Running away to a remote town and maintaining a farm might not be a viable option for you at the moment, but if it’s something you’ve ever considered doing then Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is here for you.
This self-proclaimed “expanded remake,” developed and published by XSEED Games and Marvelous USA, releases on Nintendo Switch and Steam on July 14th, 2020. For the purposes of this review, we’ll be looking at the game on Nintendo Switch. But does this remake on a well-loved classic expand continue to create the same magical experience as before?
The Not-So-Boring Life On the Farm
In Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town things start the same as usual for this series of games: your character begins their new life on their late grandfather’s empty farm in a small town. It is their job to bring the farm back to life by growing crops and raising livestock. But as the days go on and the seasons change there’s a lot more to discover than just waking up and tending to your farm each day.
One of the beauties of Friends of Mineral Town is the ability to unlock as much of the story as you’d like, and have time in between for tending to your farm and exploring a nearby mine. The town itself is filled with residents that you can meet, learn more about, and eventually form relationships with. There are a lot of characters from the previous version of this game but there have been a few new ones added as well. This opens the opportunity for new storylines to explore.
The story is well-laid out…if you’re willing to look for it. There are some elements of story that are given to you no matter what, specifically those attached to milestones based on time or accomplishments within the game. But the larger plot at hand – the stories of everyone in the town – is yours to discover as much or as little of as you want.
It could be entirely possible to play through Friends of Mineral Town and not get much more than the basic story, but when you’re willing to look a little deeper you’ll be rewarded greatly. I found a cast a characters that I cared for in Mineral Town and constantly wanted to hear more about. Their stories were well-written and made for the interesting and enjoyable experience that Story of Seasons games are known for. I was never bored learning more about any single member of Mineral Town, even the ones who talk a bit too much.
Throughout the years on the farm, there are plenty of events to enjoy that develop the story further as well. Friends of Mineral Town does a great job of telling many stories directly to you (again, if you seek them out) or subtly through small details that you piece together over time. Whether it’s just by checking out someone’s house, talking to them at a festival, or becoming friends with them, there’s always more to uncover.
The Easy Life
After so many games with a similar style have been released, including the original version of Friends of Mineral Town, it would be expected that gameplay and controls have been worked out. While this was really only my second game from this series, it was clear that major improvements have been made over the years to create a seamless gameplay experience.
Navigating your way around the farm comes easily. As you gain the ability to upgrade tools you find that you can do even more and with more efficiency. There were very few moments I was wishing for quality of life changes that didn’t appear later on. However, there were a few times I thought there might be a more efficient approach to some of the daily tasks such as watering crops. This, admittedly, can be alleviated once you are married and have another set of hands to help on the farm.
Marriage, and later starting a family, is one of the main goalposts of the game. In Friends of Mineral Town players have the opportunity to marry whoever they want, regardless of their character’s gender. This was a welcome change for many fans of the series that have been long-awaiting this option. It also opens a wider range of possibilities as far as gameplay and outcomes!
Playing Friends of Mineral Town just feels good, being the well-constructed experience that it is. Almost none of the movements feel awkward, the menus are well-constructed and, on the whole, the game was incredibly accessible for me to play. It was certainly a preferable experience in handheld mode but could be enjoyed on a larger screen as well.
Fresh, New Styles
The art of Friends of Mineral Town gives new life to the original title its based off of. Most of the time this is to the game’s benefit, such as with the 2D models designed for speaking animations. However, at times, the 3D style of the rest of the game can toe the line between fresh and cute or childish.
At the end of the day, this is a game created for a wide range of ages. The art style appeals to new and returning older fans as well as a younger audience experiencing these games for the first time.
As far as music goes, the soundtrack is a great backdrop for your journey over the years on the farm. It’s a fairly simple soundtrack, but what’s there is enjoyable. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety here and there, but overall it’s still some great music to pair with the daily activities on the farm and in town.
An Enjoyable Exploration
RPGs and life simulators such as Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town can run the risk of becoming stale, frustratingly boring, or just not fun. But none of these are ever the case with this game. Diving into the world surrounding Mineral Town will make the hours pass quicker than you thought possible.
The gameplay feels well-polished and each character will have you wanting to learn more about them. The very few hiccups I encountered as far as gameplay goes were nothing to keep me from enjoying the game immensely. It would be great to have just a few more quality of life changes, sure, but as far as what’s already in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, you can expect on the most enjoyable RPGs I’ve ever encountered. If ever there were a time to get away to a farm and lost in the mines, it’s now, and with a game like Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town you might just find exactly the escape you need.
Review copy provided by XSEED Games for Nintendo Switch. Screenshots captured by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of XSEED Games.