It’s been a while since I got properly absorbed in a Harvest Moon game! Though I tried to get myself back into Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns after I discovered the magical secret of starting your game with the missionary background, it didn’t stick.
Then, I got a little Christmas surprise in the form of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town.
I don’t honestly know why it wasn’t on my radar to begin with—maybe because I didn’t play the original? Or maybe because I’ve been holed up and avoiding the news in general for months? Who knows.
Either way, I wasn’t expecting it. And I wasn’t expecting the whirlwind of obsession that came with it. It turned into entire days of tending my farm, planning schedules, and figuring out mechanics. In three days, I’d already racked up 25 hours of playtime and by now, I’m already almost on my third year.
And in that admittedly short but busy time, here’s what I’ve learned about Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town!
It’s surprisingly nostalgic—and not just for veteran players.
Games designed to look retro can be hit or miss for me, because if it’s not specifically hearkening back to something, then I personally would rather just have modern graphics.
If I’m honest, that’s probably why Harvest Moon: Light of Hope didn’t really stick for me, especially after I’d seen what was possible for the franchise’s graphics with Trio of Towns. By contrast, Light of Hope just seemed like it was regressing.
With Friends of Mineral Town, however, I went in knowing it was a slightly upgraded (mostly for functionality) port of the original GBA game—so rather than feeling old, it was charmingly accurate. I mostly didn’t even mind that I was mostly locked to main directions and diagonals!
It had some gameplay surprises in store for me, too.
Harvest Moon games tend to be pretty similar in overall gameplay—after all, there are only so many variations you can do with a straightforward farming sim. That said, they do sometimes have little twists on the established style, like Sunshine Islands and its incredibly detailed watering mechanic.
Where this game surprised me was with the animals.
See, nearly every Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons game is based around the idea of building up friendship points with your animals, usually indicated by a row of 10 little hearts. When you start in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, though, your animals only have five hearts.
At first I figured it was just a difference in how the game was made originally, and that was all I’d ever get, but no—your animals can actually have 10 hearts, but you have to implement a time-consuming and rigorous breeding program to do it because with every baby animal, you get one more heart than its mother had.
Obviously that has payoffs later, but it definitely got a groan out of me because I’ve never really had the patience for breeding animals. Plus, from what I can tell, this is a new feature to the Switch version, so it’s not like it was necessary for the nostalgia of the game.
My best theory right now is that it was added as a sort of gate for players, since animal affection seems to skyrocket otherwise and there are a lot of late-game achievements (like one for your 50th wedding anniversary) that players likely didn’t reach before because they stopped playing.
It has a lot of cute minigames.
Likely the predecessors of things like the Dog Festival in Island of Happiness, Friends of Mineral Town is full of minigames—which I actually enjoy way more than their so-called evolved versions.
In particular, I love the derby, which has to be the easiest money ever when you place 200 bets on yourself and then cheer your horse on to the finish line so you can buy an inventory’s worth of brooches.
The Cluck Cluck Clash is pretty hilarious too, and basically just has you encouraging your chicken to, well, play a sumo-inspired game of chicken. I still don’t even know what contributes to winning, but here we are.
I haven’t been allowed into the Fetch Fest yet, but hopefully next year—and from the screenshots, it looks pretty fun too!
It lets you have more than one house.
I have no idea if this was some kind of standard for the GBA days of Harvest Moon, but in any game I’ve ever played, you get one house in the game. One house, on your one farm, and that’s all you need because you’re a farmer and you’re all about that simple life.
Not this game.
To my count, you can ultimately end up with four houses in Friends of Mineral Town:
- Your farm house
- A vacation home that Gotts will build for you next to the forge
- A cabin near Kappa’s pond that you get for your 50th wedding anniversary
- And a seaside cottage you get for giving the Harvest Goddess 150 gifts
Some of the requirements will be pretty demanding, but let’s be honest—that’s not going to stop me. Challenge accepted.
Have you played Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town? What did you think?