Returning to its roots
In the best pieces of media there’s always that one scene where the main character has to dig deep and realize who they truly are. Where they come from. What makes them happy in life. The character sits and extrapolates all of these ideas while slowly realizing, “yeah that girl I was friends with in high school might be the love of my life” or “my accounting job sucks and I really miss working at the cafe in my small hometown.”
This is what Story of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town represents for the franchise. It has the confidence to step back into the comfort we expect from the series while also challenging itself in weird ways.The past decade Natsume has held an iron grip on the IP and been tarnishing the name of the series with lackluster releases. At the same time, XSEED and Marvelous hold the actual game IP under the series name Story of Seasons. It’s so confusing but important.
This year Marvelous and XSEED decided that it was time to take back the reins, with a remake titled Story of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town which takes a beloved entry in the series and makes it new and engaging to current audiences. While the farming sim/life sim genre is very niche it’s still popular in today’s climate. Stardew Valley is a direct mutation from the original Friends of Mineral Town and that game sold millions of copies. But what is stopping fans of Stardew from hopping over to the Story of Seasons FoMT? Nothing. If you’re a fan of Stardew, or literally any farming game, I think you’ll probably love this. It’s that hit you’ve been trying to find for the last five years. That infinite high of harvesting turnips in the spring and milking a cow every day while your woodland spirit friends feed your chickens when you’re too busy giving wild grapes to the woman of your dreams.
Since the genre is so rare and hardly well executed it feels like fans, myself included, are just fine with glossing over actual flaws with these games. And I’ll admit my time farming was filled with justifications of why there’s a lack of polish. Like, “why are the footsteps way too loud? Why doesn’t the music play when it rains? Why does the text look like comic sans and sometimes it only takes up 30% of the screen real estate? Why when you use your watering can does it sound like a car is going by in the background of the audio recording?” These are all baffling and weird things, but you know what? I think it adds to the charm. The sum of the negatives don’t outweigh the positives.
Friends of Mineral Town is bursting at the seams with soft chibi charm that is accented with quality of life changes I’ve been wanting for a decade or more in the series. Example: Starting with five tool slots and a bag that can carry ten items is a very good change as compared to the original where you can only carry two tools and three items. The developers added different types of cows, as well as coffee, fruit and strawberries, which give you those flavored milks respectively, and a new animal: a long haired rabbit so you can get wool a lot quicker and cheaper than buying a sheep to shear. Every product you make, be it from an animal or from your grown produce, all have star ratings now which denote how good something is. This gives the game a lot more longevity than ever before! You have upgrade paths to start working towards and the experience doesn’t get stale after one calendar year in game. There’s always something to improve on now besides leveling up your tools.
That’s where another QOL improvement takes place. Leveling up your tools is done the same way as it was in the original but this time they come a lot quicker and you can check a menu to see how far you need to go for that next tool upgrade. Crafting new tools, like the shears or milker at the blacksmith, will allow you to make a profit off the new cute animals you have coming into your farm. You can get a handful of different animals for pets like a capybara, penguin, cat and different breeds of doggo like the shiba. All of the character portraits have been updated and they all come with their expected charm from the original too which makes them cuter and makes me want to marry every single one of them, no matter who. (You can marry anyone if they’re eligible bachelors or bachelorettes.)
I know these changes might sound like small things to a person who hasn’t played the original or been a fan of the series but they’re huge to me and I hope to other fans as well. While the game might not be the most polished in some aspects it makes up for it by being really polished in the important ones. The grind to have a beautiful profitable farm with cute animals and a cute wife or husband is real and still keeps me up late at night. Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons has always been a comfort game of mine and I’m very glad to have a new and improved one to come back to every year when I get the itch.
This review is based on a code sent to SideQuesting from the publisher.