I’ve mentioned multiple times in my writing about my love for Harvest Moon—or at least, what Harvest Moon used to be—and while I may have said Magical Melody was the last truly good one that I’d played, no Harvest Moon has stayed with me like Friends of Mineral Town.
The original Friends of Mineral Town on the Gameboy Advance was a game I played more than any game I’ve played in my life; present included. It essentially took Harvest Moon 64—which is arguably the best Harvest Moon in the franchise—and condensed it into a pocket-sized package that was big on content.
So imagine my delight when Story of Seasons—the true heir to the Harvest Moon legacy—announced a modern remake of Friends of Mineral Town; my heart swelled with nostalgic excitement, and continues to every moment I’m playing it.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, follows the same story as the original, with some minor differences. Rather than being a boy or girl who finds a farm while vacationing in the country; now the farm belonged to your late grandfather—following in traditional, classic Harvest Moon fashion—and upon visiting it after his passing, memories of the wonderful times in Mineral Town begin to flood back, and you take it upon yourself to fix up the farm, which has fallen into disrepair.
And I have to admit, I kind of love how Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town connects the player to the story in a kind-of meta way; maintaining the story of the original, while also giving fans who loved and grew up with the original a little nostalgic nod.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is as perfect a recreation of the original as you can imagine. Everything from the gameplay, to the familiar setting, the music, and even the sound effects have been updated and lovingly preserved. Unlike the last Story of Seasons I played, which streamlined a lot of the farming gameplay, Friends of Mineral Town returns to the series core fundamentals of gameplay and improves upon them by implementing many quality of life improvements. Small things like being able to see your stamina, quick access to your inventories, the ability to move through crop space—which allows for more crops to be planted in the field rather than spacing them in the classic eight square U shape any Harvest Moon vet is familiar with—or, similarly to Stardew Valley, being able to see character’s relationship levels does a lot to bring Friends of Mineral Town into the modern age.
But it isn’t just a simple remake; there’s a veritable plethora of new content that adds so much more to the original experience. For starters, there’s definitely a lot more character events than I remember from the original, breathing so much more life into the narrative of the game, and providing added incentive to talk to, and befriend each character; consistently rewarding you with these cute little moments.
Furthermore, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, not only includes all the original townsfolk, but adds two new characters: a free spirit flower child named Jennifer, and a reserved artistE—and no that’s not a typo, it literally says, “with a capital E,” in his in-game bio—named Brandon. In addition to the characters, Friends of Mineral Town also adds rabbits and Alpacas as animals you can care for.
But the biggest addition is the inclusion of same-sex marriage options. Binary sexuality options is something that has been a bit of an archaic component of Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons games, especially as they moved into the 2010’s, so it’s genuinely heartwarming to see a mainline game in this storied franchise finally being inclusive to EVERYONE.
The game’s visual style resembles that of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, using a chibi aesthetic for character models, while the environments have a sort of cartoonish style that goes well with the more cute look. Character portraits have been updated and redesigned from their originals, and each one is FREAKING adorable. Honestly, there isn’t a single character, who upon seeing, I didn’t scream, “you’re so freaking cute!”
Although, if there’s one aspect of the visuals that is definitely lacking, it’s in the animations. Much like the rest of the game, while they maintain their original style, they’ve been updated and given increased fluidity to fit with the modernization of the game. It creates this weird disconnect where animations feel like they move too quickly as if the game just wants to be done with them. I definitely feel like, combined with the chibi aesthetic, Friends of Mineral Town would have benefited from simple, one-two frame animations, further adding to the cartoonish style.
Other small visual hiccups like certain items that are static images instead of rendered 3D objects, animations that clip through the ground, or the delay from the watering can animation to the crops being watered; while not necessarily detracting from the game, definitely make it feel unpolished.
In the audio department, Story of Seasons does a fantastic job updating the music; it was genuinely delightful to start the game up and hear that old, familiar Spring theme—now with greater clarity, and much more dynamic instrumental arrangements. The sound effects, such as switching between tools, or too have been updated to maintain their original GBA sound, but in a cleaner, more modern sound, and strange choices from the original have been adjusted for a more audibly cohesive game.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is fantastic, both as a game on its own and as a loving homage to one of the most beloved entries in the series. Fans of the original will definitely be happy with how much has been kept in-tact and how much has been brought into the modern-day, and newcomers will find a lot to love in this new take on a classic farming sim.