Archives by Day

June 2021

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Marvelous (EU), XSEED Games (US)
Release Date: July 14, 2020 (US), July 10, 2020 (EU)


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 8, 2020 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a complete remake that lets series fans revisit the charming world of Mineral Town, while also introducing it to a new generation of farmers.

Buy Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town

As the Story of Seasons (formerly Harvest Moon) franchise grows, it keeps looking for new ideas to keep the formula fresh: multiple towns, RPG adventures, crossovers and more. Sometimes, though, you just want a straightforward farming simulator. Originally released on the Game Boy Advance, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town represented the first portable experience that felt like the mainline games rather than a pared-down attempt. Almost 20 years later, that same experience has been refreshed for a new generation. Fortunately, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town on the Nintendo Switch might be simple, but it's retained most of its luster, especially with some much-needed updates.

The easiest way to describe Friends of Mineral Town is that it's basically the iconic Story of Seasons game and has everything you'd expect from the franchise. The title's original selling point was that it was a fully featured on-the-go Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons experience. FoMT fills the same basic niche. You're a farmer with a farm, and your goal is to build up a successful farm, win contests, make friends, and get married. That's about the extent of the plot, and most of your time is spent making friends and harvesting crops.

If you've never played a game in the franchise before, FoMT is a great place to start, since it provides a fairly low-difficulty way to learn the franchise's mechanics. Each day, your farmer wakes up at 6 a.m., and from there, you have an entire day to complete your tasks. You are limited by your time and your stamina, which is expended every time you use a tool. Early on, you might find yourself struggling to keep a small patch of land, but once you have better tools and more stamina, you'll be able to stay out longer and longer.

Don't mistake that for difficulty in FoMT because it's a very low-stress game. There are very few mistakes that you can't come back from, and at worst, you might lose a few crops or perhaps a farm animal. Once your farm gets big enough, you can also use nature sprites, who complete chores for you — such as animal care, harvesting, and watering crops — though they need time to learn how to do the jobs properly. You're never overwhelmed, but the gradual progression is addictive because you grow a fledgling farm into a massive field of yams that's tended by a small army of nature sprites.

Beyond farming, FoMT certainly isn't lacking in tasks. The game has a ton of secrets to discover, including digging up and blessing cursed tools, unlocking new seed types and machines, and powerful hidden gems that can grant massive boons but require a ton of effort to collect. This is in addition to two mines that have hundreds of floors each, with special prizes for those who can reach the bottom, a task that requires figuring out which food resources to bring.

One nice thing about FoMT is that it seems to have massively cut down on some of the tedious aspects of the original title. For example, blessing the aforementioned cursed tools now requires only half of the resources that it did in the GBA version. You still need to dedicate some time to it, but it no longer demands that you swing a fishing rod 255 times in a row. The nature sprites seem more successful, movement is faster, and everything is more user-friendly. Some (but not all) easy money exploits have also been adjusted. Certain items no longer sell for quite as much, and others can't be sold at all. The Horse Derby is still a fantastic way to make absurd amounts of money if you wish.

There are also a number of general improvements to the game. Probably the most noteworthy is the ability to marry a spouse regardless of their gender, allowing for true same-sex marriage for the first time in the franchise's history. It might sound minor, but it opens up a lot more choices for players, and it's just nice to see. The UI has also been heavily tweaked to allow for instant access to your items, maps, tools, and information about characters. Your stamina is clearly displayed on-screen, so you know exactly how far you can push yourself, and more general information is available. Now, there are even multiple levels of soil that allow you to increase the profitability of your biggest crops. There's also a new area in town that allows for easy farming of stone and wood for upgrades. There are additional animals to bring to your farm and seed types to plant, as well as new recipes to cook, giving the game a nice shot in the arm to bring it more in line with recent games.

It's important to note that FoMT does not have any particularly punishing or intense goals to meet. Time limits are nonexistent, and aside from possibly having to wait for an event to roll around, you won't miss anything permanently. This can make the game feel somewhat unfocused at times, but it generally feels good for a title that is so "pick up and play." As you might expect from a game that was originally designed as a portable Harvest Moon, it also benefits greatly from being on the Switch.

One of the big reasons that FoMT is so enjoyable is that it has the same relaxing style of gameplay as Animal Crossing. While the competition with the higher production values and larger amount of content in Animal Crossing: New Horizon is tough to beat, FoMT has its advantages. For me, a big one was that FoMT's tools don't break, which made it more enjoyable to focus on crafting and upgrading them, which made farming or mining feel like a nice way to chill out.

Unfortunately, this does lead to a rather big flaw. FoMT is at its best when you are exploring and taking the time to discover the game's many little secrets. Coming into it with knowledge from the original game meant that I knew how to quickly make a ton of money by selling certain things. If you're the kind of person who min-maxes heavily, you might find yourself with a massive farm, a spouse, and fully upgraded tools by the end of your first year. From there, you still have some room to optimize, but you might run out of goals fairly quickly.

If you enjoy the fun of creating a farm, this is a place where Animal Crossing's effective "once a day" limit provides an advantage. This is probably both the biggest plus and biggest minus for FoMT. If you're looking for something you can pick up and play for 15 minutes at a time, then FoMT is easily one of the best choices for the Switch, lacking even the daily chores or real-world time pressure of something like Animal Crossing. However, if you want something you can really sink your teeth into, you may burn out on it quickly. I found FoMT to be a tremendously relaxing game to pick up and play, and it's full of nostalgia for the older days of Story of Seasons/Harvest Moon-style gameplay.

The entire game has been visually reworked to be more similar to the recent Story of Seasons titles, with 3D graphics instead of sprites and a slight artwork redesign. For the most part, it looks quite good. The characters are all bright and identifiable, and the environments are cute and cheerful. There are a few places where it is limited, such as a character creator, which boils down to "pick one of two choices and one of three skin colors." A bit more flexibility would've been nice there. The music is cheerful but not remarkable, and the game is still unvoiced. This might be disappointing to fans, but I didn't feel like it was missing anything for lacking it.

All in all, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is the ideal Story of Seasons experience. It may lack some of the unique ideas from later games in the franchise, but it captures the fun of farming simulators. It can be repetitive and too easy to earn money, but you'll hours spending hours exploring mines and perfecting your crops. Additionally, the Switch version retains the portability of the original GBA title, so FoMT is an excellent Story of Seasons experience for newcomers and long-term fans alike.

Score: 9.0/10

More articles about Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
blog comments powered by Disqus