2020 is a year and a half. It’s a time during which people might need comfort food. Or, failing that, a sort of game where you can fall into a pleasant, endless routine that blocks out the rest of the world. It’s time to head back to the farm, and fortunately all your old friends from Mineral Town are waiting for you with Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town.
Given this is a remake of the Game Boy Advance title Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and More Friends of Mineral Town, which itself borrowed villagers who originated from Harvest Moon 64 and a premise common in essentially every early Bokujou Monogatari installment, things should be pretty familiar. You have inherited a farm in Mineral Town and decided to use it as an opportunity to pursue a new way of life. Everyone in town is friendly and happy to see you. And fortunately, even though your farming experience consists of one summer spent with your grandpa, you’ve got a green thumb.
Given this is a remake of the ninth entry in a series that has since had over 20, the gameplay loop doesn’t offer much opportunity for deviation. You have four “months” in a year, with each tied to a season. Your primary moneymaker will be farming, but you can also raise animals like chickens, cows, alpacas, and angora rabbits, fish, and mine. Gathering materials and money will give you opportunities to improve your tools to make them more effective or expand your home. Mineral Town itself is full of people to befriend or fall in love with.
The thing about Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is, its contemporaries make it feel dated. This might be the “newest” game, but it is a remake of a 2003 installment. Newer entries in the same series, like Story of Seasons or Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns have greater variety in terms of animals, crops, villagers, objectives around town, and jobs. They also make it easier to do more in a day. Likewise, competitors such as Stardew Valley offer more range, anti-frustration features, and customization options. Coming to this after newer games is a shock, given how quickly you’ll hit that stamina wall and swiftly time passes. It’s isn’t bad, but it is a step back from what is now commonplace and people could need a few in-game weeks to adjust.
This isn’t to say there’s no consideration and Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is living in the dark ages. There are a wealth of quality of life changes that constantly present themselves in subtle ways and make your virtual day-to-day better. Most obvious is a Simple difficulty option that makes it easier to make money and befriend people, but otherwise keeps the game the same. You can cycle easily through equipment and items with the D-pad and right analog stick, respectively. Maximizing profit is easier, since there is a quality system for crops with easily visible star ratings and you can walk over growing crops instead of them being impassible, materials chopped, cut, or hammered are automatically drawn to you. It’s easier to herd animals with the bell. Not to mention it includes same-sex marriages. It’s all very welcoming.
And, to be fair, there’s a healthy dose of new content that is seamlessly integrated. When you start things off, you can choose your protagonist from four options, alter their skin color, and change their clothing. New livestock, like the alpacas, rabbits, and both chicken and cow variants, are here. You have additional pet options, which range from traditional dogs to capybaras. You could grow new crops like chilis. Brandon and Jennifer are new love interests. Also, all of the old bachelors and bachelorettes have new heart events. There are definitely plenty of things to do.
There’s also a comfort in the whole presentation here. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town very much nails the ambiance of the original Game Boy Advance games from the character designs to the color palette. It’s a great rendition of the town and calls back to the earliest 3D entries with its designs. I do wish it didn’t get so dark at night, since it can be near impossible to see past 8pm, but then I suppose you are supposed to be asleep again at that point.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town’s Switch port is a means of preserving the past while gradually adjusting it so it is slightly more in tune with modern sensibilities. There aren’t drastic changes here. It will definitely feel a bit dated and difficult, due to the way stamina and a player’s inventory were handled back in the day. But there are plenty of positive changes, from new additions that range from characters to crops, changes that do make it easier to take care of your homestead, and more opportunities to fall in love with (all) of your favorite characters. It’s a welcome opportunity to sample a try a change of pace.