A remake of Friends of Mineral Town might have you saying bean there, done that, but really it’s kind of a big dill! Will this highly anticipated release squash your dreams or have you saying oh kale yeah!?
There aren’t many games that I get to write about that I can genuinely say I have nostalgia for. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town which was originally known as Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, is one of those games. I can’t even express how excited that makes me. XSeed honored me in a way they will never understand by giving me a review code for this game and it brought me endless joy to be among some of the first to be given the opportunity to both play and review this highly anticipated remake.
Harvest Moon: FOMT for the GameBoy Advance was one of the first games given to me by Mr. Backlog Odyssey himself. It was shortly after the game’s North American release in 2003 and I fell in love instantly. Point in fact, this is the very game that relit the fire in my heart for gaming as an adult. Sure, I dabbled in my youth and even a little bit into my adolescence, but you can only play the same 3 or 4 games so many times before you get a little bored of it. Being a broke and overworked college student didn’t help either. But this lovely new game given to me by the gaming saint that was my boyfriend opened up worlds for me. Harvest Moon wasn’t like anything else I’d ever played before. It was cute, colorful, and most importantly of all, more peaceful than an open meadow! Just what my exhausted brain needed! A gamer was born!
Don’t Get Corn-fused!
I’ve played FOMT many times throughout the years since then and it pains me to say there were more than a few issues that cropped up each and every time I decided to pick it up. Now, a lot of these issues were weeded out with the newer titles in the series of course, but with the remake of this older title on the horizon I was curious to see if any underlying issues would be dealt with or if they would be left in for the sake of posterity.
Also, there was the inevitable confusion arising from the name change. Us old codgers were used to Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, but since it was Marvelous/XSeed that were responsible for the remake and its localization they had to use their series title of Story of Seasons. Natsume currently holds the rights to the Harvest Moon franchise name and have been releasing lackluster entries since 2014 when Natsume and Marvelous went their separate ways. My worry was, would the “rebranding” bring relief or trepidation for fans old and new?
As an avid fan myself I can definitively say that the Story of Seasons title had me conflicted upon learning of the upcoming remake. As I mentioned earlier the Harvest Moon franchise has taken a nose dive in quality since the companies split while the Story of Seasons games have been flourishing with their keen ability to keep to the core aesthetics while still adding new and innovative mechanics. And therein lies the sense of trepidation. Just how much of my beloved Friends of Mineral Town would be modernized, simplified, or scrapped all together? FOMT is often lauded as one of the earlier peak titles when it comes to farming simulator games and while it sparked a lot of ideas for new ways to play, there was certainly a lot of room for improvement as well.
Romaine Calm and Carrot On!
Once I finally got my hands on this mythical beast I can safely say most of my fears were put to bed. There was that ageless, adorable farm and town almost exactly how I remembered it. I will admit that it’s been a while since I last played this game, but I was impressed with just how many details and tricks came flooding back. That alone gained this remake high marks from me. That’s what a remake should be all about right? Refreshing the visuals and modernizing the mechanics while still invoking that deep nostalgic connection. I was pleasantly surprised to see that was exactly where Marvelous took their Friends of Mineral Town remake. All the charm and delightful aesthetics of the original game with just a dash of new additions.
Of all the new things that were added into the game, one of my favorites has to be the different kinds of cows you can now purchase. Aside from the standard black and white cow that gives regular milk, you can now buy a Strawberry milk cow, a Fruit milk cow, and a Coffee milk cow, each with their own corresponding colors. Seeing all those adorable and colorful cows wandering about my farm made me inexplicably happy! As did the addition of the extra fluffy alpacas and angora rabbits. Cuteness overload!! I also very much appreciated that the devs sort of combined the whole Friends of Mineral Town and More Friends of Mineral Town concept by not only giving you a choice of gender, (even two new character models to choose from) but also the ability to marry whomever you please regardless of your choice. Just like in real life you never know who you are going to connect with on your journey and it’s nice to not be stonewalled by a choice you made within the first 2 minutes of starting the game. Plus, I totally forgot you could marry the Kappa and since I started my game as the original male character I would have been so disappointed! His new artwork makes him a much more desirable marriage candidate even if his requirements remain the same giant pain in the butt.
The beginning of the game also comes with a difficulty setting which I think is great for younger players or people new to the series in general. You can now opt to play Simple or Normal Mode. Simple mode gives the player more starting money, some crops already growing in the field which will sell for more money, and befriending the townsfolk is even easier. I stuck with Normal mode since I wanted to keep my experience as close as possible to the original.
The new artwork was beautifully done. All of the environments and buildings retained their adorable charm and colorful appearances. The character art on the other hand left me a little disappointed. I really disliked the change from the cutesy anime chibi-like artstyle of the original game to a more western artstyle. But that doesn’t hold true for every single character either. As I mentioned earlier the Kappa is now an emo, duck-billed hipster type character instead of the old bald cucumber with hair! That’s what I call a glow up right?!
New holiday events, new romanceable characters, new pets to collect, all fantastic additions in my opinion that really only served to enhance the already existing gameplay, but there remained one pretty sizable aspect that I struggled with whether or not a change should have been implemented: the Winter season. Even with a bunch of animals to tend to and the occasional trip to the Lake Mine there really isn’t much to do during the winter season. You can’t grow anything and short of the occasional storm that will give you some new stones and stumps to break, what is there to fill up those 30 days? I always struggled with boredom in the original game and kind of had hope they might add something extra in to even slightly mitigate that issue, but then I had a thought. Would that stray too far from the original FOMT? In the end, I decided yes.
A Real Master-peach!
This remake was not about taking the old game and using it as a building block for a new game, but instead bringing a piece of the past to a new console and a new generation of players in a more easily digestible form. And I guess in the end that is both its gift and its curse. The older players like myself are buying this game because it brings back great memories of a simpler time. Friends of Mineral Town was a revelation in the farming simulator genre in its hay day! However, in modern times it’s pitted up against the likes of Stardew Valley and Minecraft where all the bells and whistles have already been established for you with nary a lull in the gameplay in sight! Not that those games don’t have their own host of issues but none of them include an entire ¼ of the game spent in downtime. That being said there’s a certain level of hidden complexity that older games like FOMT. They always did a fantastic job keeping that complexity just beneath their surface and despite their apparent simplicity, kept players coming back for more, no DLC required! I think there’s something awe inspiring about that.
So, I guess my final thoughts boil down to if this was a successful remake or not. And that is a resounding “Yes”! Friends of Mineral Town makes its grand reappearance with everything you remember fondly, and not so fondly, fully intact. Which to be honest I appreciate immensely. All the extra newfangled pleasantries it comes packaged with really just enhanced an already great game. New players are given enough of an extra handhold to not feel overwhelmed while the returning players get to feel like they are walking into a nostalgic place of comfort. What more could you ask for really? If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, you can find it right now on the Nintendo Switch!