Back when the original Harvest Moon came out in the late 90s it was hailed as a new and unique take on what a role-playing game could be. Imagine, an RPG where you don’t fight anything and the stakes are rarely higher than agriculture and cows! Instead, you’re a farmer, living off the land and making your way via the power of photosynthesis. It sounds a little silly, but these were revolutionary things at the time.
Naturally, the game found a following and created a genre all its own. Eventually that would spawn popular indie titles like Stardew Valley and lead to a hilarious farming-game civil war that would result in the development of two separate but largely similar farming series – Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons.
Today we’re looking at the latest entry in the latter series: Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, a remake of a Game Boy Advance classic that itself was part of the Harvest Moon universe, but now is a Story of Seasons game due to the aforementioned civil war. Yeah, I don’t know either.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: after being unfulfilled with city life, you decide to start anew in Mineral Town, a little hamlet you remember visiting in your childhood. Your grandfather once lived here and left you his home and farm after passing away. You’re going to whip said home and ranch into shape (or not, depending on your preferences) and make yourself a new life in Mineral Town.
That’s it, really! From there you’ve got free reign to do as you please. There’s been plenty of these games over the years, and it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that Friends of Mineral Town got remade because it did the fundamentals of the concept pretty well. You’ll farm, you’ll raise animals, you’ll talk to people and bring them gifts and eventually you’ll have brought that one special person enough gifts that you can get married – to someone of the same gender, should you prefer, since that’s a new feature in this version.
There are horses to ride and a mine to explore. You can upgrade your farming tools, home and animal kennels, perhaps even eventually saving up enough to build a giant manor in town and ruling over the smaller folk like a modern robber baron. Said smaller folk consist of the usual RPG townsfolk, with special attention paid to the incredibly attractive artist Brandon; you’ll get to know each character better as you chat with them over the years and bring them endless piles of gifts.
At heart, this sort of game relies on resource management and scarcity to impart that sense of progression. Life is tough early on. You’re growing turnips, scrounging around in the forest for herbs and grapes to make ends meet…it definitely captures the Millennial lifestyle. Later, though, you’ll earn enough money to plant more impressive crops; what’s more, you can upgrade your farm so those crops become more impressive inherently, allowing you to improve your harvests and obtain better veggies as rated on a star-based system of quality.
You’re limited by a stamina meter that can increase as you collect Power Berries scattered throughout the world, which makes for another overarching form of progression. Everything kind of blends together into a sort of addiction soup. There’s always something more to do – another upgrade to strive for, another crop to try and grow, another desperate effort to win Brandon’s heart – and Friends of Mineral Town is more than happy to oblige your need for making those numbers go up.
One of the selling points of this remake is the new and improved 3D aesthetics. They’re pretty nice; more importantly, given this game is available on Switch, they’re not too taxing so everything looks, sounds and plays great. From a gameplay perspective there’s little to complain about, though the ability to interact with both your tools and inventory without having to access a separate menu may take a little getting used to at first; I definitely caught myself struggling to pull out just the right gift for darling Brandon at times, instead Bran-dishing a scythe in his face. It’s fine. He still loves me.
Fans of adorable farming sims and Harvest Moon will definitely find Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town right up your alley. As an introduction to the genre I might suggest Stardew Valley as it’s a little older, a little cheaper and a bit more heavy on traditional content like combat. If you already know that a farmer’s life is the life for you, though, Friends of Mineral Town is a must-have agricultural adventure that’s bound to keep you tied up, tilling fields and watering seeds for weeks.