I’ll be the first to admit that more casual games such as Animal Crossing don’t usually capture my interest anymore. My gaming time is rather limited between school and work responsibilities, and I’d rather be playing something that has more of an end goal. However, I’ve been exceptionally busy the past few weeks, and the idea of having something I could de-stress with was very appealing. To this end, Marvelous and XSEED’s Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town grabbed my attention, and I’m glad to say it’s definitely reshaped my perspective on these types of titles. This Harvest Moon remake delivers the goods.
A simple life
The main focus of Friends of Mineral Town revolves around managing your late grandfather’s farm. This largely consists of growing crops and raising livestock in a tidy little gameplay loop. You can sell crops and resources from livestock in order to earn money, which you then use to plant more crops and generally improve your farm. This may not seem all that exciting, but there’s a lot of depth to this. Different crops grow at different rates or only in a specific season, so you really have to think about when and how you plant a particular plant. This especially caught me off guard, but pleasantly so.
As you work more with each of your tools, they’ll earn experience to level up. Upon reaching an experience threshold, you can leave your tools at the local smith, where, for a small price of cash and ore, they can be improved. This greatly enhances their respective abilities. For instance, stronger hammers can clear larger rocks, while a better watering can is able to cover a wider area in a single go. These improvements act as mini-goals for you to conquer, and doing so rewards you handsomely with more efficient farming. As such, hitting these targets felt like a big accomplishment, even more so than in other games I’ve played recently.
Outside of farming, there are a few other activities you can pursue. Mining, for instance, sees you descending into the depths of caves in search of ores to sell or use in equipment upgrades. Talking to townspeople can improve your relationship with them and in many cases can lead to romance. At least once a season, Mineral Town has a festival or other event you can participate in, giving you a fun little distraction from everyday life. Every aspect of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town helps foster a sense of life and community within the town, helping you stay immersed in the experience.
A not-so-simple life
As you might expect, though, all this hard work can take a lot of effort. Overwork yourself and you can lose some valuable time you could otherwise use to progress. There are two exhaustion systems in place, dubbed stamina and fatigue. Stamina is easy enough to figure out. Every time you use one of your tools, your stamina drains. Running out of stamina isn’t the end of the road though, which is where fatigue comes in.
Fatigue is a bit harder to describe, and I still feel like there are aspects I don’t fully understand. In general though, it seems as though your fatigue goes down either when you use tools with no stamina or if you work late at night or in bad weather. Fatigue is the more serious of the meters, as “running out” of fatigue will cause you to spend a day in the town clinic. Keeping an eye on these physical characteristics is essential for creating a productive farm.
Time is a precious resource as well, and I found myself often planning out my days before going to sleep the night before. For instance, different stores around town operate on their own specific schedules and are only available during those times. If you happen to miss that slot, you’re out of luck until the next one. Barely missing getting to a store before closing time way too many times to count always threw my carefully laid plans out the window. Going to bed earlier also results in regaining a larger chunk of stamina and fatigue, which can allow you to do more in the following day. However you choose to manage your time, doing so is incredibly important and provides an extra challenge to an otherwise straightforward experience.
A tranquil, picturesque village
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a very laid-back game, and its art style further emphasizes this. Almost everything about Friends of Mineral Town looks fantastic. The softer, more cartoonish design really helped put me at ease while playing. The only artistic aspect I didn’t particularly care for was the character portraits that appear when you talk to your fellow townsfolk. They aren’t really bad as much as they feel like they don’t quite match with the rest of the game’s aesthetic.
Another really great aspect of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is its in-game library. A lot of information gets thrown at you regarding almost all of the game’s mechanics, and it can be a lot to keep track of if you try to do too much at once. Thankfully, the town’s library contains books that house this information if you ever need a refresher.
In fact, even information the game never directly tells you (such as the growing cycles of every crop in the game) can be found there, so it’s definitely worth visiting. Even despite this vault of knowledge though, there are things the game never really tells you that would be helpful to know up front, but if you play around with the controls, you can probably figure them out.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town delivers
For someone who generally shies away from more casual games such as Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, it really did a lot to win me over. I was surprised by just how much there is to do in Mineral Town, and as a result, I often found myself mapping out a to-do list for the following day. There’s always something to work towards, be it growing crops, improving tools, or starting a relationship, and this really helped things from getting too stale. Between the laid-back gameplay and cutesy art style, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town has renewed my appreciation of more casual games. It is definitely a game I will return to time and time again when I need to de-stress.
A review code was provided by the publisher.