Tuesday, August 18, 2009
First Look at Frantic Farming by Natsume
Frantic Farming could be considered a 'sequel' to Island of Happiness as the game is set on Sunny Island AFTER you have made the island a prosperous and popular location and persuaded all main characters to live there.
Those of you (including myself) who were rather infatuated with the silver-haired Vaughn will be able to unlock him as a playable character in Frantic Farming. In fact, you begin the game with only two playable characters in the form of Mark and Chelsea but each time you complete the game in Story Mode using a character, it will unlock some one new.
The Story Mode is based on a recurring theme in Harvest Moon (and Rune Factory). You are called upon to save your community from impending disaster. The other fundamental basis of the game is FARMING, which should come as no surprise to veterans both of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory.
The graphics are wonderful and the music is great. In fact, one of the 'unlockables' is a music player where you can play all the themes from the game on vinyl records. (It is interesting how vinyl refuses to become obsolete in ANY world, despite IPods and Zunes...)
Frantic Farming is a puzzle game and it is precisely what its name suggests: a game wherein one must harvest crops as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to move forward in the Story. There are other Modes apart from the 'Story Mode' in which a player can compete against other players as well.
Those who have grumbled about DS games that do not exploit the 'Touchscreen' option should be thrilled with Frantic Farming. The stylus is used almost exclusively. Crops are displayed on a small grid in squares in various stages of growth. Outside the grid, the Harvest Sprite awaits your orders. When you touch him with the stylus, he will move into the grid and begin to harvest ripe crops. It may sound simple, but quite a lot of strategy is involved. Whenever the Harvest Sprite harvests a crop, he then will water a specific number of squares surrounding that crop. Chains can be created that allow him to harvest more quickly and earn special bonuses. The legendary Gold Crops and Big Crops appear in Frantic Farming as well.
The puzzles can be quite addictive in themselves.
Note that the actual Mode of solving the various puzzles will depend somewhat on the character you play, as each character has a 'Special Skill' that can be utilised when a gauge is filled. The Special Skills can be dramatic or amusing. For example, Shea's Special Skill is a 'Crop Dance' complete with fire juggling while Natalies' Special Skill is the 'Sandwich', wherein a large Sandwich is given to the tiny Harvest Sprite to empower him to greater efforts.
What will make this game particularly attractive to Harvest Moon players, however, are the dialogues of characters in Story Mode, as they often offer added insight into their lives and histories. For example, Popper, the black bird who sits on Denny's shoulder, actually SPEAKS in Frantic Farming!
When I first began to play Frantic Farming, I was reminded a little of 'Princess Debut', another game that offered stylus action with an ongoing Story. Instead of practicing ballroom dances, one harvests Crops but in other respects, the two games are rather similar. There is a gallery of 'Memory' photographs to be unlocked for each character by completing the game for each in Story Mode. Records of scores are kept and players can compete either against their own previous records or against other players in Multiplayer Mode. There are differences, of course. In Princess Debut, you played a single character and it was the partner that you chose who would create variations in the Story. In Frantic Farming, you actually can play different characters and the dialogues and even the Chapters change in EACH Story.
I certainly would recommend Frantic Farming to any one who loves puzzles, any one who loves Harvest Moon in general and any one who particularly loved Island of Happiness.