After 20 years since the original release, Harvest Moon, now called Story of Seasons, is back in action. Anyone who is a fan of the hit game Stardew Valley would surely love one of the games that highly inspired it. This familiar farming gem Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life originally released on GameCube and PlayStation 2 in 2003, making this a long-awaited remake and review. The Story of Seasons franchise had a few rocky titles in the modern day, but there’s no doubt that the charm from two decades ago is still present within this remake.
Like most in the series, you start a new life at your grandfather’s old farm. In the country town of Forgotten Valley, you get to customize your farmer, choose the animals you take care of, and grow numerous different crops. Not only that, but there are multiple different citizens of the Valley, some who are single and ready to mingle. The main purpose and goal of this Story of Seasons game is to find someone to marry by the end of your first year, and grow a family with them. This game brings back the charm from the original, and it still serves as a great game in 2023.
A return to form
As someone who loves Stardew Valley, and having only played a Story of Seasons game on the Nintendo DS as a kid—despite me owning a GameCube and PlayStation 2—reviewing this game was a treat. Sadly, I won’t be able to compare it too much to the original, but what I can say from doing my research is how much Marvelous Inc. did a great job. Great as in being able to not only replicate what the farming simulator formula was, but to keep it in a modern light.
While the original had a duller color palette, the remake has saturated Forgotten Valley and brought life into the game again. If they were to advertise this as a new Story of Seasons title, it would still hold up. The gameplay loop is satisfying, and there are constantly new things to do as the seasons and years go by. You don’t even get to most of the good stuff until you reach the second year, which makes this a game you’ll be playing for days on end.
The idea of being able to grow a family and watch your child grow is something that’ll make players stick with the game for awhile. Despite some of the early gameplay becoming a little monotonous, which I’ll explain further into the review, the best stuff comes later. If any player was disappointed by any of the newer Story of Seasons titles and wanted something fresh but familiar, I highly recommend picking this one up. Although it sits at the same price point as a new game, it really does feel up to date.
The day-to-day life on a farm
Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find your own farming routine that works for you. Most players will find that they do similar stuff. Wake up, feed your animals, collect animal products like Milk and Eggs, water your crops, and then let the animals outside. Once you’ve done your morning routine, there are a few things around the Valley to do. You can go fishing, collect resources like flowers and mushrooms, or help out at the dig site.
Most of the stuff you’ll be doing throughout the day will help contribute to your profits. For example, I usually end up spending many in-game hours at the dig site trying to find valuables to sell to Van twice a season. Each season lasts 10 days, and of course, there are four seasons in a year. You can also spend your day trying to give gifts to the romance options in hopes that they’ll want to marry you. By the end of the day, I bring my animals in, maybe cook a meal or two, and then head to bed. The cycle repeats, with certain events popping up and making some days feel new.
Eventually, you’ll unlock things like your own store, or new facilities to make better products to sell. You can even start growing hybrid crops, and each of these will slowly earn you more money. I still haven’t felt compelled to put the game down yet, but there are times when I feel like it isn’t stimulating me enough. For example, digging at the dig site is a great way to make money, but it’s highly tedious. I sometimes have to pull my phone out to double task because digging just in one spot takes a real-life minute.
When it feels aged
To continue on what I was saying, certain things about the game do remind me that it’s a 20-year-old game. Both the digging and fishing aren’t really challenging, all you do is press one button and you accomplish the thing. But for the dig site especially, you have to keep pressing that button over and over until you get treasure. If Marvelous Inc. were to change things up a bit, I would’ve rather had a tiny minigame for fishing or digging that would keep me engaged enough to enjoy the activity.
The feeling of an aged game continues as I occasionally try to busy myself with other activities. Once I finish my tasks on the farm, and don’t have any requests to take care of, I sometimes feel obligated to end the day early. There are only two permanent shops in town, one that’s a café and another that sells seeds. Van the travelling merchant will come by on the 3rd and 8th, which are my favorite times of the season. It would be neat to have other shops, such as a furniture shop to decorate your home and farm.
You can also travel to the city for a few hours, but the screen will fade to black and it’ll just pass the time. I understand this is a remake, and never advertised itself to add a ton of new features, but I sometimes wish for things that I could do in modern farming simulators that I can’t do in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. A nearly one-to-one remake is what the team behind the original was going for, so I can at least commend them for that.
A nice polish
Since 20 years have passed since the original, you would expect a jump in graphics. It definitely looks a lot cleaner than the original, since we’ve passed a few console generations since then. That’s not to say it has impeccable graphics or anything. I like the cartoonish style, but it will occasionally look flat texture wise. It’s not something to complain much about though, I don’t think it would fair well with high-definition graphics. The pop in colors really help, and playing on my PC makes it looks nice, especially when the sun sets and the lighting changes.
One thing it added that I appreciate is character customization. Apparently, the original never had this feature, and I’m glad that if they added anything, it was this. There are a few face options, and a ton of hairstyles. If this wasn’t added, I feel as though it would really make the game feel dated. But now you can make your farmer look similar to you! Also, they allow you to choose between he/him, she/her, and they/them pronouns, which is unexpected, but pleasant to see.
The changes that Marvelous Inc. added make the remake worth it, especially for the bachelors and bachelorettes. Not only did they add more romance candidates, but you can marry anyone, no matter the pronouns you chose! There seems to be a good reason behind every change, making this feel like a well-updated remake.
Worth your time
Overall, I can say with certainty that no matter if you’ve played the original or not, you should check out Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Although I have some gripes about it, the good parts of the game overshadow the bad. Anyone interested in games with farming like Stardew Valley, or life simulations like The Sims, should enjoy this remake. There are plenty of stuff to do as the seasons go by, and the gameplay loop is gratifying.
I hope Story of Seasons continues to follow what it does best, since I can tell this is probably one of the better games in the series. I’m certainly not done with this game, and have a lot more to discover. Marvelous Inc. did a good job with keeping the identity of the original, while adding quality-of-life updates that make it playable 20 years later.