After months of waiting in limbo, XSEED Games has finally announced the release date for the English version of the Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town remake! The newly imagined and reworked version of one of the most beloved games in the series is set to be released physically and digitally for the Nintendo Switch on July 10, 2020.
After the game was initially released in Japan on October 17, 2019, without as much of a peep as to when us English-speaking folks would be able to get our hands on it, XSEED’s announcement last month came as very welcome news to the community.
Change from Harvest Moon to Story of Seasons
Originally released for Game Boy Advance in 2003 under the series name ‘Harvest Moon,’ if you’ve since fallen off the bandwagon, you might be asking yourself, “what’s up with the name change?”
As I briefly mention in my blog post for my favourite Harvest Moon games of all time, Bokujō Monogatari (the original Japanese series name) underwent some localization changes in 2014 when video game publisher and developer Marvelous Inc. transferred localization duties from Natsume Inc. to their subsidiary, XSEED Games.
Company changes are pretty standard in video-game land, but what makes this situation so unique is that Natsume Inc. actually owns the trademark on the name Harvest Moon; and so, once Marvelous severed its ties with Natume, Bokujō Monogatari could no longer bear the name Harvest Moon in the West.
The last game in the series to have the original name was Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (2012), and since then, Bokujō Monogatari has been released under the name of Story of Seasons.
It’s also worth noting that Natsume Inc. is still releasing new games under the name Harvest Moon, but don’t be fooled: it’s not the Harvest Moon that you grew up with. From Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley and on, anything named ‘Harvest Moon’ is simply Natsume just trying things.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Remake Announced
Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about the Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town remake for the Nintendo Switch.
When the return to Mineral Town was first announced, I, like many of you, was so excited! I’d poured many hours into the original and had so many fond memories just trying to figure out the mechanics of the world. Who likes what? Who’s birthday’s when? What ingredients do I need to cook this? How much lumber do I need to upgrade that?
So, when the game was released in Japan without so much of a mention of when the English version would be available, my excitement waned because I just knew this would take a while.
And a while, it took.
With this, you might be wondering how I’m writing a review for a game that has yet to come out in my language. To make a long story short, I figured out that if I bought the Chinese version, I could change the language in the settings to Korean, which I’ve been learning on and off since 2015.
And so, sometime in February, I pretended I was from Hong Kong, bought a gift card with HKD on it, and downloaded Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town onto my Nintendo Switch.
Full disclosure, I am only on Summer, Year 2, so there are many things, most notably marriage, that I can’t speak on because yo girl isn’t married yet. But I think that I’ve put enough hours into the game to form a solid opinion.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Review – Same, Same, but Different
From the moment I loaded the game on my Nintendo Switch and the all-too–familiar music flooded the room, I was giddy. I had downloaded the game on a Tuesday morning right before an 8-hour workday, which was agony. Throughout the first week, I took any opportunity to slink away and get lost in Mineral Town, if only for 15 minutes.
If you know, you know: Story of Seasons isn’t a game that’s easy to play for 15-20 minutes at a time; it’s a game that consumes you and eats up hours of your life at a time. It’s something that you will sometimes have to plan your day around, and something that will truly make you question the passage of time.
And once the weekend hit, I was all in, baby.
Game graphics and character design
Naturally, the first thing that you’ll notice in the game is how it looks. It’s not a remake like one for Final Fantasy VII, where its fans were desperate for updated graphics; sure, we expected it to have an updated look than its original 2003 design, but I think it’s fair to say that great, realistic graphics has ever really been our MO.
That said, there are definitely stylistic choices made that you’ll either like or learn to get used to. Similar to Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, but a bit toned down, the designers were definitely going for a Chibi aesthetic. Wikipedia describes Chibi as “characters [that] are small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads to make them resemble children.”
I will say that it certainly fits the feel of the game and the gameplay, seeing as things don’t get too dark, especially in the remake. But similar to my qualms with Magical Melody, I don’t love Chibi. I never have and probably never will.
Luckily this is a pretty minor issue that melted away the more and more I played. I mean, how mad can you really stay at cute farm animals and villagers? Also, unlike Magical Melody, there’s a detailed character design that pops up every time you speak with anyone, so, as far as I’m concerned, its water under the bridge. There was a period when Harvest Moon games weren’t doing the dialogue character design thing and boooooy did I complain (to myself, quietly). I’m glad they brought it back.
Main character design changes
For the main character, you can now pick between four character models: the original boy, the girl in the Cute version, and two other alternatives. You can also choose between 3 skin tones: super white, pretty white, and kinda brown.
This is a bit frustrating in the era of customizable character designs, not only because they’re pretty static still, but because they really pay their darker fans dust. As a black woman, this is… annoying to say the least. I can justify wanting static character models, fine. But why even introduce skin tones if you’re going to cap it at the colour of sand? I have the same issues with Story of Seasons (2014).
Villager design changes
The villagers we know, love and have grown up with have also undergone a bit of a character redesign. For the most part, I think that they all look really good. Aside from Karen, and the loss of her E-Girl hair, I don’t have any big complaints. Most of the reimagining was pretty faithful to the original, but still provided something fresh.
I will say, that because I am semi-involved in the online discord around the series, I did see some push back regarding Gray and Doctor’s redesigns. I do think that they should have kept Gray’s cap from the original, but personally, these didn’t bother me at all. What bothers me more is that they didn’t change Doctor’s name to literally anything else.
