Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, developed by Marvelous and published by XSEED Games, is a 3D remake of the beloved farming and life simulator Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. Originally released on Game Boy Advance in 2003, this brand new remake will be coming to Nintendo Switch and PC on July 14. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town doesn’t stray too far from the original game, which is great for returning fans but may disappoint new players used to more robust, modern simulators like Stardew Valley.
Friends of Mineral Town starts out similarly to most games in the genre – your grandfather has died, leaving you his farm and a new life in a rural town. Your goal is to reinvigorate the farm and forge relationships with the town’s citizens and local harvest sprites. In order to make the farm better and earn money, you plant and grow crops and take care of different animals, including cows, chickens, alpacas, and sheep. In addition, you can explore the mine, where you find raw materials that help you level up your tools. Using your tools can be frustrating at times, unfortunately, because of the stamina system the game uses. Essentially, there’s a fruit-looking stamina bar in the top left corner. Hypothetically, this shouldn’t pose too much of an issue – many farming games employ a stamina system to challenge the player’s time management a little bit.
However, the game doesn’t ever seem to give you enough stamina. It is possible to level up your stamina bar, though it seems to be at random as you dig up more berries out of the ground, but the stamina goes down so quickly that starting out is more difficult than it should be.
Oftentimes, I would be completely out of stamina after just watering my crops. There is a hot spring you can use to rejuvenate yourself and restore stamina throughout the day, but it is mildly annoying to run back and forth all day just so you can do more than one thing. There are other ways to restore stamina, like eating food, but again, especially at the start of the game, it’s difficult to cook enough to restore stamina quickly.
To make things more efficient on the farm without putting in a bunch of work, you can befriend the harvest sprites by talking to them and giving them gifts. Once they consider you a friend, the sprites can help you around the farm watering or harvesting crops or taking care of the animals for you.
Much like the harvest sprites, as with any farm and life simulator, you can befriend and even romance residents of the town. While the process of building your relationships with visitors isn’t very complicated or even any different than the original, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town made one incredibly important change – you can be gay.
No matter which gender you choose at the beginning of the game, you can marry any of the romanceable characters available. No one is locked behind a certain gender option. This was absolutely thrilling to me as a queer Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons fan. In fact, in elementary school, I even had both A Wonderful Life and Another Wonderful Life, one so I could date girls and one so I could be a girl. Having one of my favorite childhood games make such a small change that allows same-sex marriage made me so unbelievably happy.
However, other than that, there aren’t too many changes to the core gameplay. The changes that are present mostly help streamline the game, making it more efficient to play in 2020 so it doesn’t feel super outdated. For example, the tools are much easier to cycle through and accessing the menu and cycling through the different screens is much quicker than in the original GBA version.
Because of this, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was great for me as someone looking for an updated version of some childhood nostalgia. It felt exactly like the game I remembered from 2003 but smoother, which is exactly what I was hoping for. It doesn’t stray from the original but it’s also not too different from it, either. For me, there was a pretty perfect balance.
That said, for those who don’t have the early 2000s nostalgia for Harvest Moon games like I do, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town might not feel worth it in 2020. Though it has been updated, it’s still much simpler than modern farming games, especially Stardew Valley, which is arguably the most popular farming simulator out today that would be comparable.
Plus, even as an enormous fan of the original, I still had trouble focusing on the game for prolonged periods. The most fun I had with the game was playing it like I played Animal Crossing – I’d wake up in the morning, play for around half an hour while listening to a podcast, and then put it down, checking in for short bursts throughout the day as a break from work.
Even when I would get really into the game for hours at a time, I would still eventually hit a wall where I felt like I wasn’t doing anything because the game does get pretty repetitive. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and may even be a great alternative if someone feels overwhelmed by Stardew Valley or the Farming Simulator series, but since the game is a remake of a simple 2003 handheld title, there’s not much to do other than plant, harvest, mine, and talk to people.
Overall, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a fun blast to the past if you’re full of nostalgia for the original game like I am. Unfortunately, if you’re lacking that nostalgia, it may be a little underwhelming, especially if you’re comparing it to more modern farming simulators and the repetition of farming on such a small map can get monotonous after a while. However, if you’re willing to look past that, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a fun, cute, and charming experience that will take you straight back to 2003 in the best possible way.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town will be available on Nintendo Switch and Steam on July 14.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
- Rating - 7/107/10
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a fun blast to the past if you’re full of nostalgia for the original game like I am. Unfortunately, if you’re lacking that nostalgia, it may be a little underwhelming, especially if you’re comparing it to more modern farming simulators and the repetition of farming on such a small map can get monotonous after a while. However, if you’re willing to look past that, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a fun, cute, and charming experience that will take you straight back to 2003 in the best possible way.