In 2003, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town made its successful debut on the GameBoy Advance. With the fate of the series shrouded in uncertainty after disagreements between its publishers, any hopes for a remake had long disappeared. Seventeen years later, the classic farming simulator has, against all odds, been revamped for the Nintendo Switch as a Story of Seasons title. Can an old game make a comeback on a new system?
Our protagonist has fond memories of their grandfather’s farm in Mineral Town. Visiting was the highlight of every childhood summer. Chasing chickens, riding (and falling off of) cows, and relaxing under the shade of a giant tree became something of a tradition, and you cherished every minute of it.
But that was years ago, and you are no longer a child. Your grandfather has since passed away, and without him to care for it, the thriving farmland that defined your early years has fallen into disrepair. When the Mayor of Mineral Town invites you to take over the family farm and restore it to its former glory, you gratefully accept.
Along the way, you’ll discover that there’s more to living in Mineral Town than harvesting tomatoes and herding cattle. Story of Seasons is more than just a farming simulator, and you’ll find plenty to do off your ranch. Attend festivals, adopt pets, fall in love, and even start your own family!
Life on the Farm
You might live on a ranch, but you don’t necessarily start out as a farmer. Your barn is empty, your fields are barren, and your tools are worn. It’ll take some grit and determination to earn your right to wear those overalls.
Luckily, Mineral Town has everything you need to get started. Crop seeds for every season are sold in bulk at the General Store. Keep in mind that crops are seasonal, and will wilt if they’re not harvested before the season they grow in is over. This means that careful planning is required to harvest crops with slow growth rates, and timing is essential to ensuring you get the most out of your plants. Upgrading your tools at the local blacksmith will make growing and yielding your crops easier.
Neighboring farms sell a variety of livestock — including cows, sheep, alpaca, chickens, and rabbits — along with everything you’ll need to care for them. Feeding your animals and showing them affection every day will increase the quality of their produce, and make them more likely to take home the top prize at festivals!
As exciting as running a farm may sound, not everything can be accomplished in one day. You’ll have to contend with stamina and fatigue, and while they’re simple to manage, they can make the game a lot more difficult if not dealt with appropriately. Eating, sleeping, and taking a dip in the hot springs will improve your stamina, while ensuring you get enough sleep will improve your fatigue.
Of course, not everyone is sold on living a farmer’s life. There are ways to make an income in Mineral Town without slaving away under the hot sun. That’s where mining comes in handy. Mining is a very important feature in the game, and it’s not only because selling gems can make you rich.
There are two mines in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. Spring Mine is accessible all year, and can be used to dig up minerals necessary for upgrading your tools. The mine at the middle of the lake on Mother’s Hill can only be reached during winter, when the lake freezes over and creates a traversable path. This mine is home to a wide variety of jewels, which can be sold for a considerable sum or used to make jewelry.
The deeper you explore into either mine, the greater the possibility you’ll find rare gems and minerals. You’ll need to use your hoe to reveal hidden stairways, which consumes your stamina. To get to the deepest levels, you’ll need to make sure that you pack some food and herbs along with you. Otherwise, dropping into a pitfall can mark the end of your journey; prompting you to collapse and wake up at the doctor’s office.
Bachelors and Bachelorettes
Mineral Town is home to a host of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that would love nothing more than to settle down with you on your farm — that is, if you can impress them. With the addition of two new suitors, the potential for romance has never been riper! In all, you’ll have your pick between nine bachelors and seven bachelorettes.
Winning over potential lovers can be done by talking to them frequently and gifting them their favorite items. Be careful, though, because giving them an item they dislike won’t bode well for your budding relationship.
As you earn their affections, they’ll begin to trust you more. Eventually, you’ll trigger cinematic heart events for the suitor you grow close with, and these events will teach you a little more about who they are. Raising their heart level will also unlock new everyday dialogue, which also becomes more intimate over time. Unfortunately, they’ll only rotate between the same two phrases until you reach the next heart level, which can get repetitive and somewhat frustrating.
Thankfully, who you choose to romance isn’t limited by your gender — and if none of the bachelors or bachelorettes strike your fancy, you don’t have to get married at all! Whether you settle down and start a family or dedicate your life to your farm is entirely your decision.
Festivals are special events that are usually held in the town’s plaza to mark occasions. Your neighbours will usually speak about an upcoming event a day or two before it happens, but it’ll also be penned into your calendar if you need a reminder.
While they aren’t as interactive as festivals in games like Rune Factory 4 or Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you can still participate in them. Going to a festival will increase your friendship level with the villagers involved and can also occasionally raise your heart level with participating bachelors and bachelorettes. The degree to which you can partake in these festivals varies. Some competitive festivals, like the Fetch Fest, will allow you to participate in minigames that determine your ranking. Others aren’t very interactive, but are fun to attend nonetheless.
There isn’t a lot of it, but customization has markedly improved from previous titles. Rather than being assigned a male or female protagonist, you’ll have the option to choose between four people — two male and two female. The color of your eyes, hair, can’t be changed, which can be disappointing for players who are used to the freedom of games like New Horizons and Pokemon Sword.
While you can’t unlock any new clothes, you’ll have a small variety available from the beginning of the game. All you’ll need to do to access your wardrobe is look in the mirror. It isn’t much, but at least you don’t have to wear the same grungy overalls every day.
Soundtrack and Music
The majority of the music and sounds featured in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town have been enhanced, and will bring a sense of familiarity and nostalgia to returning players. If you haven’t played the original, you’re still in for a treat — the entire soundtrack has been reworked to take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s audio capabilities, and every tune adds tremendously to the game’s leisurely ambience.
The adorable, cartoonish graphics make Mineral Town a pleasure to explore. From the mines to the mountaintops, the majority of the town has been faithfully remade for the Nintendo Switch. Your surroundings are always clear and polished; your screen becomes dim when nighttime hits if you’re playing in handheld mode and you can occasionally get stuck in place when walking behind a villager, but those are the most pressing issues you’ll encounter during your gameplay.
As far as performance goes, the Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town runs well; glaring glitches weren’t present during this playthrough, and the game did not slow down, freeze, or crash.
You’ll find that navigating your way through Mineral Town is simple, thanks to its intuitive controls. One major improvement from its predecessor is your ability to water all crops that are in a square or rectangular formation, rather than just the ones at the ends.
The only controls that aren’t very intuitive are the ones that allow you to navigate the items in your knapsack. Unless you have an empty slot available, there is no way for you to put an item back inside. If you want to have your hands free, you’ll either have to get rid of what you’re holding or toss another item from your knapsack. While it’s inconvenient, you will eventually have the option to purchase a larger knapsack — and when that offer comes, you’ll want to take it!
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a charming life simulator that will delight longtime Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons players, and give newcomers a sense of why it’s so cherished by its fanbase. A worthy remake of a classic game, anyone who enjoys life simulators, dating simulators, and fawning over cute animals will want to check this game out.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town gets an 8 out of 10.