Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is perfectly shaped to fill that post-New Horizons void in your soul. If you were a fan of the original Harvest Moon game, you’ll find a lot of nostalgia in this retelling of the Mineral Town story, but those looking for complex characters or a compelling story to follow may well be left disappointed.
- Updated art style
- Realistic pace
- Mini games add some excitement to your routine
- One-dimensional characters
- Limited character customisation
- Review Price: £42.99
- Release Date: Out now
- Developer: Marvelous Europe
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Genre: Farming
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is the latest farming simulator in Marvelous’ Story of Seasons franchise. If you’re wondering why that name sounds vaguely familiar, that’s probably because it is.
Friends of Mineral Town is a Nintendo Switch remake of the classic 2003 Game Boy Advance title Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, re-branded under the Story of Seasons name. The game marks the return of some familiar faces, along with a number of welcome updates, over 15 years after the game’s initial release.
Story of Seasons begins when you receive a letter from Mayor Thomas of Mineral Town, breaking the news that you’ve inherited your grandfather’s farm. Naturally, you hurry over to Mineral Town to check it out and are greeted by Thomas. The mayor reminds you of the summer you spent in Mineral Town as a child, complete with adorable snaps of you falling off cows and fleeing from chickens. All of the photos are sepia toned so I can only assume that this game takes place at some point in the early 20th century, but then I’m not an expert on Mineral Town lore.
Mayor Thomas begs you to stay and fix up the farm and that’s essentially where the plot ends. From here on, Friends of Mineral Town is a farming simulator through-and-through. Players can grow crops, raise animals, retrieve honey from trees and catch fish, with different seeds able to grow as the seasons change – but there’s more to this game than just tending to agriculture.
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Mineral Town is packed with locals who help you to maintain that all-important work-life balance. Old friends from the Game Boy adventure are joined by new characters you’ll get to know. You can chat with townsfolk in the plaza, trade with them in the shops and even have a drink with them when night falls at the Inn. Shower a character with enough attention and gifts and they might even fall in love with you. Thankfully, the game has done away with its previous gender restrictions, meaning you can marry any romance-able character of your choosing regardless of who you choose to play as.
As far as personalities go, the townsfolk are very much exaggerated versions of different stereotypes. There’s Manna the neighbourhood gossip, Marie the bookish librarian, and Harris the friendly police officer who I can only assume is incredible at his job because crime literally does not exist in Mineral Town. While the characters are unfortunately one-dimensional and predictable, there is something comforting about knowing how each character will react when you turn up at their home or store. They have their own relationships too. You can learn a lot about some characters simply by eavesdropping on conversations between your neighbours.
Friends of Mineral Town can feel unexpectedly fast-paced. I, having spent the majority of this year caught up in Animal Crossing, began by plucking all of the weeds from my farm. Before I knew it, it was 3am, pitch black and I wasn’t even halfway done clearing the space. Unlike the slow, real-time pace of my New Horizons island, time in Mineral Town seems to accelerate the more chores you do. Actions that take around three seconds to complete can knock ten minutes off your day within the game – combine that with the fact that the four seasons are about a month long apiece and you’ll find that time zooms by in this small town.
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The pace of Friends of Mineral Town isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, it adds a layer of realism – after all, you wouldn’t be able to de-weed an entire farm in minutes in real life, so why would you here? Because the shops have realistic opening hours for a small town, you’re often forced to limit the number of chores you do when you wake up. I fell into a familiar rhythm of watering my crops and feeding my chickens in the morning, before wandering into town to pick up supplies and converse with locals in the early afternoon.
The game forces you to pace yourself physically too. If you try to work for too long, not only will the shops be closed, but you’ll eventually find yourself passing out from exhaustion. I spent a good portion of time alternating between foraging deep in the mines for resources to upgrade my tools and relaxing in the hot springs to recoup my virtual energy. The stamina bar forces you to take each day at a semi-realistic pace, making it difficult to skip-ahead and progress with your farm quickly.
While it’s easy to slip into a daily routine, not every day in Mineral Town is the same. With each season comes new events and festivals, the first of which is the Spring Derby. Any time the derby rolls around, you can choose to place a bet or to enter the race with a horse of your own. Unfortunately, my horse was still a foal when the derby arrived, but I rushed over to the plaza to place my bets regardless. The event offers a rare view of all your townsfolk gathered together excited for the race – and I can see why.
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The mini game offers a rare moment of action in an otherwise quiet town and the gambling aspect brings forward an element of risk that isn’t prevalent in the rest of the game. If you neglect your chores on the farm, you won’t lose money, you just won’t make more of it. Whereas, at the derby, you actually stand to lose cash in the hopes of leaving with more. I lost half the funds I’d been saving to buy a Fruit Cow and left the derby devastated and counting down the days until the next one.
Character customisation is limited, to say the least. There are four pre-designed avatars with just three possible skin tones to choose from. However, the graphics have undergone a major update since the Game Boy edition. The new art style offers a smoother look to the familiar map of Mineral Town, with more shading to give the environments dimension, while the characters themselves have been given adorable giant heads. The style is nothing particularly unique, but it offers a nice modern update to a visually out-of-date classic.
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Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is perfectly shaped to fill that post-New Horizons void in your soul. If you were a fan of the original Harvest Moon game, you’ll find a lot of nostalgia in this retelling of the Mineral Town story.
If you’re looking for complex characters or a compelling story to follow, you’re sure to be disappointed. But, between tending to your farm, exploring the mines, scouring the ocean for fish, gossiping with townsfolk and losing all of your money at festivals, there’s rarely a quiet day in Mineral Town. I only wish my virtual grandfather were here to see how my farm has flourished.