STAFF REVIEW of STORY OF SEASONS: Friends of Mineral Town (Xbox One)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

STORY OF SEASONS: Friends of Mineral Town Box art I still have my plushy animal pre-order bonuses from the old classic Harvest Moon games, as I’ve bought quite a few in the series in the past, but it’s been at least two or three console generations since I’ve been following the Harvest Moon series, a popular and adorable farming game. Turns out I’ve seemed to have missed a lot in the last decade or so, as Harvest Moon is still around, but the original creators lost the rights to the name which spawned the Story of Seasons series. While both titles exist, essentially the original Harvest Moon developers now create the Story of Season games, which is basically just another version of Harvest Moon from the veteran developers.

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town was one of the more popular games in the series for GameBoy Advance, and as you may have guessed from its title, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is essentially a full 3D remake/remaster that follows the same storyline and gameplay, albeit with a few quality of life improvements and some tweaks here and there. Get ready to harvest some crops, go mining, upgrade tools, make friends and possibly find a love interest in this addictive farming life simulator.

When you were a young child you would visit your grandfather’s farm during the Summer, but like most of us, life happens and we grow up in the big city, forgetting what the country life was like. You remember helping on the farm, tending to the livestock, helping with the crops, making friends and simply enjoying the nature. Years have passed since those days and unfortunately your grandfather has passed, so you get an invite to come back to the countryside as the farm has been left to you in his will. So you roll up your sleeves and aim to restore the family farm back to its former glory, as the farm has not been kempt in many years. After about a year of in-game passing will show you all it has to offer, but you can play indefinitely should you want to continue the farm life.

As you return back to the countryside, you’ll need to restore your family farm, but it’s going to take a lot of work. You only begin with basic tools, so caring for the crops and livestock are going to be quite a chore in the beginning, as there are only so many hours in the day and you will become tired the more you do. You’ll begin with just some simple turnips, eventually able to purchase seeds for a number of different crops based on which season you’re in. These crops once harvested can be used to sell or cook with, but it takes a lot of time and effort to go from seeds to produce; no one said the farm life was going to be easy.

Your farm is of decent size, so you can also raise livestock as well should you want something different. Cows, chickens, rabbits, alpacas and sheep are just a few of the options you have to raise on the farm. There are even some special types of cows that I had to have on my farm due to how adorable they were.

If you’ve played the original Friends of Mineral town from many years ago and put quite a few hours into it, everything will feel familiar including some recognizable friendly faces. Some names and minor details have changed here and there, but it’s vastly the same experience when you head into town to visit your neighbors still living where you remember them all those years ago. Many familiar faces return virtually unchanged aside from updated visuals and new dialogue. There are even some new faces to meet, so even the most veteran players will have something new to discover. If you want even more to strive towards, there are even a handful of different people in the town that are eligible for a romantic relationship should you want to find that special someone in town.

There’s plenty else to do if you don’t want to dedicate every waking moment to tending your fields, such as fishing, exploring a mine, relaxing in a hot spring, talking to neighbors in town, attending events at special times of the year, cook some meals, hang at the beach and more. You’re not forced to play in one particular matter, so you’re free to do whatever you like each day you wake up, just keep in mind you have a set amount of stamina and time in a day to get your chores done should you want to.

Farming is what I spent much of my time with in the beginning, thinking that was going to be the most efficient way to earn money so that I could purchase tools and house upgrades. I started with some basic turnips, but there’s a lot of work that goes into a farm than you might not initially expect. First you need to till the soil on your land, indicated by squares on a grid within your land. Once tilled you can then place seeds of your choosing, but make sure they are crops that grow in the correct season that you’re currently in. Next, any seeds need to be watered, so if it’s not raining that day, you’ll need to get your trusty watering can, fill it from the pond nearby and water every tile that you planted seeds. Next is to simply wait a number of days, depending on the crop you chose. Each day the seeds need to be watered though, so make sure you don’t forget.

Once they’ve fully grown you can harvest them which can be used to sell for money or to have for ingredients to cook with. Different crops all grow at different intervals, some like turnips only grow once, whereas others like tomatoes and corn can yield multiple harvests before they need to be replanted. It takes a surprising amount of time and effort to have a successful farm, so make sure you don’t go too overboard planting at once, as every action also take stamina to perform.

Tilling land, planting and watering all take stamina, and if you have a huge crop to tend to, your whole day is going to be taken up simply handling these, as time progresses quite quickly. There’s a nearby hot spring where you can relax and slowly regain your stamina, but this takes a lot of time, so you’re constantly juggling time versus efficiency before it gets too late and dark to do any chores before bed. Your plot of land is quite large, and even after a year of in-game time gone by, I was only using maybe a quarter of it, as it simply becomes quite time consuming after a certain point even with the tool upgrades.

Maybe you don’t want to always commit to such a tedious chore, so instead you might want to go to the nearby cave to mine for some ore. Ore like copper, silver, gold and more will be needed to upgrade your tools, so you’ll need to invest some time here at some point. Better tool tiers make your farming duties much easier, going from only watering or tilling one tile at a time to much larger grids at once. Upgrading your axe and hammer also allow you to chop and smash the larger logs and boulders on and around your farm for building materials to upgrade your home, so you’ll always want to upgrade your tools whenever possible.

To do so though you’ll need to bring your tools and the required ore to the local store. Pay a fee and hand over the tool and you’ll get it back in a day or two depending on the tier of upgrade. This may require a little pre-planning though, as each shop in town is only open at certain times of day, and even closed on certain days as well. Everyone needs a weekend at some point right? Eventually you’ll know store hours and closed days are off by heart, but you’ll need to reference the town map often in the beginning, planning your day around a different chore possibly.

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is adorably cute just like the original game, but it does feel a bit dated at times, even from simple things like switching tools that require a bunch of D-Pad presses. Even though many mechanics have been updated and modernized, it’s still quite a time commitment to get your farm back to its former glory. While the $49.99 CAD asking price seems a little steep, I’ve had hours pass by simply because I wanted to work on my farm ‘one more day’ before calling it for the night, constantly being distracted by one task or another.

**STORY OF SEASONS: Friends of Mineral Town was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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