- Developer: Marvelous
- Publisher: Marvelous
- Release Date: 7/14/20
- Price: £42.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by Marvelous
Introducing – Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Switch Review
“You sure play that thing a lot.”
It’s 2005, and my dad sees me glued to my scratched-up Game Boy Advance SP for the umpteenth hour. I’m playing Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town, a game that would remain my go-to GBA title between Pokémon releases. Little did I know at the time that it would get such a loving remake.
As we revisit Mineral Town on the Switch, we can immediately see dramatic changes outside of the 3D art style and redrawn character portraits; longtime fans will notice that each change is in the interest of improving the player experience in some way, and the core experience remains as it was.
Put on your overalls
Two big changes jump out immediately while setting up a new game:
First, we can choose between two male and two female villager types, each with three skin tones. It’s odd that both of the male sprite types have brown hair, and annoying that the skin tones are all pretty fair. No matter which sprite you choose, you can change into any standard outfit at your house’s mirror, and you can marry any other eligible character regardless of gender.
The second noticeable change is that players can opt into an Easy mode; it helps build friendship and money faster, and includes a pre-planted farm. It’s perfect for young players who need faster progress to stay hooked.
Once the game is a go, people who need additional help can find a ton of resources – not only in-game through books, but also via an external guide linked in the game’s main menu.
Holding down the farm
Fans of the farming simulator genre will be right at home from the start – this is a remake of a classic, after all.
Time ticks away while your character runs around outdoors tilling soil, planting crops, grooming animals (now including rabbits, alpacas, and flavored cows) and foraging on the mountain. Indoors, the clock stops while you build friendships with the townsfolk. Meanwhile, deep in the mines, time crawls much slower than usual. Because of this, each day in the game can vary in real-life length depending on which activities you engage in. The daily autosave does wonders when these days run together and you suddenly want to redo something (like the darn chicken fight!).
Farm work is taxing, but this remake removes all guesswork from the fatiguing process: players can track their mood and stamina down to the number with a handy gauge at the top of the screen. Replenishing it is once again a matter of stocking your kitchen and cooking up some meals, or using the time-consuming hot spring.
Putting farm work in the hands of the Nature Sprites also helps spare you a lot of time and stamina. Befriending these adorable little gumdrops allows you to play three minigames that boost their abilities to water plants, harvest crops, and take care of animals. Eventually, you can ask them to help you perform those tasks on the farm. Just pay them in grass, they love it. It’s fine.
Hot to trot
Getting around in Mineral Town is easier than ever. There’s a gridded guideline showing where seeds and actions will land in your field, which is especially helpful in the dark. The farm map shows exactly where your animals are, and which crops are planted where. Toggling tools is blessedly simple, letting players use the d-pad for switching tools, and the right joystick for selecting items to hold.
The use of “R” to autorun makes traveling a cinch. Plus, if running isn’t fast enough, the filly that players receive early-on will become a speedy stallion in a few months’ time. However, that horse no longer has a shipping bag on its saddle – a handy feature that was removed for this remake.
Speaking of the horse, it’s also a slight source of frustration, being bulky enough to block entire sidewalks or doorways when it stands just so. There were also times when my sprite would briefly get stuck inside of the horse and cows while interacting with them.
From farmer to charmer
Walking into an area at just the right time can trigger one of dozens of cutscenes with the townsfolk, depending on the day, time, and circumstance. Among them are Jennifer the nature lover and Brandon the quiet artist – new marriage candidates. They don’t blend in very well, but they’re interesting as you get to know them better.
As the heart by each marriage candidate’s portrait changes color, you’ll experience events with opportunities to boost their affection. Newly-added scenes have bachelors and bachelorettes each give the player a unique collectible to display at home. Now, there’s some incentive to be a flirt!
Also – yes, the “special” marriage candidates still exist, and I have to give the art team props for making Huang much less creepy than his predecessor, Won.
As for non-romantic villagers, there’s plenty of reason to want to be everybody’s best friend. Over the in-game years, these relationships afford you freebies, recipes, funny moments, as well as peeks at secret family hardships. Sadly, as before, even the most compelling townsfolk can feel a bit one-dimensional – and some of them are downright unimaginative. Kai is a free spirit, Marie likes books, Doctor is a doctor. Learning interesting tidbits about some of these more flat characters doesn’t necessarily make them more realistic.
Series veterans know that on the other side of the mountain is a little place called Forget-Me-Not Valley. Although it’s not accessible in this title, we do see some familiar faces from there, including Van the traveling salesman. Once he rolls into town, he’ll offer weekly deals, and a monthly pet shop featuring everything from a papillon to a penguin.
Stronger with the seasons
If we strip away the history and nostalgia attached to Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, we’re looking at a well-conceived, addicting simulation game. Although the town can feel small and stale at times, it offers dozens of hours of relaxation and discovery to those who can get lost in it.
If I look at this with my fan-goggles on, I can say that this faithful remake is nearly everything you could want to squeeze out of the original formula. It adds some extra elements like new sprites, animals, cutscenes, and marriage candidates, while also smoothing out gameplay.
While keeping this game as a true remake may have held it back from some more out-of-the-box additions, it was also safe – not so safe as to be boring -but simply smoothing over anything that was outdated or missing. There’s certainly a reason that the original remains my go-to GBA time sucker after fifteen years. As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- Quality-of-life improvements galore
- Charming cutscenes
- Longevity and replayability
- Minor animal glitches
- Formula, characters can get stale
The laid-back farming lifestyle has never been simpler thanks to welcome quality-of-life improvements. New content compliments this faithful remake without overshadowing it.