Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Review
My Girl Knows How to RA
Confession time: I never owned a GBA, so I never played Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. I even bought the game last year for the GBA hoping I would get to it… and a week later the Switch version, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was announced. Still, XSEED Games has delivered us a new Story of Seasons, and as always here at RPGamer, it is my pleasure to review all these wonderful farming sims.
Much like with every Story of Seasons title, players take on the role of a young farmer who has moved to a small town to take over the old family farmstead. Mayor Thomas has tasked our protagonist with reviving the farmstead and bringing happiness to Mineral Town. The farmer has to raise livestock, befriend all the neighbours, and courting all the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes — it sounds easy, but there is a lot of work to be done!
While the story is straightforward, Friends of Mineral Town asks players to engage with their community to learn more about the Mineral Town residents. From Basil, the botanist who wants to discover new species of flowers, to Jeff, who wants to rekindle his marriage, there are so many small and sweet tales being told. What helps these tiny tales along is the strength of the game’s localization, which offers so much hilarity and tenderness to the mix. It is abundantly clear how much care and work was put into the localization and exploring the stories makes for a great way to pass the time. Even watching television in-game, the writing in Friends of Mineral Town is sharp, punny, and full of laughs.
A new and welcome feature is the option for same-sex marriages, creating new romantic events to entice players. Why it has taken so long for a series to have this as an option is beyond me, and many of the scenes are super darling. While there are more Heart Events to wade through, it’s a welcome change from previous games in the series given it means the characters are much more fleshed out.
Since this is a farming simulator, most of the day-to-day lifestyle has players tending to their farm and livestock. Controls for this are simple and intuitive. The game offers some new animal options, such as an angora bunny, alpacas, and three types of cows: coffee, fruit, and strawberry. Item management has also been overhauled so that items will stack within the player’s backpack, rather than single items taking up precious space. There are even more customization options for the protagonist’s appearance, the farmstead, and even the animals.
Even with all the new cosmetic features, the core gameplay has not changed at all, for better or worse. Players will farm and participate in festivals, while also trying to raise their affection levels with townsfolk. Festivals are still boring as ever, and need more interactive elements to be engaging, and the few that do exist are just not fun to play. The first year is particularly rough because in most cases the player hasn’t accessed a fully grown horse or an animal that can participate in the activity, which isn’t fun and feels like a waste of a day.
That isn’t to say there is nothing new about this version of Friends of Mineral Town. It offers players two difficulty settings: Normal is for veterans of the series, while Seedling offers a variety of bonuses such as 2500 gold, turnips ready to be harvested right out the gate, and shipped items and friendship points with villagers being worth more. Seedling is a great way to learn the basics of what to expect without holding the player’s hand from the get-go.
The other main issue is that this game lacks personality in its presentation. Compared to other similar games, Friends of Mineral Town looks flat. When the player is fishing, the fish are tiny and have no distinguishing features to tell them apart, so if players catch a smelt or an anglerfish, they all have the same image. Sadly, this element is true for a lot of the farming and mining as well — there’s no spark in the graphical presentation and it often feels like the game cheaped out in ways that other recently-released farming sims, such as Doraemon Story of Seasons, did not. There are also technical issues where characters and animals will end up on top of each other, bleeding into each other, making it difficult to interact with them when it occurs. These elements really drag the game down, which is a shame.
Despite the complaints above, doing the day-to-day chores is very relaxing and rewarding. It is great to see crops going up star rankings, or the quality of items improve because of constant attention. Farming, fishing, and mining all feel satisfying even if presentation-wise they don’t entirely look the part. It is easy to find a groove, get lulled into the sweet music, and start the day, just as it’s easy to get so involved in tasks that it becomes nightfall.
Stamina and fatigue still play an important role as doing any chores will deplete stamina and, depending on how late or overworked the protagonist is, affects how much stamina they’ll have the next day. Thankfully, these elements are easy to manage when players have a good routine and eat food to supplement when necessary. The other option players can choose is getting help from the Harvest Sprites, who will assist in most tasks for the small fee of a gift. This can be a handy option if players find they are managing too much stuff at once — except they are incompetent and cannot actually do the tasks assigned to them. More often than not they will water a square and then sod off.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is such a calming experience from it’s very sweet and earthy tunes to its simple routine. While credits can be rolled in about twenty hours, this a game that is meant to be played well beyond the player’s first year. There are lots of friendships to make, storylines to unfold, and gossip to be found. While I wish the presentation had been stronger, I won’t deny the fun I had courting my librarian love while also enjoying the fruits of my virtual labour. Friends of Mineral Town is an engaging game for those of us who love and need a sense of repetition in these times of uncertainty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Adorable cast of characters and great storylines
Cheeky and fun localization
Coffee, Fruit, and Strawberry Cows!
Graphical and technical issues
Festivals need more interaction