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  • Writer's pictureFernando Da Costa

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town - Review | The Return to a Classic

By: Fernando DaCosta

Developer and Publisher: XSeed Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, Price: $49.99 The year was 2003. Marvelous and Natsume joined forces to create a certain title. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town plowed on to GameBoy Advance. I initially missed the hype train. Though, it’s quite difficult not to hear of its following. This is arguably - if not the best - entry into the illustrious franchise. A farming simulator that primarily focuses on the mundane chores of life. Tending animals, harvesting crops, and forming bonds. In a flurry of witchcraft, these are actually all fun to do. Now, 17 years later, it’s coming to a new generation. It has also been dressed up. Updated visuals, added content, new love interests, and streamlined systems. This is - without a doubt - the definitive way to enjoy a classic. And it’s a project lathered in passion. The question now is this; does it hold up. Well, grab your hoe and spread your seeds. We’re about to embark on a quest for an answer. A huge thank you to XSeed for trusting me with a review code.

Our story begins as you arrive to Mineral Town. You’ll be taking over your grand-pappies farm. Before you begin though, you’ll need to assign a gender. It’s standard fare to be sure, but it needed pointing to. Male or Female, your romance options remain intact. In our divisive world, it’s nice to see this is Pro-LGBTQ+. It feels like most try to shy away from this topic. They succumb to societal norms, forcing relationships that conflict with orientation. I can’t help but believe doing it like that takes from immersion. So, this inclusive approach is welcomed. It also lets all manner of people live vicariously through their avatar. While I’m not a part of the community, I know many that are, and this makes me happy for them.  Your goal in Friends of Mineral Town is to build a life. As the new kid on the block, you’ll need to introduce yourself. You’ll meet all manners of individuals. A girl that’s writing a novel. A blacksmith, or an innkeeper with a cute daughter. Then eventually, you’ll find those with a heart by their name. These indicate a romantic option. To gain their everlasting love, you must shower them in gifts. Be aware while doing so as each has their own likes and dislikes. I loved this feature. It injected a sense of realism to these polygons. My only gripe is as someone with a goldfish memory, I often forgot who enjoyed what. Would’ve been nice to have an in-game indication of this once discovered. One way this small issue could be addressed is by adding the info to the profile for each resident. As it stands, it only shows a tiny blurb about them, so I think it would’ve been the perfect place to put it.

The sound design has to be applauded. No, it deserves a standing ovation. Bluntly put, it’s bloody brilliant. The realistic nature sounds are belíssimo. From how the wind roared during storms, to water droplets crashing against the ground. If you’re a veteran, a commonality between farming sims is a stress-free experience. While crops thirst and animals hungered, I never felt pressured. Having authentic certainly nature sounds added to that tranquility. My personal favorite was the rain. It’s so soothing. As someone that sleeps to recordings, I felt peaceful. The music is pretty great too. It’s quirky and cheerful, perfectly complimenting the colorful aesthetic of Mineral Town. The gentle guitar and the harmonizing harmonica gives it that country life feel. I highly recommend headphones for that little extra oomph. This is - in my opinion - amazing all around. Furthermore, when I hear a track and am reminded of a title known for its score, that’s when you know. That’s when it slaps you; this is special. This piece occurs in the Secret Forest. It played one winter evening. The game in question is Secret of Mana.

Now, I never owned a Gameboy Advance. So, I wasn’t able to sink my teeth into the original. As such, I had to look up some gameplay for an idea of what it was like. Improvements were made;

  • The dialogue has gotten a complete refresh. The localization team just hit it out of the park. It all felt natural, and I was never bothered by the sporadic errors. It never detracted from the charm. Speaking of, the newly added characters are adorable. Brandon is a sculptor with a mysterious vibe. He’s quiet, and barely gives an inch. Then there’s Jennifer. She’s articulate and a spiritual girl that’s in touch with nature.

  • You’ll no longer need to shove your animals outdoors. By simply ringing a bell, they’ll march out.  

  • Pets are also no longer limited to dogs. Cat lovers rejoice as representation is here. As an extra treat, you can own a penguin. I’m naming mine Prinny and feeding it sardines, Cool!  

