Libra: Story of Seasons – Friends of Mineral Town (Switch)
Release Date: July 14, 2020
File Size: 1GB
Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED)
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Libra is our “first impressions” series. These are generally spoiler free, but may reveal some base plot points and mechanic details.
With the whirlwind of a year that 2020 has been for many, the thought of diving into a different world for a spell has become an increasingly attractive one. It is for this reason that life simulators, such as Animal Crossing or today’s topic, can and will continue to be successful. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a remake of the 2003 Gameboy Advance title of basically the same name (save for the antiquated Harvest Moon prefix). It was well received in its original form, but much has changed in the realm of farming titles over the past 20 years, making you wonder whether or not it could appeal to more than just those with nostalgic ties.
The short answer? Maybe. Read on for the longer version.
The player-named protagonist inherits their grandfather’s farm in Mineral Town. The farm itself has a lot of potential despite its current dilapidated state, but it is up to the player to tidy it up, plant some crops, care for animals, and befriend the townsfolk. The game is literally a story of seasons that follows the traditional flow of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, offering various season-specific crops and foliage that can be cultivated on your farm along the way.
The player will begin with some basic tools that can be used to clear, till, and water the land, which can all be upgraded through raw materials found in the local mineshaft. Upgrading tools makes the process of being a farmer easier…but only to a certain extent since they also require more energy to use. The player can also catch fish and maintain various forms of livestock, like cattle, chickens, and even alpacas!
Mineral Town is full of people to meet, most of which can become great friends while a select few can even eventually become candidates for marriage. Townsfolk and stores have their own set schedules, breathing life into what could otherwise be a pretty straightforward affair. But this does mean that you absolutely will run to the store one day only to find that it is closed! There is a lot to see and do in Mineral Town, but the player does have their limits. Your efficiency each day is governed by a stamina and fatigue system, with the former taking the brunt of your daily actions before the latter can rear its potentially ugly head.
Get too tired, and yes, you will pass out, but it is relatively easy to work around this if you make smart use of cooking, the town’s hot springs, and (of course) sleeping. The biggest issue with the stamina system are the several second long animations that play out at certain thresholds. These animations are meant to let the player know how tired the character is – I guess – but they are highly invasive to the flow of gameplay. Energy is used up quickly, so these animation locks are more common than they really should be. It may not seem like a big issue on paper, but over the course of a playthrough it adds up. The game would be much better off if it just played one of these animations when you pass out, or are close to that point, rather than at so many intervals it then becomes tedious. I imagine this is somewhat offset by enlisting the help of certain villagers around your farm, but how much so remains to be seen at this point.
Mineral Town does host some holidays and events from time to time, which certainly helps break up the monotony of everyday farming life. In addition, some special scenes can be played at various locations based on your current relationships with townsfolk, helping to incentivize exploring the town each and every day. Unsurprisingly, Mineral Town appears to be free from any form of combat, which in itself can be a difficult transition when you become so used to it in similar titles, like Stardew Valley. Even though combat there isn’t groundbreaking, it certainly adds another layer of gameplay and an additional activity to do when the chores of farming become a bit much.
That said, I realize that many farming games, especially older ones, were built without combat in mind, but it is kind of hard to go back to the more “simple times” when you’ve had a taste of the good stuff elsewhere. That’s not to say Mineral Town can’t be enjoyed long-term – there’s a lot to see and do, and is very well suited for the casual, average player – but it can feel a bit lacking when compared to more modern outings in the same farming vein. The game also suffers from a lack of unique dialogue over time that, while expected to peak at some point, still feels outclassed by indie games like Stardew Valley.
- Cute, charming visuals and a decent soundtrack
- The typical, addictive trappings of a farm/life simulation
- Lots of candidates for marriage and friendship
- Frequent fatigue animations locks are annoying
- The typical trappings of a farm/life simulation (with nothing really different/extra)
All in all, Friends of Mineral Town is a charming farm/life simulator that feels a tad expensive in today’s market. When there are games being offered at a fraction of the price that provide just as much (if not more) content, it’s a hard sell without some really exceptional selling point. In the game’s defense, I actually really dig the cutesy visuals and accompanying sounds (although the soaking wet boot squish sound effect that is used almost everywhere can take a hike). If nostalgia was more of a factor here then it would likely be an easier recommendation. For now, however, I’ll play it close to the vest until I’ve experienced more things in Mineral Town.