Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Nayu 08.07.2020

Review for Story of Seasons:  Friends of Mineral Town  on Nintendo Switch

Long-term fans of farming life sims need little introduction to Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. The original charmed European gamers in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance. Taking care of a 0dilapidated farm, raising crops for money to buy more crops, and raising animals, takes dozens of hours, creating a fondness for the title. This reviewer didn't have the pleasure of enjoying it upon release, though, being a newcomer to farming sim games in recent years. However all that was needed was a love of farming, and there was immense pleasure of experiencing Mineral Town first with the Japanese release in October 2019, with the language only being a mild barrier since most of it was relatively easy to understand. Receiving the English version along with a cute press pack in June 2020 provided enough time to progress far in the story, including forming a relationship with a resident and getting married!

This remake of Mineral Town uses a kawaii style of graphics, very different to the original 16-bit visuals, yet it is charming in it's own right. In preparation for the review this critic has played a little on the original game, and it is surprising how accurate the remake is. Almost every part of the town is laid out in exactly the same way, making it easy to know where to find the town store, the small and large animal shops, the church, and every resident's home. Players of the original will feel at home in the reimagined town, starring all their favourite characters in a new style. There are four styles of characters to be chosen from at the start, two versions of the boy, and two versions of the girl.

All these come with a fairly substantial wardrobe of clothes, albeit in two main styles of dungarees and shorts and t-shirt for the girl - presumably the male has a similar wardrobe. One outfit which is yet unknown if it was a press release bonus or is available to all is an adorable reindeer onesie, perfect to help reassure the farm animals that their owner is safe to be around. The hairstyle and gender cannot be changed later in the game, so a little thought is needed to ensure the preferred one is chosen. The other main choice at the start is whether to play in the easier mode. This choice means there is a crop already planted at the beginning, and items get sold for more money. The normal mode means playing without any extra help. Both were tried before review, and while the easy may help those who are completely new to the genre, the normal mode is not hard at all.

Screenshot for Story of Seasons:  Friends of Mineral Town  on Nintendo Switch

Once the necessary choices are selected, it's on with the game! And what a game it is. With a total of forty five hours on the English version of Mineral Town, and sixty five hours on the Japanese version, it can be stated that this farming life game is happily addictive. There is a simple type of joy to be found in nurturing crops, watering them daily when it doesn't rain, praying they won't be blown away in the occasional cyclone that makes it impossible to venture outside the house for the entire day. It is easy and perhaps recommended to develop a routine for each gaming day so nothing is left out. Feeding the animals each day is an essential part of farming. The feed can be placed in the relevant barns, but it is far better for the farmer-creature relationship to hand-feed them, pat them, brush them, and milk/shear coats/collect eggs from them. For a good portion of the game animal products can be sold for money, or be eaten, but later in machines can be bought for a price of both money and gems, creating more profit for each item. Good quality eggs sell well, yet popping them into the mayonnaise maker is more profitable. The yarn maker is the most fun because as each fur rises in quality, it increases the number of yarn balls made in the maker.

The animals themselves are a joy to watch and listen to. The rabbits make a curious sounding noise when touched, as do the alpacas, making it tempting to stay in the barn where time stands still and relax with their cries. There isn't just one type of cow with ordinary cow's milk, the herd is full of colours, with the orange coloured fruit milk cow, the pink strawberry milk cow, the brown coffee milk cow, which feels like it should be chocolate. Their roundness coupled with different coloured bells on their tails makes them the cutest animal on the farm outside of the pets. The baby creatures bought at the large animal store are not the smallest cows in the game: breeding cows and the other creatures create an even smaller cow which makes the over twenty day pregnancy worth the wait. All creatures born on the farm are easier to create a friendship with than store bought ones.

Ownership of animals is not restricted to purely farmyard creatures that help the player make a living on the farm. Pets are also available once certain criteria have been met. First the horse is given as a loan for a year, then for life. It can't be ridden at first, but if it is brushed regularly to increase friendship, it will grow big and strong enough for riding, which is a far quicker way of getting around town than walking, saving time, which ticks merrily away when outside a building. The horse is counted as a pet, perhaps because it doesn't produce anything sellable. Other pets include cats and dogs of various types which can be acquired in certain months on a certain day from the pet seller. However, the friendship of the first pet must be high/maxed out before being allowed to purchase another. At the time of this review only one pet has been purchased. The capybara really does look like a guinea pig. It squeaks like one too, and does a funny little dance when happy. It can be fed pet treats which are expensive but help improve the friendship. While not officially stated as an action for pets, using a brush on the capybara possibly raises the friendship too, it certainly produces soap suds and sparkles upon use. The capybara grows in size once, so presumably all the other pets increase in size too.