Gameplay and Characters
Even though I was playing the game in Korean, aside from a few minor changes, the story, as you’d expect, is a beat for beat remake of the original. As I read through the text and translated it in my mind, I was pumped: in many ways, it was exactly as I remembered it.
There have been so many times when I’ve been chatting someone up that I remember having the exact same conversation more than 15 years ago. It really is a thrilling experience to play through one of your favourite childhood games in a new light. There are a few changes to look forward to, but this is Friends of Mineral Town through and through.
As far as changes go, one of the biggest you’ll notice is the addition of two new eligible marriage candidates: Jennifer and Brandon. Personally, they lack the luster of the other characters, maybe because the originals have had more time to incubate, but I found myself getting kind of bored with them. It’s very possible that I simply haven’t given them the chance, and I implore you to form your own decision, but they don’t really add anything new to me.
What’s also new, and something I’m sure a lot of people will be stoked about, is that same-sex marriage has been legalized in the Town of Mineral! That’s right: you can marry any of the 12 available candidates regardless of your gender.
As mentioned earlier, I’m not yet married in the game, so I can’t speak to married life in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. But if the many yellow and orange hearts I’ve acquired all around town are any indication, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been busy.
The courtship or ‘woo-ing’ process in the game is the exact same as it was in the original. Give them something they like enough days out of the year, and they’ll grow to love you. Of course, as always, it’s a very simplified approach to relationships, but it’s still fun. Leveraged by rewarding cutscenes or ‘Heart Events,’ it’s one of my favourite aspects of the game, and I’m happy to report that it’s remained pretty much untouched.
Farming and livestock
Farming, for the most part, is exactly as you remembered it. You buy seeds, you plant them, you water them, you watch them grow. You buy an animal, you care for and feed them, and they give you some sort of return.
That said, there have been a couple of changes made. First being, you can now purchase bunnies and alpacas. I am yet to buy either, so I don’t know what they provide you, but I know that they’re an option. You can also get ‘specialty’ cows in addition to your plain-Jane white and black ones. Brown cows produce coffee milk (though, I have a feeling this’ll be updated to chocolate in the English version), pink cows produce strawberry milk, and yellow cows produce… fruit milk?
Also, depending on how you got your animal, the amount of love it has for you is actually capped. So, for example, the chicken I bought can only love me up to 5 hearts, where the chicken that was born on my farm, can love me up to 7. I believe the most you can get is 10.
The only thing I don’t love about caring for livestock in the remake is that there aren’t really any consequences for forgetting to feed your animals. The only thing that happens now is they don’t produce. In the original, if you forgot to feed them, it’d result in them getting sick and needing medicine; if you didn’t provide it in time, they would ultimately bite the bullet. While no, it wasn’t fun dealing with dead animals, it did offer an extra layer of urgency.
Much like caring for your animals, taking care of crops didn’t see some dramatic change either. There are a few new crops you can grow, such as hot peppers, but for the most part, it is exactly what you’ve come to expect.
And now, instead of merely buying fertilizer, for the low, low, low price of 20,000Gs, Gotz will come in and improve the quality of your soil. You can do this a couple times, and little by little, the quality of your crops will begin to rise. You gotta make money to spend money, that’s the Mineral Town way!
Farm and tool upgrades
If you’re a long-time fan of the series, there should be no surprises here. To upgrade a tool, you’ll need to use said tool enough to get the option to upgrade, find the applicable material (copper, silver, gold, etc.), and ask Sabrina to upgrade. Updated from the original, there are a couple more advanced skills to unlock that require harder to find materials. You can definitely get by without them, but it’s a welcome change and an extra thing to work towards.
Upgrading buildings on your lot work the exact same way also. Collect lumber and stone from tree trunks and rocks, and when you’ve collected enough (and have enough money, of course), take it to Gotz. The only thing I’m finding a bit more difficult here compared to the original, is that the tree trunks and stones don’t always spawn in the same spots every day or in the same amounts. Finding enough stone for my second home redesign was a bit of a doozy, and I ended up spending an additional 10,000G buying them straight from Gotz.
One of the most disappointing changes in the redesign has to do with your kitchen. Back in the day, throwing random ingredients together in the hopes that you’ll find a working combination was so much fun! Of course, it resulted in many failed attempts, but when you actually figured something out on your own, it was so rewarding.
Unfortunately, you can no longer throw some shit together and wish for the best. In order to cook anything in your kitchen, you need the recipe for it. To get recipes, you’ll now need to befriend villagers who, as a “thank you,” will sometimes pass one over, or you can pick it up from the cooking show on TV.
Conclusion: Should you buy Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town?
If you’ve spent any time with the original and loved it, I feel pretty confident in saying that you’ll love revisiting Mineral Town. It still boasts the same charm, the festivals are just as fun, the music is slightly updated but still very pleasant, and the game is still such a joy to play. You’ll get lost in reacquainting yourself with old friends, and discovering the new aspects of town, some of which I didn’t mention in this review.
If you’ve never played this series before, I think that this would be a great place to start. Friends of Mineral Town is so beloved within the fandom because it’s one of the few Harvest Moon/ Story of Seasons games that gets so much of what is loved about this series right. It’s the most fun I’ve had with this series since Harvest Moon: Animal Parade.
If you’re looking for a relaxing game in a similar vein of Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, I recommend picking it up come release day.