A reboot of Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town for the Switch has been overhauled with new graphics, appealing to a broader audience when farming simulators are considered cool.
The question is, with the likes of Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the allotment patch you grow your tomatoes, is there any more room for another farm game?
Well, Harvest Moon laid the foundations first, so let’s find out in my take.
Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town Review
Let’s embrace the ‘story’ in the title. After a 20-year absence, you return to your grandpa’s farm to take it over.
Immediately welcomed by the mayor who looks like an extra from Discworld, it’s not long until any narrative force gently dissipates into the background, and the focus is on making money.
Well, that’s only scratching the surfaces as Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town gives a generous helping of creative freedom (though not as much as its peers) not only with the placement and selling of produce, but having a say on tourism for your town. That’s right, the folks of Mineral Town agree that you’re the don when it comes to luring in the punters.
Much like Doraemon Story of Seasons, both titles share the same title and mechanics. Admittedly, I prefer the former when it boils down to presentation as Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town is all a little too… cute for me.
However, the latter punches Doraemon in the face with such ferocity when it comes to gameplay as it’s much easier to familiarise yourself with the controls, and in many respects, you can let that backlog fester and get lost in the world of farming as it’s surprisingly accessible.
That said, once you get past all the niceties, it’s the fundamental farming mechanics that wins you over, just like the billions* of other gamers who would much rather tend to their turnips that play a deathmatch.
* I made that up.
‘Tis The Season To Be Planting Turnips
Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town is best played when you have some time off, when the kids are playing outside, or your boss goes out to play another 18-holes on company time.
Unfortunately, time waits for no one, and that applies to the game too as the seasons change, bringing with it a host of new goodies, and all the more luring to play every day.
Now, if you’ve Googled ‘farming’, you’ll know it’s a very demanding role, and you can’t grow an eggplant/aubergine overnight to insert into some friendly emoji texting.
The same applies for Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town, a game from Marvelous (you can read the review of another of their titles, Dead or School here). If you can get past that initial wall where, quite honestly, it drags a little before picking up, then you’re in for a treat.
A brief history of Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town
It was formerly called Harvest Moon. Now it’s not.
The original series was for the handheld peeps (the PlayStation too, I believe?). Except for the original Game Boy and now the Switch, I’ve never been a fan of handhelds, so this series passed me by, so I can’t give a fair comparison of the originals.
What I can tell you is the experience I had with this game. Like Stardew Valley, everything felt intuitive; the daily routine was made easier by simple button presses and said duties avoided the drudgery of a chore; instead, they were a pleasurable experience. Managing the farm is like some extracurricular activity that you do for purely for fun, and not because you have to.
You know, I was quite prepared to bin the laptop and go for a career change as a farmer, but with my lily wrists, decided it might be better to stick with Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town, and continue to be the farming god that I have rightly achieved.
I do feel like I’m in the minority however, as when I look at these sort of games, I really don’t gel with the visuals. Looks aren’t everything, of course, but it’s not an aesthetic I enjoy. I don’t hate it, it’s just not my bag, baby.
I’ve warmed to Animal Crossing: New Horizons (so much so that I even wrote an unplanned feature about it!), but not the look here. Still, the gameplay is engaging enough that I’m prepared to overlook appearances. Maybe if I squint, my little farmer looks more like a rugged Nathan Drake or Kratos.
But aside from all this cuteness, Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town isn’t targeted at kids. The strategy element is relatively high; ensuring you have to snare up enough produce to fulfil the demands of the neighbouring territories on the right days, and for the right price.
It’s not so much multi-tasking but practical management skills.
Pets Mean Prizes
Having pets in the game was a nice touch, but the inclusion of having a monkey in the game won me over.
But if we’re really talking about the highlight of the game, other than monkeys and resource management, it’s the interaction with the NPCs and the vibe it creates. Sure, the conversation doesn’t break new ground. Still, there’s something fresh about the approach in that it doesn’t have the monotony of people talking about their mortgages and the impact of COVID-19, and instead, are upbeat about life and giving each other gifts.
Is ignorance bliss? It’s not entirely ignorant. Ideally, we surround ourselves with the people we feel comfortable with who can motivate us to be better people, or simply because they exude positivity without telling you to be positive.
Commital to the running of an affluent farm is one thing, but something I haven’t experienced since Fable is the ability to woo and eventually marry a partner to live happily ever after. With your pigs.
Like growing award-winning vegetables, relationships take time too and pending you invest and are consistent, it’s not long before you’re walking down the aisle and fully committed with a life-long companion. Ahhh.
While my initial gut-feeling was ‘this isn’t for me’ as it was all too cute, it was this factor that won me over in the end. I’m a soppy sod anyway, but I don’t usually get attached to this sort of game. Well, egg on my face, eh?
Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town is a fun, slow-burner of the game. Where the Call of Duty series is a sirloin steak, this farming simulator is like an 18-layered trifle of sweetness that you want to savour and gradually pick away at (without it melting).
Now, before you reach for that sick bucket, let’s conclude this Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town review.