I’m far from experiencing everything Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town has to offer, and I’m happy to admit that so far, it’s living up to my expectations (despite the few not-so-welcome changes). There are a significant amount of changes from the original Friends of Mineral Town (2003) released on the GameBody Advance. You return to the farm you once visited as a child to take over a neglected farm left behind by your Grandfather. You must till the land, make the land profitable, and who knows? You may find your soulmate in Mineral Town.
What does that work entail? Everything a farmer typically does, including using a hoe to till soil, breaking up rocks and wood to make way for crops, upgrading your farm buildings, and taking care of your livestock. Every day has it’s own challenges as you learn the shop’s schedules, manage your stamina as you work, and learn the balance between maintaining friendships with the villagers while also making time to improve your farm.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town has all the quaint rustic charm that made the original a classic in 2003, but there are still plenty of things that I miss—especially rival marriages. In the original classic Friends of Mineral Town, there were so many hidden things and extra challenges that you could work towards.
There was just so much to accomplish in the original game—I would constantly look up an online guide to make sure I was hitting all of the milestones correctly—so it insistently kept my attention and pushed me to keep playing every time I picked it up. The remake brings back some of this feeling—there’s just so much to do!—but much of the challenge and process of discovery is now lessened. There’s a certain level of difficulty that has been removed, and I’m not just talking about being able to change the difficulty settings in this new remake, I’m talking about hidden endgame content like discovering power berries, making your farm profitable, and unlocking all of the blessed tools.
These things haven’t been removed from the remake, but they are much easier to accomplish due to the easy nature of farm life in the remake, and lack of punishment that came in the original game. For example, since animals will no longer die from sickness, neglect, etc., you can always expect them to have byproducts ready for you the next morning, all you have to do is feed them (or make the Harvest Sprites do it for you). I remember being really stressed out during the winter season if a snow storm swept through for several days in a row and I couldn’t get to my chicken coop to feed all of my chickens… they’d just all be dead by the time I got to them. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now they just get really grumpy; feed and talk to them, and they’re fine the next day. No big deal.
Friends of Mineral Town is a quick-hit game. You load it up, play a few minutes (or in my case, hours), save and turn it off. The new art-style and character sprites give a familiar cozy feeling. You could snuggle up with a blanket, some tea, and play on the couch for hours—it makes sense that this game can be traveled with and played at your leisure.
As mentioned above, beginning a new life in Mineral Town means choosing a difficulty level, and there are two to choose from: Easy and Normal mode. This helps newer players find their way, and there are plenty of new tutorials to read through as you progress through the game. Raising livestock is more challenging now with the new breeding feature, crops have a star quality ranking, and you have plenty of space in the new rucksack—8 slots compared to the original 3!
There are a few things that I wasn’t so keen on. The audio quality balance isn’t too great. The rain is super quiet, the walking volume is all over the place, and collecting items in the mine forced me to turn my volume down. I’m not too pleased with rival marriage being removed, and I’m even more annoyed that I can go a whole week without caring for my animals, but that’s okay, because they won’t die, and even if they could, animal medicine has been removed so there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not too keen on the level of simplicity in this remake. The changes have made this game too easy.
I wasn’t too much of a fan of the art style at first, but it quickly grew on me. Carter’s robe matches the Goddess that he serves, Manna is as loquacious as ever, and Saibara is the same grumpy old man I remember who never seems to leave his forge. The villagers may look different, some of them really different (Duke suddenly doesn’t have gray hair?), but their personalities and backstories still shine through in this adorable remake, and I treasure the nostalgic experience this game offers.
The Xseed localization team has done a fantastic job bringing everything I loved about the Game Boy Advance version to life in 3D, and everything feels smooth and fluid. No more crazy mistranslations! It’s a joy to clear out your crop fields, the graphics are bright and cute, almost overflowing with friendliness and positivity. For a few extra bucks, you can even dress up in a cow costume if you wish.
Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons has always been about balancing your work and social lives, and Friends of Mineral Town continues to nail this dynamic 17 years later. I wish the game hadn’t been oversimplified to such a dramatic extent. Quality of life changes are great, but removing whole categories mechanics, up to the point where it is actually impossible to fail in any way, is a step too far.
Image Credits: Story of Seasons