Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Review

Sowing Retro Roots
Developer: MARVELOUS! Publisher: Marvelous Europe Ltd. Platform: PC/Switch

This remaster retains its retro integrity while bringing the gameplay up to date, resulting in a charming experience that renews the roots of the farming genre and hold its own amongst modern entries

My first ever farming game was Harvest Moon 2 on the Game Boy Colour. I adored that game and its little pink-haired female character, but even though I loved the title it would be a long time before I picked up another farming sim. The number of games I would get in a year growing up was limited, and usually lent towards whatever Pokémon, Mario and/or Legend of Zelda were coming to handhelds that year. Stardew Valley changed all that and had me hungry for almost all new farming sims after that. I was super excited to hear that Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, now Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town (SoS: FoMT), was getting remastered as it would give me an opportunity to go back to the early days of farming sims and dig into my nostalgia.

The story setup is fairly simple, starting with a flashback told through photographs to a summer spent on your grandfather’s farm. Twenty years later (even though you don’t look it) he has passed away and left you his farm in Mineral Town in the countryside. You rock up to your abandoned new digs and meet Mayor Thomas in his gravity-defying top hat who checks that you want to take over the farm. With that you give the farm a name, and have a quick rest before your first proper day of farming.

When you start your game initially you have a few choices to make. The game contains a simple mode for beginners (start with a lot of gold, items sell for more, easier to raise affection with people, start with 18 turnips in the field) and normal mode (offers a satisfying challenge with none of the benefits of simple mode), which is what I chose. As a part of the remaster there is also an increased amount of character customisation. You can choose from two male and two female avatars, two original and two that are new to the remaster, along with three skin tone options.

Ahh nothing quite like inheriting a mess

Unlike some farming games that have an all-in-one measure of stamina, in SoS: FOMT you have both stamina and fatigue. Your stamina is indicated by little fruit icons and goes down when you use tools. You build fatigue (shown by different emoji icons) if you use tools when your stamina is zero, as well as when you work outside late at night or in poor weather (even if your stamina isn’t zero). You can restore both by bathing in the hot spring, eating food or going to sleep in your bed before it gets too late. Managing both of these is a big part of the game as you want to make as much money as you can but if you overdo it you’ll pay the price, requiring you to plan each day if you have a goal in mind. Most of your stamina will be consumed initially by preparing and clearing your messy farm and tending to your seedlings. Easy money can be made from foraging in the woods and around the mountain in addition to starting to collect building materials in order to improve your farm. After a few days you will find your routine and start to wonder what you can do next.

Once you get your farming groove on and have a steadier income you may want some furry friends. There are many livestock options in this game including your typical chickens, sheep, and normal cows, but there are also new options of rabbits, alpacas (that have wicked hairdos), and ‘flavoured’ cows that make coffee, strawberry and fruit-flavoured milk (I’m not kidding). There is also a horse for fast travel, but unlike many farming games these days, your horse isn’t bought, it’s earned. You have to raise it from a foal for 90 days, and if you’ve given it lots of love, you get your horse for free. It also means you can’t rush straight for one of the key features, and this process makes the achievement of receiving your horse much more impactful, and I certainly appreciated my horse a whole lot more by that point.

All of the animals are super cute, especially the new ‘flavoured’ cows

Many sims just have you collect materials and once you have them you can upgrade your tools to be more efficient, but not this game. Upgrading your tools requires you to gain enough experience with them first which is a nice touch, and you don’t really have to go out of your way to make that happen if you’re actively using them. Upgrading your tools is certainly not cheap in the beginning when you’re dirt poor but certainly beneficial, and you can save yourself money by skipping upgrades entirely if you have enough experience and the required materials. While you’re hunting materials or in the mines you may find other collectibles and tools you need so it’s worth examining objects and exploring everything Mineral Town has to offer, in particular as the seasons change. Spring to autumn farming and foraging rule, but in winter it’s heigh-ho, heigh-ho, and off to the mines we go (there are two mines accessible in winter to compensate for no farming).

The host of quality of life improvements is by far one of the best parts of this remaster; almost everything has been updated in some way but not so much as to ruin core features. Like the original game you have a split inventory, one for tools (starts at four slots up to twelve), and one for items (starts at eight up to 24). Both are considerably larger at the start than in the old game (three a piece initially) which is welcome and certainly makes foraging in the early game more appealing and makes harvesting crops far less tedious. This is also thanks to item stacking which wasn’t a thing in 2003. Your character can walk over crops, making it easier to tend to them, there are bells outside of barns to bring your animals out in one click (no more shoving those stubborn bastards), and you can ride your horse everywhere, not just on your farm. Materials created like lumber and stone auto collect if you walk near them which is amazing. One of the simplest but also biggest things is being able to save and continue at any time as opposed to having to save and be forced to progress to the next day, saving players from the pain of redoing a day if they make a mistake. There are also eight save slots, six more than in the original, allowing you to have many farms or retain saves from certain times. All of these additions may seem small these days but are all appreciated essentials in modern gaming and make a retro experience pain free.

In winter you can visit the Lake Mine full of gems and other goodies in addition to the normal Mine.

The art style retains some of the retro vibes of its small sprites by using the chibi style which I found cute and charming. The game is vibrant, looks clean and runs perfectly, having found a great home on the Switch. There is plenty of character in the updated NPC designs as well as to the landscape and animals (the cows are particularly adorable). The game also retains some of its retro vibes through the grid behaviour of NPCs, though your character can thankfully freely move in all directions, but I found it added to the charm. The only occasional annoyance with NPCs and livestock is that they can occupy the same space if you stop them or as they wander, making it difficult to interact with a particular person or creature due to how hit boxing is handled.

SoS: FoMT gives you tips when certain situations arise (like when you buy your first chicken) but it doesn’t hold your hand, and if it’s been a while since you’ve played an old school Harvest Moon game it can take some time to get used to things. There are things the game doesn’t tell you unless you explore and seek out all of the characters as well, but I feel this adds purpose and intrigue as opposed to making things too easy. For instance, I got so absorbed in getting my farm going that I completely forgot to check out the forest sprite’s house for my whole first season because they’re hidden just outside of town, but befriending them is a huge help if you want to have lots of crops. It is also beneficial to befriend many of the villagers, from potential love interests and marriage candidates (including same-sex dating/marriage), to general NPCs that can give you recipes and be critical in interactions with other characters.

Make sure you befriend the forest sprites as they are your watering and harvesting friends.

Final Thoughts

This game is hard to put down, drawing you in to complete just one more day towards your goal of operating an aesthetically pleasing and functional farm, making furry friends and piles of cash, or all of the above. SoS: FoMT rings with nostalgia but it doesn’t feel tired or worn out, but rather rejuvenated. This game would be a great entry for newcomers of all ages, in particular thanks to the easy mode, but provides plenty for returning players wanting to journey back to where the genre blossomed without having to have an old console. This is certainly a great example of a remaster done right, with limited issues and a whole hog (though there are sadly no piggies) of fun.

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Good

  • Cute and vibrant art style that retains the games original charm
  • Great quality of life updates
  • Endless game play with plenty of challenge
  • Play at your own pace and plenty to discover
  • Interesting characters and diversity
  • Freedom of choice with equality options

Bad

  • NPCs and livestock can be annoying to interact with on occasion due to overlapping hit boxes
  • No piggies
9

Bloody Ripper

When Eleanore isn’t trying to figure out how the Earth works she’s trying to pay off her loan in Animal Crossing, complete her Pokedex or finishing one more RPG or platformer. She is a lover of great characters, cute or creative art styles and awesome game soundtracks.
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