Friends of Mineral Town in the 21st century

Recently released on steam, the game brings back memories. I’ve put many hours into various Harvest Moon titles. Although Friends of Mineral Town has never been among my top favourites, I’m happy to see it remade and ported to PC and moving on with the times. There have been changes, some good, others not quite so. But, it brings the series into the 21st century.

Friends of Mineral Town (FOMT) is part of a long-running, iconic series of farming / role-playing games with dating sim elements. The common element is that a player, male or female, inherits a farm. Some games have plots and quest systems others, like FOMT do not, but there are usually a number of activities besides growing crops and taking care of animals, such as fishing, bug collecting, courting characters to marry. Among the more interesting HM titles is A(nother) Wonderful Life in which you got old while raising your child to adulthood – that was fresh because in most HM games you never age and nothing major happens in the town around you, which is what makes things a little stale as you play.

In FOMT, the farmer inherits a farm nestled in a lovely valley. It is shown they visisted the farm as a child and even made a friend. It’s a shame that this childhood friend isn’t one of the bachelors / bachelorettes, though. I think that would have added to the story, it’s a bit of a wasted potential here for me.

To cut a long story short this game is best suited for a beginner to the franchise, the production value, very polished and pleasing, far outweighs the gameplay experience, which is overly simplified even in contrast to the original version. If you love the nostalgia, get it on sale. However, I think it’s fair to say that this installment brings the game to new fans in the 21st century, it tries to refresh the game for the new generation.

Autumn and spring are utterly lovely. I love the depth of field they added, it’s very pleasant

The production values are definitely the game’s strongest point.
The FOMT remake feels like a warm meeting with an old friend…it’s beautifully rendered, with polished music. FOMT definitely deserved an upgrade like this, seeing as the old console graphics are now more than a little outdated and feel awkward. The visuals are crisp and cute, they perfectly emulate and refresh the cute feel and experience of the original game in a manner that’s polished and pleasing. The game has always been nostalgic and warm and that feeling is preserved. The visuals have been enhanced with the depth of field – the focus on character remains clear, while edges of the screen are a little blurred – I love the effect. The music is very beautiful. I especially enjoy the one that plays during spring weekends, as well as all autumn and winter tunes. It addes to the relaxing value of the game. Character art has been refreshed accordingly and they all look infinitely better.

One new feature is that character creation includes a new character model, besides the original FOMT one. You can’t customise much, though. Also, gameplay-wise you can have an easy – seedling- mode much like in later Story of Seasons games, but to be honest…Seedling mode is useless in a game as easy as this one.

As for content, FOMT has always been a fairly simple game without much of a plot, you just follow the same activities day in day out, have routines to your in-game day and some goals to accomplish. In FOMT, unlike in some later games, there aren’t many random events or other fun aspects (like clothes making) to break the daily grind. While the game needlessly and excessively simplified some things, let’s look at some of the features and challenges it has kept first.

  • You can raise crops – and raise the quality of soil to get higher level crops. I always play at least until I can run the farm efficiently and earn a lot from the crops.
  • Take care of animals
    in order to win festivals, you will need to breed store-purchased animals to get their affection beyond five stars. That’s one challenge I’m glad they kept and it does give you one goal to accomplish.
Store purchased animals won’t get beyond five stars – you need to breed them in order to unlock animals with more hearts

You also get a horse and raise it for several months. If you take care of it, it will stay with you. And one good change concerning the horse – you can finally ride the horse all through the valley. Before it was possible only on the fairly big farm. There are a number of new, cute pets.

  • Take part in fun festivals, a few of them are “date” festivals. But they are a little on the short side.
Moonlit night – pretty, albeit short. Events in FOMT don’t have much dialogue, unlike some later games
  • Mine ores for tool upgrades in an all-year mine and gems in a mine that’s only accessible in winter. I never really liked mining, it is a terrible chore to explore it all, though I do like that one mine can only be accessed in winter – especially since winter in this game is very long and rather boring, since there really is very little to do. I still prefer mining points that were added in later games. But in this version you do at least get a mine elevator after you meet certain requirements (hit floor 50 and befriend Harvest Goddess – the series’ special character, you have to give her 100 gifts, which is easy enough to do – just throw flowers in her waterfall by the spring mine).
  • Make friends and pursue characters to marry.
    For me, a big part of the enjoyment of Harvest Moon games always came from this dating sim part. There are normal candidates and special candidates even outside the human realm. The normal candidates have heart events you have to see. Special candidates have their own set of challenges you need to complete before you can marry. A new normal bachelor and bachelorette have been added to the remake. Make sure to speak to your spouse or you will get a sick spouse event – they will be sad you haven’t interacted with them. On a personal note, I like them all pretty much, but I have my favourite bachelors in other HM games. Also, later HM games added a lot more functions. Like spouses attend festivals they don’t normally go to but they do to support you, or they help with the chores. FOMT has none of it. On the upside…spouses are shown sleeping, which also didn’t happen in all HM games – sometimes they were zombies hanging around the house all night long, 24/7. I also prefer HM games with reverse proposals and those where dating is a commitment- again, neither of these features are here.
Rick’s reactions can be hilarous. He’s a sweetheart. I’ve never had any strong favourite bachelors in FOMT, though I’d say in the remake it probably is Rick, because he’s got this “family man” streak and values the relationship, most other bachelors focus on how meeting the Mc changed them.

