The Unicorn Scale: Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town

By Natalie Schriefer

January 29, 2023



Photo credit: Image/Nintendo

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at virtual farming, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town just might be the place to start! The premise is that you, the protagonist, once spent an enjoyable summer visiting your grandfather’s farm. As an adult, you receive a letter inviting you back to take over the land, which is yours through inheritance.

From there, you can revive Grandpa’s farm however you see fit: raising livestock, growing crops, befriending the townsfolk, dating one (or more!) of the 16 eligible men and women, and/or exploring the wilderness beyond your farm. There’s no set gameplay, giving you complete control to omit anything that doesn’t interest you. Which is super cool in terms of customizability!

The colorful cast and animals of Story of Seasons huddled together at the farm.

The 2020 release is a remake of two Game Boy Advance games from the aughts, titled Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and More Friends of Mineral Town, in which you played as either a male or female protagonist, respectively. The 2020 version combined the GBA versions, improved basic gameplay, and, best of all, featured same-sex dating and marriage for the first time!

There won’t be any SPOILERS, but there also won’t be space to talk about the series’ 25-year history. If you’re interested in the name change, or more about the progression of queer relationships in gaming, check out this VideoDAME article. And lastly, if you need a refresher on our rating system please head on over to this page.

What I Liked:

In the midst of the pandemic, when my friends were playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I was playing SoS: FoMT. The game’s newfound queerness is evident from the beginning. The first time you introduce yourself to the people of Mineral Town, you’ll notice black hearts next to certain characters’ dialogue. You may even activate special cutscenes with them, called heart events.

These are the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, any of whom are romanceable, regardless of your protagonist’s gender. This makes the protagonist, by default, bi. From there, you can pursue relationships with men, women, both, or neither — the choice is yours. Aside from the protagonist’s bisexuality, those little hearts also make the larger cast bi. For example, if you choose to play as the female protagonist, the bachelorettes are all presumed bi: their heart events occur either with you or their original (male) match-up from Harvest Moon.

Many of the supporting characters of the game close together at a ceremony at a church.

In this scenario, the bachelors are then presumed straight, as their heart events occur either with you (the female protagonist) or their original (female) match-up. The reverse is true if the player chooses the male protagonist: the bachelorettes are presumed straight, and the bachelors bi.

This small inclusion may not seem like a big deal. It’s certainly not a perfect representation, as much of it is based on presumptions (more on that later). But SoS: FoMT was the first game in the larger Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons series to allow queer couples. It was the first game to equalize all permanent unions, regardless of gender, as “marriages”; previous installments have either not allowed same-gender partnerships or referred to them as that old cliché, “Best Friends”. (Hide your lesbians, anyone?)

The developers specifically chose to add same-sex marriage to SoS: FoMT. On their blog, they noted: “The relationship between same-sex couples will be given identical treatment to opposite-sex couples. This has been a very long time coming in the Story of Seasons series.”

Brandon talks to the main character, Put simply, the time I spent speaking with you had both meaning and purpose.

And it’s true: Players have been asking for this feature for years. When I first played the original FoMT, I was 12. I happily played as the male protagonist. It was the only option available at the time, and he could woo only the bachelorettes. I accepted this heteronormativity as exactly that: normal.

By 2020, I wasn’t so accepting of rigid binaries. In a series all about customizability, it seemed ridiculous that dating was gender-locked. For this remake to remove that was nothing short of magical. How many chances do we get to see something we loved as kids grow along with us? And when the developers said all couples would be treated equally, they meant it. Aside from marriage, heart events have also had their gendered references altered or removed. For example, one of Karen’s original heart events jokingly referred to the male protagonist as her husband. In the remake, both the male and female protagonists can activate that event, and the word “husband” has been replaced with “spouse”.

Similarly, Kai’s blue heart event genders the protagonist as they/them — meaning that the event dialogue is, quite literally, the same for both the male and female protagonists, as the game does not even need to swap between pronouns.

Kai talks to the main character,

One of the few differences is the cutscene for starting a family, where heterosexual couples visit the Clinic for a pregnancy announcement; same-sex couples receive a visit from the Harvest Goddess instead. Nearly all else is the same, though. For queer couples, there are no disapproving parents, no homophobic siblings, and no ranting and raving elders. Queer relationships are never less than; for bis who’ve struggled with self-acceptance, this may provide some relief, as well as a non-judgmental space where they can be themselves.

Another important bi moment occurred in the 10-page manga released alongside the game. In it, the male protagonist Pete introduces the game’s basic features. On page nine, he notes that he’ll be very busy building his new life, but even so, he might still have time to fall in love. Though the comic displays the bachelorettes in that panel, the page ends with a note from Pete: “The boys are cute too...”

Bi Pete? Check!

A female protagonist walks down the aisle with a female partner while the town attends.

What I Didn’t Like:

Let’s circle back to those presumptions now: The game never uses the word “bi”, or even “gay”, “queer”, “sapphic”, or “lesbian”, etc. No one talks about sexuality at all. If you pursue a queer relationship, it just happens. There’s no conversation about it. The game is rated E 10+, meaning it’s appropriate for anyone aged ten and up. Rarely do you see complex portrayals of anything at that rating. This may make the game feel childish or hokey to those who want to see more nuanced portrayals of sexuality. It skews idyllic.

This idealism may be a benefit, though. Media featuring queer characters often focuses only on coming out, as though there are no queer experiences beyond that. Netflix’s 2018 reboot of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is one notable exception: in it, queerness just exists. This alternative approach may have bolstered the show’s popularity.

SoS: FoMT takes the same tack, with much of the same success. The game even set a North American sales record for its localizer XSEED. Though SoS: FoMT avoids the coming-out cliché, dodging conversations about sexuality entirely may be a missed opportunity. For example, researcher and author Mimi Marinucci has argued that naming experiences is crucial for marginalized communities. Story of Seasons doesn’t do that.

A female protagonist stands near 3 colorful cows at the farm.

Which approach you prefer — the idyllic, no-conversation-needed or the more explicit awareness of queerness — will alter your experience of the game; your mileage may vary. Finally, gender is limited in-game. You can choose either a male or female protagonist; the game does not offer other options, despite its awareness and use of gender-neutral terms like “spouse”.

The Rating:

One of the stipulations of the Unicorn Scale is the use of the word “bisexual”. Unfortunately, that word doesn’t come up anywhere in the game or its materials, though plenty of fans have noted the protagonist’s bisexuality, as well as the fact that the entire eligible cast is now technically bi. 

For this reason, I give Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town a score of three point five unicorns. Had it more clearly defined its bisexuality, perhaps, then it could have received the full four. But in my heart, and thanks to the hours of nostalgia-fueled fun it gave me, it will always be closer to that perfect four!

3.5 unicorn emojis


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