Earlier this month, XSEED Games published its first localization blog for Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral town, the Switch remake of the beloved Harvest Moon classic, and it contains some delightful information. For the first time in the series’ long history, players will be able to marry any eligible bachelor or bachelorette, regardless of the gender of their farmer.
This feature is unique to the English release; the Japanese version, which released in October of last year, still refers to the ceremony which bonds two characters of the same sex in a life-long union as a “Best Friends” ceremony. According to the development blog, in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, “this will just be called “marriage,” and the relationship between same-sex couples will be given identical treatment to opposite-sex couples.”
The good news doesn’t stop there, as the English release will also display the affinity of all bachelors and bachelorettes at the start of the game, regardless of the gender of your farmer. This is a departure from the the Japanese version, in which players cannot see the heart meters of marriage candidates of the same sex until after you have started dating a character of the same sex.
The Best Friends system was first introduced in Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town, a 2003 version of Friends of Mineral Town, which was not released in America until 2005. In this version, players could take on the role of a female farmer and either marry one of the male bachelors, or become “Best Friends” with one of the bachelorettes. While the Best Friends system did not make another appearance in subsequent Story of Seasons or Rune Factory games, the developers have at least been aware enough of fans’ desire to create loopholes and work-arounds.
In Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, players were able to change their clothing and hair at will between male and female options, effectively allowing them to cross-dress. Rune Factory 4, after a certain point in the game, players could change their character’s avatar to either the male or female character. It was a nice workaround, but many found it lacking, as both the game and other characters would still use the pronouns associated with the original choice, rather than changing them to match the character’s appearance.
The decision to ditch the Best Friends system and simply refer to all unions as marriage is a great step forward for the series, especially given that Yoshifumi Hashimoto, producer of multiple Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Rune Factory games, seemed to completely miss the point of what players were asking for during a 2016 interview with Polygon, where he said:
“It’s not like we’re not thinking about [same-sex relationships] We know that it has to be there sometime in the future… If we have to allow same-sex [relationships], we have to put more characters who are the same gender. As a game, it’s going to be so much more volume, two or three times more. It’s going to be a little difficult.”
It’s encouraging to see these changes in such a wholesome and beloved series, even if they are limited to a localization. No longer will we have to start over, jump through hoops, ignore pronouns, and creatively rewrite the game’s dialogue in our own minds in order to experience a love story with whichever eligible guy or gal steals our hearts. In its blog, XSEED acknowledges the many years of player frustration by saying, “This has been a very long time coming in the STORY OF SEASONS series, and the producer has been supportive of our decision from very early in development.”
Head on over to the XSEED Localization Blog if you’d like to learn even more about the English release of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. It includes a great deal of information about the English localization, which will include a complete retranslation, without relying on the script from the original game, and the decision to use the original, Japanese character names. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town will release exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, and while it is slated for a July 10th release for Europe and Australia, the North American release date has not been set, though it will be coming sometime in Summer 2020.