This world always needs more Japanese farming sims.
I will admit that it does have a lot of "more of the same" attitude. A little risk every once and a while for this series would be in Natsume's best interest (and not a complete overhaul like the alternate Harvest Moon games Rune Factory and Innocent Life). Also, if these villagers are so eager to get a farmer on this island, why can't we have a full grown horse as a signing bonus? Come on island, this is why your economy sucks.
Oh, and I almost forgot, I can't believe you didn't mention the completely lackluster voice acting. I can barely stand seeing the title screen because of it.
I actually really enjoyed this installment, though that could be because I haven't played a HM since HM64. What I found most pleasing was the vast amount of ways to make a living. For example, in the fall I'm almost always free to do what I want, because most of my money comes from an apple orchard I started.
That being said, the game does suffer from a lot of minor annoyances. Some of which include the amount of time it takes to make any animal a pet, the fact that you can only set 5 items on your counter tops, even though there are 6 basic items for it, AND 6 open spots, and the fact that the game just about forces you to raise animals if you want to get anywhere with the game.
I've got an old GBA copy of Friends of Mineral Town and a DS Lite to play it on. As far as I'm concerned Natsume's going to have to try a little harder if they want a fresh pile of my money---Harvest Moon is getting to be worse than the Madden series as far as annual rehashes are concerned. Strike that---Harvest Moon doesn't even give you the benefit of roster updates, expansion teams, divisional realignments, or changes to the salary cap.
Rune Factory is nice. It's Harvest Moon, but you get to beat the shit out of monsters, too.
Like a cross between Harvest Moon and Diablo.
This game is probably #3 on my list. I really enjoy the whole outlook, but the loading zones kill me. D: i think the characters are actually quite an improvement (along with a few other things including graphics) and that there is a good variety of marriage candidates. But this game is really slow, and I think if you dont have the patience to go through the whole thing, than I dont recommended it