When I started playing Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town I wasn’t sure what to expect. With no Harvest Moon experience I was keen to check the series out, but it wasn’t until my wife looked over my shoulder recognising it and saying “If you go down there there and throw something in that river a fairy appears right?” that I discovered it is a remake of a Game Boy Advance classic.
I should research more. The advantage to this complete lack of knowledge is I can truly provide an insight into tackling this franchise for the first time. I can honestly say it is a cracking place to start.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town has you design a character and drops you into a town where you are given your grandfather’s farm. Unfortunately, it is in a bit of a state with a whole lot of weeds to pull and some rocks and old stumps to dispose of. Given the current property market though, this isn’t a big ask for a free farm.
The story from here is pretty light. There is a half tutorial as the game opens more activities for you, but it is about you making an awesome farm, and building your relationships with townsfolk by chatting or giving them gifts. If you do enough greasing you can take someone as your spouse.
This simple premise is all you need as it is one of those classic farming games that with a day night cycle absolutely should leave you to your freedom. Early on with some of the tutorials I got annoyed as I wanted to be set loose to do my chores. To be fair they aren’t heavy tutorials consisting of a few pages and a few things being locked off, but I was being impatient.
You make heaps of money by purchasing and breeding animals, as well as collecting their byproducts such as milk, wool, or eggs all while growing a lot of plants in your field. The massive field that starts off being in a bit of a state, has you hoeing land, planting seeds, and watering daily to get some sweet crops. The crops you can grow depends on the season, and you get a crop reset regularly as seasons change, finished by an eventual winter snow that kills the lot.
To upgrade your tools you need to use them to get their level up, and then collect the right minerals to get them their sweet upgrades. This mineral collection is extremely fun and frustrating as you go into a small randomly generated dungeon crawling style minigame. You break rocks hoping to get minerals, and then have to hoe the ground to find the ladder to the next level. The deeper you go, the better the rocks you find.
Each day you start with a certain amount of energy. Run out of it and your character gets dozy and eventually passes out. Fortunately you can top your energy up using food, so early on I spent a lot of in game days finding and harvesting food so I could get deeper into the mines. This also has you weighing up whether you load up your crops and use heaps of energy on watering them, or spend a day digging deep in the mind but neglecting your other duties a bit.
The game has been given a simple but effective art style. It has had a big upgrade from it’s pixel art origins, which is also gorgeous. By being simple it lets you focus on the tasks at hand and lets things you can interact with pop out on the screen.
The whole experience I felt is akin to Minecraft and Animal Crossing. I spent a lot of time doing little, and sometimes that is exactly what I want from a game as it can be a satisfying gameplay loop. This was one of those times.