Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town (Switch) Review
Step back into 2003 with Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, a remake that stays wonderfully faithful to the original, but feels slightly bare in light of how the farming and life management genre has progressed over the years.
This Story of Seasons entry is a remake of the Game Boy Advance Harvest Moon classic, of which was a remake of Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the original PlayStation. Clear as mud, right?
As is standard with the Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons series, your aim is to restore a dilapidated farm to its former glory, all while befriending – and potentially marrying one of – the local townsfolk. This involves growing crops, caring for animals, and foraging produce in order to pay for farm upgrades.
While it’s a repetitious cycle redoing many of the same tasks with occasional seasonal variants, Friends of Mineral Town instils a joyful sense of routine. There’s always something to work towards, whether it be saving up to purchase your first animal, collecting materials to increase tool efficiency, or wooing the many eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Mineral Town. Friends of Mineral Town’s vibrant aesthetic and adorable animals are delightfully endearing – the new pink cows that produce strawberry milk are to die for!
However, as with any reimagining of a beloved classic, any visual changes are sure to be divisive. For the most part, Friends of Mineral Town captures the charm of the original. While the new 3D character models work brilliantly for the animals and their ridiculously oversized noses, the humans look a little lifeless. In implementing a chibi-style look for the characters, they appear to be Funko Pop Vinyl versions of themselves – an acquired taste, for sure. Conversely, the 2D portrait art visible during dialogue is highly expressive and looks great.
Far from simply being a visual overhaul, Friends of Mineral Town streamlines various gameplay elements to modernise proceedings. For starters, your bag for storing inventory fits more items, helping to ease the early-game grind of foraging for money. Not to mention accessing said inventory is significantly easier; the right-stick cycles through items, while the left and right directional buttons swiftly sorts through available tools. Additionally, Friends of Mineral Town more readily displays extra information, such as stamina, fatigue, and the shipping value of items – all of which help you make more informed decisions as to how to spend your precious time.
Like many others in the farming genre, Friends of Mineral Town places a focus on self-learning and discovery. While the in-game manual is helpful in addition to the library’s instructional books, other methods of teaching are not as effective. For example, the in-game education TV channel drip-feeds information at a painfully slow rate, often with little regard for what might be relevant at different parts of the game. I had episodes explaining the basic details of the barn and coop deep into Winter, the final season of an in-game year. One method to help new and returning players could be an opt-in quest system, to assist with mastering the basics.
In critiquing Story of Seasons spin on Friends of Mineral Town, it’s important to consider it exists in a post-Stardew Valley world. Inspired by Harvest Moon and the team who now work on Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley revolutionised the farming genre, adding enormous depth and variety to the gameplay in addition to online multiplayer. While Friends of Mineral Town does not feature multiplayer – nor is it vital – it does feel comparatively sparse. There’s not as much to do and discover, plus some areas feel too open and empty – exacerbated by the new 3D visuals.
That’s not to say Friends of Mineral Town is lacking in content, as there’s still a decent amount of farming to keep you busy. Unfortunately, some aspects don’t hold up as well; the festival events are lightweight, mining is dull, and there’s far fewer crop and byproduct variety. Conversely, Stardew Valley offers more at a fraction of the price.
Regardless of the comparisons, Friends of Mineral Town is still an incredibly charming and pleasant experience. Building a thriving farm populated with happy animals munching on grass while harvesting fresh produce remains an utterly heartwarming time. Even if it starts to wear thin after a while.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town faithfully revisits and modernises the Game Boy Advance Harvest Moon classic, which will delight nostalgia-seekers. However, there’s still plenty of room for the Story of Seasons series to grow in a post-Stardew Valley world.
+ A lovingly crafted remake
+ Good streamlining of many gameplay elements
+ Adorable animals and largely great 3D visuals…
- ...but the character models lose a bit of charm
- Occasionally feels sparse
- Could present information in a more helpful way