Screenshot for Story of Seasons:  Friends of Mineral Town  on Nintendo Switch

The sum of a farm is not animals alone, there are the crops requiring daily watering. Some take many days before being ready to harvest. Seeds can be bought from the town store and a shop on the beach which has special seeds for each season, except winter, where nothing can grow. Seeds will only grow in the season stated in the description. Some only produce a single item, and then need another crop planted in their space, while others can produce multiple crops, requiring at least a day between each harvest for the next crop to grow in its place. Crop quality varies with the harvest, and can be increased by upgrading the field quality, which takes time and money to become available, so is not in the game play from the start. The most important part of farming is not only to have all the right tools for crops and animals, but to upgrade said tools at the friendly blacksmith.

During an upgrade the tool is out of action for a set number of days that increases with each improvement. Being mindful of that fact must be taken into consideration. It is no use handing in the watering can for upgrade at the height of summer when there is no rain and the crops won't necessarily grow. The next day's weather forecast can be found by watching the weather channel on the TV. There are other channels, the most useful being the Tuesday entertainment show when recipes can be learned - yes there is cooking to be had once the main house has been upgraded! Ingredients can be bought, but many are better off grown from crops and collected from animals. Dishes sadly can't be shipped for money, but they make good presents, and are a good way to top up energy which is sapped away whenever tools are used, such as in mining and various stages of farming.

Energy can be further saved by befriending the Harvest Sprites. This was the least liked element of the game for this reviewer who likes to do all aspects herself, without help. Once befriended, each Sprite doesn't automatically do all of one chore on the farm. Mini-games have to be played to increase their skill. These are enjoyable the first time, but doing them repeatedly loses the appeal of having a helper. Mileage will vary from player to player whether they want the extra help and extra work needed for that help, or if they ignore the Sprites and carry along alone, using bought and homemade food for energy replenishment, as well as tonics from the doctor and waiting in the hot springs for energy to slowly recover.

Mining is a necessary part of the game, as without certain ore and gems it is impossible to upgrade tools. One mine is available all year round, and the other is only available in winter when the lake freezes over, granting access to a money-making mine. Selling gems is extremely profitable, and a few are needed for accessories made at the blacksmiths. Make sure you use the well-known mining trick of saving once you enter each level, use the hoe to seek out the ladder to the next floor, then memorise that spot, reload the game and go straight to the ladder which reduces energy expenditure massively. The deeper you mine, the greater the quality of gem and ore. In the winter mine there are invisible holes in the floor which randomly make the player drop several levels. It takes away some energy upon landing, but can be beneficial to the pocket with more expensive gems lower down.

Screenshot for Story of Seasons:  Friends of Mineral Town  on Nintendo Switch

Winter is still this reviewer's most hated time of year. If you love growing crops it seems an extremely long thirty days until spring arrives. Winter is the perfect time to upgrade the watering can, which sees no use whatsoever. It is good for mining and collecting wood and stone for building upgrades. The ability to hit bigger rocks, chop harder tree stumps, and improve the fishing rod which is needed for some dishes relies on upgrades. The lack of crops in winter makes it easier to form friendships, which are easy to ignore when all focus is on farming. It is not mandatory to find a marriage partner, or a best friend depending how you view the marriage, which includes same gender partnerships, but it is fun.

This reviewer played as a girl, and opted for the best friend route of wooing Popuri simply because the girl with pink hair who loves chickens is adorable, and there wasn't an appealing male candidate. Popuri became the one resident who got spoken to daily to increase the friendship. This was expedited at least once by the Harvest Goddess, who appreciated the daily gifts given to raise friendship with her. Once a certain number were given, the Harvest Goddess offered to raise friendship of one resident.

Raising relationships is not mandatory if harvesting crops and taking care of the animals is the only concern in the game, but when marriage is sought, it is essential to talk to and gift a marriage candidate, ideally daily, to increase the friendship ranking which results in special scenes unfolding between the player and the person involved. Such scenes are needed before marriage can be proposed, and the exact requirements are made clear. so there is no confusion on what needs to be done. The marriage or best friend ceremony for couples of the same gender produces heart-warming scenes both on the marriage day with appropriate wedding attire, and after when the other half of the couple lives with the player, saying sweet things when spoken to in the house and outside it. A child can be had when certain conditions are met - presumably the child then uses the single bed which is next to the double bed in the house; it is the single bed that the player remains sleeping in despite the spouse sleeping in the double bed.

Screenshot for Story of Seasons:  Friends of Mineral Town  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Despite its simple appearance in how it looks and the game mechanics, Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town is a superb remake, filled with many tasks to do that help the farm grow in all areas. Farming games are much beloved for what they offer, the wide variety of crops and handful of animals mean there is rarely a dull moment, unless it's a season like Winter, due to the absence of crops. There is no doubt that this remake delivers an enjoyable farming experience that provides countless hours of game play. It is a joy to relax with and be immersed by a simpler life compared to reality, with various town events throughout the year providing extra entertainment, sometimes with a trophy to be won, and the addictive tasks necessary on a farm.

Developer

Marvelous (XSEED)

Publisher

Marvelous (XSEED)

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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