Game: STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows ), PS5 & Xbox series X)
Developer | Publisher: Marvelous Inc | Marvelous (Europe & XSeed)
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: US $39.99 | UK £34.99 | EU € 39,99
Release Date: June 27th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Marvelous Europe and Decibel PR
Three years ago, another remake of an old Harvest Moon game came to the Nintendo Switch. This was STORY of SEASONS: Friends of Mineral Town, remade from a GameBoy Advance title that was first released in 2003. A mere six months later, another title was released: A Wonderful Life on GameCube and a year later, on PlayStation 2. And it’s this one that has now had an entire overhaul for Nintendo Switch. (By the way, want to know why old Harvest Moon titles are now called Story of Seasons? Read about that here)
Let’s see what happens when you shovel away 20 years of accumulated sand and leaves and get a spruced-up game! With updated visuals, additional marriage candidates, new animals, seasonal events, and a wide array of gameplay improvements, we now have a classic updated to 2023.
No Memory Loss, But a Family Story
STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life doesn’t start with the memory loss we often encounter in these farming sims. No, this is a family story. Your father had always aspired to be a farmer, and together with his best friend Takakura, they saved money to purchase a farm in the secluded Forget-Me-Not Valley. Unfortunately, your father never had the chance to fulfil his dream as he passed away. However, you feel a strong pull towards the valley, driven by the desire to honour your father’s wishes and seek solace away from the busy city life. To your surprise, Takakura managed to gather enough funds to provide you with a house, essential tools, a cow, and a small farming budget.
It is your goal to revive your family’s farm and to help the people who have sought refuge in Forget-Me-Not Valley. Your ultimate goal is to create a prosperous life for yourself, balancing the needs of your farm, your family, and your social life.
It may sound like typical Story of Seasons stuff, but I’ve found that there is a difference. It’s the story of your little farmer’s life, with marriage, a child and influencing, in turn, what your child will do with its life.
A Life in Chapters
STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life is divided up into chapters, with the first chapter to get to know farming life, socializing with the valley people and finding yourself a spouse. The second chapter is when your child is born and so on, and you settle into family life. Socializing with your child, choosing what kind of toys it plays with and talking to the people in the valley are ways to influence what kind of career your child will pursue.
A chapter takes place in a set amount of years. The first chapter takes 1 year; in this game, a season only lasts 10 days. The chapters that follow each span a certain amount of years, and all in all, you follow your farmer for 30 years (and ten years in game playtime.) The clock ticks faster than in real life; each hour in-game is 1 minute in real life.
One thing is for certain; you’ll be married and have a child after year 1. Either with someone that you have to spend a lot of effort with to woo or the standard person that the game has ready for you. Mine was Matthew, the troubled brooding soul. I had taken pains to give him crops to try and please him, but he only told me that my tomatoes and such tasted awful.
At the end of year one, though, he told me how he loved being around animals and that it calmed him. And as I had animals, could we team up? What a romantic! I know it’s all pixels, of course, but I couldn’t help but smile!
It’s a Lean Existence
During your first year, you will get to grips with the tutorial Takakura provides and try to get your farm up and running. You can buy seeds and fertilizer at Vesta’s Farm. On your own farm, there’s a ledger from which you can buy animals, feed and production facilities.
There’s a shipping box, but you can only put crops and animal products there. For all other sales, you depend on Van, the travelling salesman that comes to the valley twice in every season. Or you can set up a stall of your own in the middle of town, which you have to man yourself.
I was excited at first to open the stall, getting vibes of Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar. And indeed, you can sell all the things you can’t put in the shipping bin. But the only buyers are your friends in town, and it’s not like they flock en masse to check out the wares. And I could cut them a deal and sell for less than the shipping bin or Van give me or ask for the standard price. Instead of twiddling my thumbs and waiting for customers, it’s easier to wait for Van to show up.
Fortunately, your first cow and your horse are given to you because otherwise, it’s a meagre existence. Though you get a little cash to get started, I found the investments in the production facilities needed to get the farm to the next stage daunting. I mean, the cheapest one, the Seed Maker, costs 30,000 G. And the best-selling crop or animal produce nets me some 200G.
Usually, mining provides a good source of income, but not in STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life. There’s a dig site where you can borrow a shovel during the day from Carter, the archaeologist. You can keep the things you find, but they don’t net much too. Digging is an awkward affair I think. Where sowing, watering and such are fluent, digging has a strange rhythm and takes a long time.
Opening Up After Year One
Going through the standard motions in year one got a bit tedious after a while. There isn’t much variety in crops or items to dig up, and though foraging gives nice seasonal flowers, it’s not very abundant. The other residents are colourful people and very varied, but after a while, the standard things they said got predictable.
I had my hopes up when I found the path into the big city, and I was fine when the game told me it would take six in-game hours. However, nothing happened aside from the fact that my farmer came back more relaxed.
After year 1, I had a feeling things took off. My child arrived, and townies opened their hearts to me. New people arrived in the valley. To my surprise, everyone aged too, and mortality is a thing. There was a scene I won’t spoil for you, but it touched my heart.
Takakura got Vinnie, looking like a flesh-eating plant but with a cool ability. And of course, I could still do my daily visit to the three sprites that lived in the big tree. They are the sprites that are working hard to get the Goddess back to the spring by collecting wonders. Plus, they give me one recipe for cooking per day.
Overall, STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life is different from later Story of Seasons games. I feel as if the residents are more diverse. A musician living in a yurt, two pyrotechnicians living in a tower, a crazy scientist and an athlete to name a few.
This makes the events different, too, even though they are few and far in between. There are some festivals that take place, but not as many as we have gotten used to in later games. That having been said, this remake has more events than the original, enhanced festivals, more recipes to cook, and lots of never-before-seen crops.
Quality of Life and More
The game controls well on the Switch. There are some good quality-of-life shortcuts included, like automatically moving to the next slot while sowing. There’s a great variety of animals to keep, not just the standard cow but many more varieties. You can breed your cow, and you have to work with the fact that milk production isn’t always the same. Like in real life. This makes the management part of the game very interesting.
The background tune is soothing, and the graphics look lovely. I’ve seen footage, of course, of the original game, and I can see that it’s all been redesigned. The changing of the seasons, the clear water of the rivers and especially the area of the Goddess’ spring look gorgeous. You can now also choose to be female, male or non-binary, and you can marry whomever you want.
There are a couple of things that make me smile every time I do them: training my little dog Sammy to do tricks. And cuddling and bouncing my little girl. I know, all pixels, but they look absolutely adorable.
Marvelous did a great job on the remake, STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life is a good game, even 20 years after its origins. You should be aware that STORY of SEASONS: A Wonderful Life tells the story of a farmer’s life. At first, there isn’t a huge variety of crops, fish and things to dig up. Still, your focus should be on trying to make the farm profitable and socializing with the people in the valley. The first chapter is only the intro. New things are introduced in the other chapters as well. And while your family expands, the other people in the valley get older, too and have their own stories.
The management part of the game is deep, maybe even deeper than later Story of Seasons games. Soil quality is important, for example, and sometimes crops just wilt without any indication. The quality of milk is important too and not constant over the seasons, and you can influence it by breeding your cow after a certain time. It’s hard in the first year to make a good living, and the investments that need to be done feel unreachable. But, overall, I think the fans of Story of Seasons will be pleased!
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot