Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Review

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is one of the first games I ever gained an obsession for in my life. To this day, the original 2003 cartridge is still sitting in the Game Boy Advance in my nightstand, and every once in awhile I’ll pull it out for nostalgic farming joy. It was my first introduction to the Harvest Moon series, and as a lifelong veteran of this franchise, I still hold it as one of the best installments. For reasons you can read about here, Harvest Moon is now known as Story of Seasons, and Friends of Mineral Town is being released as a remake on the Switch under its new series moniker. I was initially overjoyed to see that one of my favorite childhood games — specifically, the one responsible for my persistent love for farming sims — was being remade for the new age, but after jumping into the recent version, there may be something to be said for leaving this game in the past.

A Simple Life

I should clarify something. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is not actually a Harvest Moon for the new age. Conversely, it feels more like an old Harvest Moon that’s been taken out of retirement and given a fresh coat of paint. Sure, the visuals have been modernized and there are some nice new features, but the core gameplay is still a bit dated. To whittle it down to its bare bones, the main goal of the game is simply to make money, and it doesn’t ever seem to go much deeper than this. You don’t feel as if you are truly a part of the town or its people so much as an outsider looking in, and there are few objectives to complete along the way that actually matter. 

As per virtually every Story of Seasons game, you inherit a run-down farm that you must restore and use to earn an honest living. Your property comes with a chicken coop, a barn, a stable and a plot of land overrun with weeds, stray logs, and stones that can be cleared up and cultivated for growing crops. When you’re not taking care of livestock or tending your crops, you can acquire a fishing rod and go fishing, dig for treasure in the mines or poke around Mineral Town and talk to different townspeople, perhaps even finding a partner you want to settle down and start a family with.

And… that’s pretty much it. There’s not much to do other than try to turn a profit each day by selling fish, crops, byproducts, foraged goods and raw materials, which you will need to do in order to expand the buildings on your property, upgrade your tools and purchase animals and items. Minor parts of your day will include chopping wood or stones for building expansions, or delivering presents to the people in town with whom you wish to build a relationship. The town itself is pretty small, with its residents predictably repeating the same dialogue almost every time you approach them. Occasionally, there are mini-scenes that will play out between characters when you walk into certain buildings, but oftentimes you just feel like a witness to these encounters rather than a participant who matters. There isn’t much depth to your exchanges with the other characters, and people will rarely ask anything of you. Don’t expect many requests for tasks you can complete to help someone out, commissions of any kind or overarching story quests in general. 

Welcome Changes

Jumping from Friends of Mineral Town on Game Boy Advance to the updated Switch title, it’s nice to embrace the features that do make it a true remake. Certain quality of life changes are much appreciated, such as the ability to see individual squares that preview the aim or area of effect for your tools. Gone are the days of having to manually push all of your animals around or accidentally leaving your animals outside overnight in the rain, too. Each livestock building now has a bell that sends your herd out to pasture and automatically calls them back in each night without any effort on your part, which, if you played the original game, you’ll know is huge. You also no longer have to build pastures and worry about the fences corroding. Again, huge! 

In addition to the quality of life changes, there are also some satisfying brand new features added to the remake. Players now have the option to buy permanent fruit trees for their farms from the carpenter that yield seasonal fruit and honey; an easy way to bump your shipping profits or add to your cooking ingredients. Additionally, there are new types of animals, such as strawberry, fruit and coffee cows that produce flavored milk according to their breeds, as well as alpacas, brown chickens, and rabbits. There are also a variety of new pets to choose from that give the player more options than the standard dog from the original game.

As far as remakes go, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town ticks all the boxes quite nicely. I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate all of the new features added, from the exciting new animal and pet selections to the gameplay tweaks that make life a little easier. I’m not crazy about the fluffy, cartoonish art style, but the graphics do look undeniably clean and updated regardless of the soft spot I have for the 2D, pixelated style of the original. The only issue I have with the remake is over the one element it couldn’t possibly fix: The game itself. 

A Game of the Past

I wasn’t really exaggerating when I said there is almost no other point to the game other than to make money. You need money to do almost everything, but all of the things you can do once you have money all somehow circle back to helping you make more money. You need money to purchase animals, which you only really need because their byproducts will earn you more money. You need money to upgrade your tools so you can reach certain areas on the map or make farming easier, which is, of course, in service of growing more crops to earn you more money. Cooking food and turning mined resources into jewelry are mechanics in place to provide gifts you can give to the townspeople, but as I mentioned before, the relationships and exchanges are pretty unfulfilling. Even marrying a partner and having a baby is relatively anticlimactic. This game sorely lacks a main storyline and doesn’t give the player the direction that most newer farming or crafting games offer. There’s no central goal to restore the town, help the Harvest Goddess or townspeople, or whatever other objective you could imagine. At its very core, you simply farm and give gifts to people.

I have loved this game emphatically for 17 years, and I will probably continue to dust it off and play it lightly for many years to come. However, there’s a nostalgia here that may not live in a huge population of people looking at this game for the first time. It’s those people that I worry about. 

Friends of Mineral Town is one of the most beloved entries in the entire Story of Seasons series, and anyone who has played the original will love this remake — assuming those attached to the classic art style can get past the new look. But for those who got their start in farming sims with Stardew Valley or something more current, I would not recommend entering the Story of Seasons franchise with this title. Simply put, this game just doesn’t match the standards we expect from games released in 2020. The repetitive, meaningless dialogue with the townspeople, lack of gameplay depth, limited activities to take part in on a daily basis, and overall absence of purpose is a big disappointment compared to what other games in the genre offer today. 

All of this is not to say that Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a letdown, or even that it is a bad game. Its laid-back gameplay and overall simplicity is extremely peaceful and addicting, but I would advise that new players manage their expectations. Because of my concern for how new players will respond to the lack of meaningful content, I do question whether this specific remake was necessary. Nevertheless, veterans and nostalgic fans who are looking forward to revisiting this game will find a classic installment that maintains all of its original charm and modesty — and does so better than ever.

***Switch review code provided by the publisher.***

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