks at 6.00 a.m., but on a day when I was able to collect 'A' Rank from the rock at 6.00 a.m., it was 'B' Rank when I collected it from the rock later in the day. This occurred on more than one occasion. Like so many details, however, it could be coincidence.
Note that Seaweed is available only in the Spring Season.
'B' Rank Seaweed, which is the 'average' rank for any item, will ship for about
830G. 'S' Rank Seaweed will ship for over 1000G. If you are diligent in going to the Beach early each morning to gather seaweed in your first Spring, you can augment your income by shipping high Rank Seaweed. You may need to keep some of it for use in restoring your Energy, however, depending on your total resources in the early stages of the game.
Once you have unlocked Festivals by building the bridge to the Meadow, you will be able to participate in Contests to win Wonderfuls. Another exploitation available is the ability to fish during Festivals without losing any time. The only risk here is in terms of your Energy levels. You will not be able to see your Energy Bars at any Festival but you can watch your character for the telltale physical signs that indicate depletion of energy. Make certain that you have Recovery items in your Rucksack and USE them if you are fishing during a Festival or you will pass out, negating the value of this exploitation device!
Remember, however, that you need to succeed in ALL aspects of life in order to achieve true success. You need to grow crops, raise animals, mine, fish AND cook as well as fulfilling social obligations on a regular basis.