✔️Charming story with engrossing characters. ✔️Relaxing gameplay that ensures a flexible pace. ✔️Simple upgrade, yet aesthetically pleasing.
❌Some areas are a little empty. ❌May limit itself to a certain niche with its simplistic presentation.
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It’s such an interesting divide when remastering classics from handhelds that can generally question their worth in today’s gaming climate. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town delivers a vibe that is direly needed in overall personality and charm within our current global circumstance. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town was originally released back in April of 2003, for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance and holds a legacy within many its franchise as one of the best entries delivered from developer, Marvelous Interactive.
The series itself had seen many a sequel after Mineral Town, but never quite lived up to its corresponding GBA counterpart. There has been criticism placed on Harvest Moon’s modern take, as the franchise tried its best to evolve, but in essence omitted what made its foundation, absolutely unique. Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone, has been quoted in saying that his multi-million dollar indie title had been inspired by Mineral Town’s many revolutionary quirks and mechanics that were fundamental in the title’s success, but were unfortunately taken away from its own franchise.
Now comes the good part. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town takes us back home. While it may not be an identical clear-cut remake, its unequivocally close to the original that strives to deliver the same experience in a totally fresh and vibrant presentation. Translating the entire design from 16-bit sprites to fully fledged 3D models will forever be a feat in its own right, but what makes this remake truly shine is its ability to encapsulate that old school aesthetic, and emulate the affection and joy we had playing the original.
Back in the habit...
Now to clarify, there is one small detail to mention here about this title. Not only is this a remake, but it’s a remake of a remake. Originally launching on the PlayStation in 1999, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature was a critical success, but had received a slew of disparagement due to its lackluster presentation. The title itself had struggled to perform on the Sony based platform, where many Nintendo faithful had been vocal of Developer Victor Interactive, in its attempt to “stifle” the market by re-establishing the franchise without Nintendo’s licensing. Quite obviously, this did not bode well for its commercial success.
So here we are in 2020, and Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town plants its seeds for a potential resurgence, and boy they do they sprout some ingenuity. The great thing about the Harvest Moon franchise, is that it’s marketed towards everyone. Its casual appeal is elementary in delivering an inclusive standard within the “sim” market. Story of Seasons does an incredible job, proudly representing this integral feature. One thing you will have to remember is that its purely a farming simulator. Its basic, but does have some neat features that essentially pro-long its replayability and quality-of-life.
For devotee’s, this is a non-issue. Acclimated with Harvest Moon’s breezy balance, grants players the opportunity to escape the barrage of bloated battle from cinematic presentation. Its an astounding juxtaposition from the hustle and bustle surrounding the expeditious standard in gaming, and a great title to just vibe with. Yes, there will be some points of repetition placed within much of its core gameplay loop, but it perfectly describes a farming sim. You will find bliss and overall comfort in scheduling daily tasks, that may include planting, digging up crops, making friends with new farm animals and pets, and other essentials.
Forming relationships within Mineral Town is an entirely different experience. You can go two ways about this, whether it be friendship, or a close bond that over time develops into a potential relationship. The great thing about Story of Seasons is its display in inclusivity and equality. From its onset, given the choice of portraying a male or female protagonist, you may form a bond with a partner of the same or opposite sex. That’s awesome.
Empty Spaces, Familiar Faces...
In hindsight, you would expect a remaster to deliver a ton of new features. This is where Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town underachieves on some of its potential. While we may experience titles that are vibrant and full of life on an older ecosystem, we take for granted how simple in design they truly were. This becomes evident within many desolate areas displayed within Mineral Town, and its redesigned surroundings. It’s fun to engage in its various yet minimal tasks at hand, but lacks any additional features that may have raised the bar for potentially revitalising its established fundamentals.
Traversing through multiple areas, you will encounter familiar faces, but are given new names due to licensing. While we are greeted with their in-game Chibi form, an animated illustration will accompany its dialogue presented on-screen for unique representation. This certainly adds some charm to title’s basic nature, while facing the struggle of pre-existing conditions, being translated from what would have been considered a busy area to a completely empty field. These are always the challenges of converting an older title to a new format. While many a franchise may do with with such style and excellence, some simply struggle to lift an existing blueprint and paste it with some aesthetic changes.
That’s not to say that Story of Seasons is bad, not at all. While there are some areas that may be poorly represented, much of Mineral Town still contains its memorable properties. Yes you will find it grindy, it’s something you deal within various RPG and simulation titles. Attaining the town’s currency had been something of a task in its original incarnation, but I must admit that I found it to be an unquestionably easy feat within Story of Seasons’ reinvigorated reproduction; almost a matter of course. While in that regard, the title may guide the player on an easier path, but this is primarily to display some sense of accessibility. It may be a bold risk in some circumstances, however it delivers a sense of versatility to engage within multiple audiences and age-gaps.
While some traversal and territorial aspects may be deemed sparse, there’s no shortage in its farming mechanics and let’s be honest, that’s what you’re here for. While your mighty steed may guide you through the many plains of Mineral Town, the old adage will apply; “Home is where the Heart is”. Spending hours establishing your own orchard, while cultivating crops across your landscape, you will find a range of activities such as relaxing in your personal hot spring to be a soothing attribute, that not only passes time but increases your character’s level.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town does an incredible job at delivering the authentic Harvest Moon experience. While it may simply lift the original framework and bolster a fresh overlay to modernise its entry, the pre-existing charm will fascinate its core fanbase, and enrapture a younger audience in understanding the basics of a farming simulator. While Stardew Valley delivers an extremely diverse and sophisticated worldliness, Story of Seasons’ forebearance preserves its open-market that appeals to everyone, not just the devout.
It’s cute, it’s charming, and it’s full of personality while keeping its breezy, carefree and casual approach. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town’s indulgence is in its tranquility. It’s flexible foundation will certainly keep players moderately pleased with a composed presentation and easy going overture. It is one of the most relaxed revisiting’s I’ve had the pleasure of partaking, and I certainly will be returning to my farmhouse getaway frequently.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is a video game for the Game Boy Advance, developed and published by Marvelous Interactive. It was first released in Japan in April 2003, in North America in November 2003, and in Europe in March 2004.