Making its way into the new era and the next generation, FOMT, after many years, no longer has a gender lock on relationships, meaning that regardless of the gender you play, you can pursue and marry a character of any gender. While this is a good adjustment, it also poses some challenges. Rival marriages, always such a joy in the original FOMT, have been removed, sadly. Some scenes, including the character’s wedding are written in a neutral way and while it is a very good thing to add neutraility and expressions that cover it, it should not come at a cost.

I am a straight female, and it’s part of my identity, it’s dificult for me to separate. And so, for me it’s still more worthwhile and important to hear the words husband and wife instead of partner. I think inclusiveness is important but I also think there is a way to accommodate everything. It’s something to consider, while new additions that don’t annul the old way are good. Also, as a straight female, I really don’t feel very comfortable being forced to watch same-gender heart events that are all to easy to trigger like everthing in this game. I want to be friends with the girls, like with regular villagers but the removal of gender forces heart events instead. In the meantime, I might stick to older generations games that suit my preferences more and are better gameplay-wise for me.

Chances are if you liked the original FOMT, you will really enjoy this. Otherwise, there isn’t actually much to do unlike in games post FOMT and the things they removed or simplified vs the original make it feel empty.

The removal of penalities and lowering certain requirements needlessly simplifies the already simple game and does away with challenges that added some edge to it. For instance, in the original game you could get gold logs to use for a fence…but the townspeople reacted badly to it. So why have something like that in game? I think it was part of the challenge and, after all, people can get jealous over things like that… Now, as Thomas here says, you no longer need to worry about it. You can breathe easy, but this also makes the game a little bland.

Similarly with other things, like littering. I don’t think that penalties like this should have been removed. The original game had a number of them and it made the game a little more challenging. For instance, you could lose hearts with your animals by accidentally using the wrong tool on them and hitting them or lose hearts with villagers if you didn’t pay attention to them for a few days – I think it reflected real life better that way, after all not talking to friends for a while makes you grow distant. For me, the removal of these things dumbs the game down and takes away the very few challenges the game had. Especially littering. You had to be really careful. It was always great how townspeople got offended when you littered, how it affected even the animals around you, it taught you to be mindful. For me, this is part of the franchise’s heart, and like being attuned to nature. Some other things have been made simple. For instance, when mining you find a set of special tools, called cursed, you can later uncurse them but you need to meet certain requirements. Those requirements have been lowered. All in all, due to all these changes, I find Seedling mode redundant. They should have kept all the challenges of the original FOMT in regular mode and removed in Seedling mode. Then having seedling mode would have more made sense. Perhaps normal mode could have even kept the golden log issue – for a bit of extra challenge with the villagers!

I’m glad the game’s on steam, it’s nice to be able to revisit old friends at will. I would still get this on sale, however. All things considered the game is better for a beginner to the franchise, the production values far outweigh the gameplay experience. The game is too simple and there’s very little to do, plus I’m not happy with how the new generation changes have been implemented. The gameplay gets old fast (unlike in all later hm games), yet, if you want to get all achievements, you will have to play for 50 in-game years..I don’t really see myself doing that because there simply isn’t enough challenge / content for me to stay for too long, unlike in games that came after FOMT. At least, FOMT retains its charm.

But overall, especially for a beginner, the remake can bring much joy and it’s like a ray of sunshine. The visuals and the sounds are great and myself, if I had time to burn, I would go through the in-game seasons just to enjoy the music and wonderful, vivid colours. Spring and autumn are particularly delightful. But..that’s not really why I play games, nor do I have that kind of time on my hands,that’s why I expect a little more substance from my games, even or perhaps especially Harvest Moon. They need to make it completely worth my time.

That would be nice, if done well.

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