By now most of us are familiar with the whole Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons divide. The short version is, while Harvest Moon continues to exist as a brand with new releases, Story of Seasons is in fact the true continuation of this farming RPG franchise. Somewhat confusing, but just know that the real fans stick with Story of Seasons as they are closer to the authentic Harvest Moon experience than Harvest Moon itself. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town lands on Xbox with a backstory just as confusing.
You see, this isn’t exactly a new game per se, it’s in fact a remake of a much older Harvest Moon title. In fact, it is a combined 3D remake of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and its expanded sequel Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town, both being Game Boy Advance titles from back in the day. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town has been out for PC and Switch for quite some time, and finally joins the Xbox library in 2021. The question is, is there any real value or relevance to this release given the options available on Xbox?
Just to be clear, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, is the newer and more revamped farming RPG, which at this stage remains on Nintendo Switch and PC only. Although an Xbox version of this novel experience may happen down the line, for now we need to make do with a more classic experience. Being a remake of an older game has its pros and cons, with the main advantage being that the formula is sure to work and will immediately click with newcomers and even fans of the Game Boy originals. The downside is, it’s also going to feel dated despite all the effort which has gone into the remake.
Xbox may not have something like Animal Crossing, but it’s not exactly starved for choice when it comes to slice of life farming simulators. As of 2021, the acclaimed indie farming RPG Stardew Valley not only is available on Xbox, but is also part of the Game Pass catalogue too. If you’re after the quintessential experience in this unique subgenre of gaming, then Stardew Valley should absolutely be the first preference. It takes everything that made Harvest Moon special and turns it up several notches with several addictive gameplay loops and systems.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is, for better or for worse, a by the books Harvest Moon experience. You arrive at the town to inherit your late grandfather’s farm and basically get right to work. The game systems are self-explanatory, and so the simplicity of the Game Boy Advance experience remains intact; this works in the favour of the revamped Xbox release as this is an easy game to simply relax with. Much of the focus is on cleaning up your farm, planting new crops, getting a few animals in, and then selling off the produce for that sweet profit. Although there are some tutorial objectives to start with, the experience is largely about setting your own routine.
Aside from farming, there is an entire town to interact with, and as we learned from that one Australian reality show, every farmer sooner or later needs a life partner. With several eligible singles, Friends of Mineral Town allows you to not only make friends, but potentially even be more than just friends with some.
The systems are simple and become second nature quickly, and while there isn’t anything wrong with the core gameplay, at this point it does feel rather dated compared to other farming RPGs out there. For one thing, the town layout isn’t exactly efficient and it can be a bit of a chore to navigate. The farming and social elements, while fun, feel quite ordinary and basic. As someone who spent an entire summer playing the original self-titled Harvest Moon on Game Boy Color back in the day, I can still enjoy the appeal here, but at the same time I’ve played far better slice of life farming RPGs to appreciate better design and flow.
The 3D graphical presentation is as simple and basic as they come, and there’s nothing here to blow you away, although the feel of it all is still vibrant and charming. It does feel like a dated 3D uplift of a rather dated game, and it’s hard to shake that feeling off.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a solid and enjoyable remake of a Harvest Moon classic. Yet while you get to enjoy a classic experience intact, it also feels incredibly dated given the other options available on Xbox today. If you’ve somehow grown sick of Stardew Valley, then this might be the next distraction to satisfy that farming itch.
You can grab Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town from the Xbox Store