This post is long so I divded it up into sections/ Just some random thoughts from an old player...I may pick these games again one day, though.
Overall, I prefer the older HM games. Not only because they were better thought out in terms of story and mechanics but characters also had a bit more complexity.
A Bit on Characters...
In terms of bachelors my favourites are Trent, Marlin and Calvin (as my usernmae indicates, heehee) three disctinctly serious-minded people. Trent is extremely dedicated and very sweet. Marlin is a bit shy and complex, but he's very sweet too and he s the most realiable and stable. Calvin also has that mature vibe. These are my favourite types- mature, sweet, serious-minded, reliabe. They are rare in Harvest Moon games these days because apparently new games prefer bland cliches to characters with more personality.
Skye, for instance: what an utterly stupid, shallow, cliche! Fortunately I don't have to have anything to do with him.
Vaugh, Kana/Cam and others: really now? They are unbeliveable and quite ridiculous over all though I like Kana's positive energy but it's just that..the characters starting from SI/IoH are no longer as interesting and involving as they used to be. They are totally bland. Also, the farmer's grandson in SI resembles Rick and Rick is overall better, though he is a little too annoying with being overprotective of his sister.
I don't understand the hate on Marlin and the love for Rock. I tend to think it's popularity of silly village fool-type characters like Rock that later led to creation of equally idiotic characters like Will (he's a don juan with nothing but empty words, come on. Later the same trope was repeated in Mikhail..sheesh, these cliches are insanely annoying). However, in all fairness, Rock seems to have some secrets that may make him more than meets the eye and I think there may be some complexity to him as well, though I was never interested in discovering it. He's just so darn idiotic and lazy. Moreover, I just can't understand why everyone seems to think Ceila is mean to character. She's not mean, she's a very nice character and she's always one of the first I want to befriend. I also encountered some hate on Gustafa..sigh, just because of the way he was drawn..I say, it fits him.
Guys in real life aren't all pretty bishies, you know! This is better in terms of realism. Also, DS Cute bachelors were better on realism...and they were refreshing because of that!
A bit on AnWL...
AnWL has a really interesting chapter system which lets you bond with your in-game family and other characters over a long time. I think it's really neat. It also features some realism. I liked the story and how it progresses and unfolds over time. Tartan is a unique character too. Very creative. Oh and I adored Mukumuku. I think harvest moon features some REALLY unique characters across the games. I kind of sympathised with Daryl, too. Oh, maybe he should have hitched up with Flora after all. She may be happier bossing him around than helping Carter dig all the time, hehe.
Making money in AnWL
The trick with ANWL seems to be to manage time well. Time never stops, for once in a HM game perhaps. Seasons are short, the year has all of 40 days, 10 per season. There should been at least 15, I thought. I was never able to get rich in the first year because I spent so much time trying to start farming to infliuence my son in later chapters. But there are non-cheating tricks in this game that work quite well for earning money.
Fishing: fish a lot. If you do other things, you may not be able to catch more than 3-5 per day. But because Van comes to town only twice a season, this piles up. I usually had a good amount of sashimi to sell. Sashimi is the way to go if you want easy money. Of course, first you have to unlock the possibility of making sashimi but that's easy enough if you plant enough turnips in the summer. Turn every fish below 150 gold into sashimi. It pays off. But I really liked it most when I caught the rare fish. Those sell for a lot on their own.
Starting from chapter 2 when you get Tartan this can be replaced with the Dhibe Cake trick. Dhibe cake sells for a ton of money, even using B- rank crops It's probably the most high priced item in the entire game. You don't have to fertilise the dhibe for the resulting cake to sell for a neat sum, either, so it's overall pretty cost effective in the long run.
Just plant a ton of Dhibe, have enough eggs and milk to make the cake and get rich in no time at all once Van comes to town. Dhibe can be planted Fall-Spring, just like the strawberry from which it derives, so you can plant it three seasons in a row. Then once you harvest it all you can turn it into many many cakes and get rich as soon as Van comes to town. It would help to fill the whole fertile fiels with it. Checkerboard pattern should give room for more than enough Dhibe.
Disadvantages to this method:
-strawberry seeds aren't the most expensive but still high-priced and hybridizing is often a hit or miss so you may get fewer hybridised crops than the number of crops you bought from Vesta. So even of turnips are quite cheap, you are still paying quite a lot of money. I think it may be best to use the seed maker for this method to be more cost effective.
-Van only comes twice a season so you have to wait
In the long run, I think the price for the cake is sufficient to make up for any money loss and give you an extra boost so the advantages may outweight the disadvantages. Seed maker can come in handy to make it more cost efficient.
Overall, farming is a little difficult in AnWL insofar as it doesn't give as much profit as it does in other HM games. In Sunshine Islands, for instance, fall was really outstanding for crops. Spinach grew fast, so tended to plant a ton of it and got easy and quick money. Same in Animal Parade, crops were good for money making. In ANWL farming seems to be more a way of life than a money making job, which is what makes it a little more interesting.
Other comments on other games
I love the story in Ds Cute. Finding ALL sprites was a lot of fun. The Sprite postbox is a genius idea. It's far more fun that later games ever managed to create.
In MFoMT it's the mining that's the challenge. Plus, the characters are really good. And there are so many to interact with. Again, I think managing time gets a little tricky because time flies so fast but it also makes the game more dynamic.
The thing I liked about Sunshine Islands...even though i pretty much started to dislike characters, was the sun/water system which added some realism to the farming. Also, the characters gave you gifts on your borthday, that was nice. I also loved the fact that they wouldn't accept gifts off the bat: a stranger in real life would never accept a gift right off the bat! I thought that was really neat!
Sleeping Trent in MfoT and Ds cute: In MFoMT he actually takes off his head mirror in MfoMT! It's an added detail that makes things cuter. He sleeps with the head mirror in Ds Cute/MFoMT. 0.0 But he has more to say in Ds Cute/MFoT I think.
The devil is in the details. The older HM games took care of the details a lot more than later games.