2020 has been a pretty big year for video game remakes, remasters, and enhanced ports. The long awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake released after years of waiting. Cult classic 3D platformer, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, was given an upgrade. And even an underdog JRPG like the Wii U’s Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was given a second chance on the Switch. No matter what genre you’re into, there’s probably a remake you’ve considered picking up. And the big one for me is a title where I’m particularly nostalgic for the original Gameboy Advance version, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town.
If you’re unfamiliar with Story of Seasons, formerly known as the Harvest Moon series, you take control of a young man or woman who recently comes into possession of a small house and farm in a quiet, remote town. Once there, you live out your days planting crops, raising animals, and befriending the variety of colorful characters that live in the nearby town. And if you’re lucky, you might even find true love and start a family of your own.
I have a special fondness for Friends of Mineral Town over the other entries because it’s the first one I ever played. So I’m going to be examining this remake and see how it holds up, not just as a remake, but to see if someone who has never touched the series can still enjoy what it has to offer. One of the most notable things right off the bat is that many of the characters received designs ranging from a few minor changes to looking like a completely different character. A few characters even have entirely different names in this version, such as the librarian, Mary becoming Marie. This is due to XSeed's new localization, which is a welcome change since the original game had its fair share of typos (e.g. "sopha")
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town starts in the early spring after your character inherits the farm from their grandfather, even though we’d only been to this farm once and that was about twenty years ago. Thomas, the mayor of Mineral Town, helps you get settled in, and from there, the game opens up to you. You’ve got a couple of tools to start out with to clear out some of the weeds, rocks and sticks littering your farmland, but if you want to start growing some crops, you may want to sell some stuff you find out in the forest. Whether you’re looking to focus more on farming or animal husbandry, Friends of Mineral Town offers a few cost effective ways to get started. Turnip seeds are cheap to buy from the general store and grow in just a couple of days. Or if you’re looking to raise animals, after only a couple days of earning money, you can get yourself a chicken or two and start collecting eggs to sell or use to cook a number of the game’s recipes. Aside from chickens, cows and sheep, Friends of Mineral Town introduces two new animals; alpacas and angora rabbits. Both of these animals act very similarly to sheep in the sense that you can sheer them every few days to sell their fur. The rabbits are a bit more unique because they live in the chicken coop, and I’m happy to say I quickly turned my farm into a very rabbit-centric operation.
But of course there’s so much more to do in Mineral Town than just raise animals and plant seeds. You’ve gotta get out there and make FRIENDS…in Mineral Town! The cast of characters roaming around town throughout the in-game days are just a delight. You’ve got the old man and his granddaughter who run a farm of their own, the local priest who also acts as a teacher for some of the younger residents and the doctor who makes sure that everyone in Mineral Town stays happy and healthy. He’s just called Doctor though so I don’t know if he’s Dr. Doctor or not. Also among the townsfolk are a surprisingly high amount of beautiful single men and women that are around your age, so get ready to give away a lot of flowers and crops as presents as you try to win the affection of the person you fancy. Two brand new characters exclusive to this remake are Brandon, an eccentric artist and Jennifer, a forest dwelling hippie nature enthusiast. I always have a fondness for brand new characters and events in remakes, so I happily decided to try and win Jennifer’s heart. She also has a very cute hat.
For the first time in the series’ history, same sex marriages are an option in the Friends of Mineral Town remake. So no matter which of the four characters you choose to play as, you can marry any of the eligible bachelors or bachelorettes found throughout Mineral Town. At first glance it may seem like there are twelve marriage candidates, six men and six women, there’s actually a total of sixteen. A few have special conditions that must be met before you can marry them, and these mainly exist for returning players who want to try something new or challenge themselves. A minor complaint I have with the game is that of the four secret suitors consists of three bachelors and one bachelorette. It’s just a small imbalance, but remember you’re free to date whomever you’d like.
Except for the two new characters, all of the other standard suitors have a rival competing for their affection. So aside from unlocking heart events, which allow you to grow closer to that cute librarian you’ve got your eye on, you might accidentally activate an event where Gray gets closer to her by offering to read the novel she’s writing. In the original game, these rival events helped create a lot of stakes because each one you stumbled upon meant you were one step closer to losing the chance to marry that person yourself. Unfortunately, while the remake does still have these events, the rivals will never actually marry the other person. This was probably done to prevent players from “losing” but it feels like a fundamental part of the original game was removed from the remake. It also means that you can’t play town matchmaker and go around hooking up the other couples that aren’t connected to the person you’re trying to woo.
While the social elements and unlocking events with the townsfolk are some of my favorite parts of the game. There's no shortage of things to do in Friends of Mineral Town. Aside from farm life and maintaining a healthy social life, you can go fishing, explore the mines, decorate your home, cook new recipes and just live the life you decide to live. Despite a couple minor criticisms that only exist comparatively to the original GBA title, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a very well done remake. The new localization is loaded with charm, the visuals are adorable, the colors are vibrant, the new additions are great for newcomers and veterans alike and there’s just a ton of content on offer. If you’ve never played this style of game, Friends of Mineral Town is very easy to jump into and get a feel for your new life on the farm.
John reviewed Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town on the Nintendo Switch with a personally purchased copy. The game is also available on Steam.