  • The most important difference is bigger inventory. By default, you’ll have 4 spaces for tools, with 8 being for items. As you progress, you can increase that. 4 becomes 12, while 8 becomes 24.

  • I’ve heard there are other additions and removals. I don’t feel comfortable saying what is and what isn’t though. I’ve not too sure myself. Therefore, I wouldn’t be very confident pointing any out. 

To accompany that sublime soundtrack, Friends of Mineral Town has good looking graphical fidelity. I’ve got to say, it’s darn cute. It’s not a powerhouse, and the chibi models won’t appeal to everyone. I do believe it‘s the natural evolution of its GBA counterpart though. It also has an insane level of attention. Characters are detailed, and objects are well crafted. Every nook and cranny is accounted for. A lot of work went into meticulously crafting the furniture, clocks, and even utensils. However, for every gorgeous model, you’ll find muddy soil. The weeds look awful. The environments could have also been dolled up with more color. As it stands, it’s a mismatch of gorgeous and bland.  Another gripe is those days when you’re stuck indoors. At random points, a storm will ravage the area. You’ll be stuck inside. The problem is that there’s not much to do. Granted, once you’ve upgraded your home once, you’ll unlock the kitchen. I’m sure if you’re diligent in your planning, you can cook. I never managed it myself. All I was relegated to was waking up, only to return to bed. I will say, however, that I found this was perfect to recover from exhaustion. Days will zoom by quickly. Unless you upgrade tools with materials found in the mines, you’ll be going well into the night fulfilling your chores. This causes your avatar to feel sluggish and in need of sleep. So perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise. 

On the subject of gifts, anything can be given. A flower, milk you’ve gotten from your cow, or even your chicken’s egg. After a couple successful exchanges with someone romanceable, you’ll trigger a heart event. These increase your bond. It’ll also change the color of that little heart beside their name. I would have, however, liked to not have it be random. I never found out what exactly triggered it. There were times I’d shower a girl with countless gifts but got nothing. A minor complaint, but I feel a tweak would be beneficial. For those individuals with no heart to speak of, giving gifts will go to their friendship. The apple of my eye was the new girl; Jennifer. She had my attention from the first moment I saw her winter toque. Her sweetness is infectious, and her smile is warm. One fun moment with her was when she invited herself to my home. She’d then act as co-host for a dinner gathering. A bit of a bold move, but I appreciate her assertiveness. It’s no secret; if you’ve read this tangent, you’ve concluded I’m enamored. I am, but I did discover a few more hiccups. I didn’t enjoy the obtuse nature of Power Berries. These increase your default amount of stamina. While I will conceit that some are obvious - earned in a cooking contest for example. I had to stumble on others. That was only due to my obsessive compulsion with looking everywhere too. The same can be said about certain jewels. You’ll find these scattered about. It’s worth searching for as they hide a secret, but boy is it not easy.  I highly suggest checking every inch of the map. Examine everything, even if you feel it’ll garner nothing. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on content. I do wish there were some sort of hints given. Unless I missed it, I found none. The same can be said with speaking to every resident. Not only do you want to work on your relationship, but you’ll learn things like recipes. Something that also comes from watching a cooking show. This’ll be handy for those stormy days I mentioned earlier. 

In summary, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town not only holds up, but it’ll stand amongst the best. The visuals fit perfectly with the presentation. The music and ambiance is fantastic. Characters are utterly charming, and it’s obvious that the localization was taken serious. A lot of love and attention went into bringing this classic back, and they nailed it. There’s just so much to do. You can explore mines that span a hundred floors. It does get a bit tedious though. You’re breaking rocks over and over. You’re also barred from using your better tools, which reminds me. If you use them enough, you’ll level up and be able to upgrade to a stronger variation. With each one, it’ll be easier to complete your chores. Till several squares at once, water many simultaneously, etc.  As you enter the second year, that’s when the game stretches out. You’ll be able to upgrade soil quality. This’ll grant you the chance to harvest 5-star crops. These will be used to create delicious and exquisite dishes. You’ll also be able to upgrade your tools to the ultimate form.  I’m confident veterans will be happy, while new comers become fans. It’s leisurely fun, and quite easy to figure out micromanagement.  I wholeheartedly recommend Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. Now if you’ll excuse me, my cow is pregnant and she’ll give birth any minute now. 

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