Release: March 31, 2015
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Publisher: XSEED Games
Story of Seasons is a farming simulation game that was created by the same development team that has worked on past Harvest Moon releases, and if you’ve played a entry in that series, it will only take a moment to realize that Story of Seasons is by all means a successor in all but name. For all intents and purposes, it should have been called as such, but licensing issues prevented that from happening. I myself never played any of the Harvest Moon titles, and to be completely honest I have never really been a fan of simulation games; they’ve always intrigued me but it was never enough to inspire me to play one, with exception to my secret obsession Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Now I must say: after four seasons into my year one with Story of Seasons, I am exhausted! The game’s description is “farming simulation”, but that cannot be farther from the truth; it should really be considered part of the “everything simulation” genre. You are not only a farmer, but a carpenter, cook, designer, animal caregiver and breeder, landscaper, horticulturist… you probably get the point by now.
Story of Seasons has two modes that you can choose from:
The easiest difficulty is called “Seedling”, and if you want to really get the full impact of the game, I would not recommend it. The best way to play would be in the “Original” setting/mode which, although harder, is arguably the more rewarding of the two.
Story of Seasons begins as you the character have come to realize that you’re bored with your current life, and after coming across a flyer about farmers wanted in “Oak Town”, you decide to throw caution to the wind and become a farmer.
At the very beginning of the game, you meet the Guild Leader of the town named Veronica, who is present during any big event that happens during your residency in Oak Town. Veronica explains why they would be willing to take in someone such as yourself that has absolutely no experience in farming at all: the town needs help. They are looking to help grow their trade business and they think you just might be what they need. She introduces you to a fellow farmer Eda, who will be your guide through your first week of “training”. Yes, that’s correct: a week. A week which I promise will fly by, as for each minute that passes feels like a millisecond in real time. Story of Seasons’ time structure will lead you to some frantic moments, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll actually miss your first festival because you weren’t watching the clock.
From the very beginning of the game you’ll know that you’re in for some intense seasons ahead as you are given a “bookcase” full of literature that you can refer to as you progress. You’ll get another book to add to your “bookcase” whenever something new is learned. Like how Story of Seasons is not just about farming, the bookcase is not just a bookcase with books or “farm guides”, but a place for your trophies, letters, and even an almanac. Each time you learn something new or a new event goes on in the game, the character that is involved with you will kindly deliver a guide straight to your bookcase. How neighborly!
There were a few things I noticed off the bat while playing through Story of Seasons. For one thing, the title offers a high level of quality. The effects were very detailed and quite unique to the terrain, time of day, or weather. For example, the sound of cicadas during the summer seems so real that if you have your windows open, it can trick you into thinking you’re in Japan.
Story of Seasons also contains some quite enjoyable characters, and I have to say that I had a few favorites. At the same time, there were some that made me scratch my head. Their design, wardrobe, and voice didn’t really seem to fit in with the world around them. It wasn’t a huge issue as– although the game does rely on socializing– you can pick and choose who you talk to at festivals, so if there was someone that particularly bothered you, you could simply ignore them at festivals and social engagements.
As I mentioned earlier, Story of Seasons has so much more than farming, and you learn that early on. Once you’ve completed your “training” you’re given a piece of land with nothing but a hovel which you then have to rebuild with the help of the town carpenter, Gunther. Once your home is no longer a hovel, Gunther rewards you with a barn where you can keep cows and sheep. Each animal in the game has specific needs which you must fulfill to ensure they stay happy and healthy. Fortunately, you’re provided with an animal diary of sorts where you will be able to keep track of all the goings on of your animals. Trust me: you will need it. Your crops will require just as much dedication and focus because each one will grow and yield fruit, veggies, or flowers in very different ways. There are even places throughout the game where certain crops will grow best, which is something that is eventually unlocked.
Just like with building your own home, you will also have to cultivate the land, and being mindful of the season and crops you’re planting is a must. Avoiding this means the season will abruptly come to an end and you’ll lose all your crops. It’s best to ensure that you get the most of crops while you can as they will in most cases not carry over until next season. At the beginning of each season, you’ll want to review what you will have available for planting and make sure you will have enough time to reap a few harvests before the season finishes.
During my time as a farmer in Oak Town, I found myself desperately needing to make the time to continue working on my farm. The more crops I planted, the more upgrades I made to my land, and the more animals I endeavored to care for, the more I realized there was an immense sense of pride and accomplishment that I had in my progress. Some of the tasks can feel slightly repetitive, but nothing so great as to impact the overall playability of the game.
As I was starting out with Story of Seasons and trying to learn its little idiosyncrasies, I would find myself getting frustrated because I felt like I was constantly grinding and desperately trying to hold onto my stamina. You don’t have much access to resources in the beginning, and will find yourself spending a fortune at the restaurant in town just to have the stamina to cut down a tree! This does change as you progress, however, and things become quite a bit easier to manage as your options grow. It might seem a little frustrating at first, but will ultimately lead to a rewarding feeling.
Although I enjoyed seeing all of my flowers, trees, and crops grow, one of my favorite parts of Story of Seasons has to be the animals. You’ll not only be able to care for them, but breed them as well. I found myself letting out a little squeal of delight when my first baby chick was born and being a nervous mommy when my heifer was pregnant. You will also find yourself becoming quite competitive as you can enter any of your animals in one of the many festivals that are held year round. Along with animals, crops can be entered in these festivals as well. Just be mindful of the calendar since the entire town shuts down for the festivities. Being aware of the calendar, in addition to the days and hours of shops and vendor operations, are a very important part of the game, especially as you get close to the end of a season. Planning, strategizing, and good organization skills are all very crucial and necessary in order to achieve success.
As I stated at the very beginning of this review, there is so much more to Story of Seasons than just farming, and it would take so much more for me to be able to explain the scope of possibilities in the game. The more you play, the more you farm, cultivate, and care for your animals. This will have you being completely unable to put your 3DS down. With so much to do and so much to experience, this is a great simulation title that can provide you with so much more than what I have been able to share. If you love simulation games, then this is definitely one that you have to give a shot!
Story of Seasons is an exceptionally in-depth simulation experience that can connect with players who have a desire to play this type of game. It’s not a title that is out of reach to newcomers of the genre, and it provides a very good introduction while allowing gamers to decide how invested they want to become in their new life. On the same token, if you’re to truly get the most out of it, Story of Seasons is a perfect fit for the individual who is looking for one simulation game to fill quite a bit of time. If you truly want to dive into your new life as a farmer, Story of Seasons will provide you a whole new life that will take an endless amount of time to fulfill.