Story of Seasons is the most recent title in the Harvest Moon series. Like previous games, the player focuses on farming and building up relationships with friends. Story of Seasons takes the original concept and expands upon it greatly, creating a marvelous and addicting experience.
The game begins with an avatar creator that offers very little freedom. There are options that allow different faces, hairstyles, and hair color. Luckily, these settings aren’t permanent. Later in the game, customization opens up to changing shirts, hats, and pants. What is initially available is just a fraction of what the game has to offer.
Once your character is created, a short scene emerges and develops the backstory that describes how the protagonist scores a job on a farm, but ultimately leads into a painstakingly lengthy tutorial that involves living with a pleasant elderly woman named Eda. Eda spends seven in-game days covering the basics of managing a farm. The tutorials are unnecessarily long and over explain the simplest of mechanics. Story of Seasons would have benefited from either shaving off most of the tutorial, or scrapping the entire process altogether. After two to three hours, the player achieves farmer status and gains their own plot of land. This is where the game finally becomes enjoyable.
When given freedom, the player can explore the entire town at their own pace … mostly. Each day is timed with a clock that determines which characters are available to socialize with. While it doesn’t restrict the player, going without sleeping long enough results in fainting from exhaustion. This rarely happens, but it’s not the only reason to keep an eye on the timer. Many events take place at certain times on specific days. A calendar beside the player’s bed can be referenced to check for current and upcoming events. This is extremely useful and delivers direction for players who are unsure where to go next.
Tutorials pop up from time to time and offer some direction and often introduce new features such as facilities, animals, and plots of land to grow crops. Luckily, they are short enough and do not disrupt the amusing gameplay.
Story of Seasons tasks players with managing a farm by growing vegetables and raising animals. At the end of each growing season, everyone gathers their favorite vegetable and is judged at the Harvest Festival. This festival gives players an incentive to grow unique vegetables from seeds they buy at stores in town. Barns allow players to own animals like cows and horses. During exclusive events called Livestock Expos, town farmers gather their favorite animal and show them off. The farmer with the best animal wins. It’s another way to motivate the player to take care of their animals and gather as many as they can. Taking care of them is a daily process that may suck up money due to the amount of food necessary to keep animals happy, however. Certain pets and food can be obtained in town through shops or trading.
The town offers more gameplay opportunities. Several civilians that the player can socialize with walk around. If they are the opposite gender, a relationship can be built that can result in marriage. The town also has a trading center where people from other countries come to sell exclusive products. This includes blueprints to build furniture, herbs, pets, and materials to build stronger tools. Trading is required in the game as the player cannot progress much without gaining specific items.
Items may be used to craft specific gifts for citizens. Each character has items they like and do not like, making gift giving a potentially risky activity. Not all items are exclusive through trading. The player can obtain natural resources such as stones and logs from using tools on rocks and trees, respectively. When using tools, characters perform a silly animation to gather resources. For example, with a hammer, they swing the mallet down on rocks. With a hoe, they do a little jump and strike the ground. And with an axe, they spin around in circles, which looks really awkward.
Story of Seasons has decent graphics that are accompanied by a pleasant art direction, and its opening cinematic is the most graphically pleasing. The largest graphical issue is the frame rate. Most of the time, the frame rate runs smoothly, but in a few areas, such as your farm, it drops considerably. While it doesn’t hinder gameplay, it may surprise players when it dips below 24 frames per second.
Aside from the lack of fluent graphics, a beautiful soundtrack complements the charming art direction. Each season has its own theme that captures the atmosphere flawlessly. Transitioning to a new season ignites excitement, and knowing a new tune will play makes it that much more special. The soundtrack does a perfect job of immersing the player by making them feel like they’re in the game’s world. Music isn’t the only aspect that sucks players in.
The characters that roam the town provide some of the greatest experiences in the game. Each one has a distinct voice and all of them have their own quirks. I found myself blowing off farming to socialize because I cared for them immensely. The marriage option always presents deeper connections with characters because the player gets to experience a different side of their beloved one.
In-game characters aren’t the only ones who can roam your town. With the 3DS’s fantastic StreetPass functionality, human players can also visit. When passing by someone who also has Story of Seasons, that person’s avatar will appear in your town. It’s a neat idea, but their avatar doesn’t do much except crowd the town. Fortunately, the team at Marvelous AQL implemented a multiplayer mode where you can invite friends over to your farm. When they’re visiting you, or vice versa, you can help each other out with farming crops. Unlike StreetPass residents, who are permanent, they’re temporary visitors who actually lend a hand with farming. Both features are welcome additions that make the experience much more interactive.
Overall, Story of Seasons is a fantastic game that will suck you in if you give it enough time. The opening tutorial is tedious and lengthy, but a massive and spectacular game lies within. With lovable characters, customization options, enjoyable farming, and a merry environment, Story of Seasons is a must-play for any 3DS owner looking for a quality life simulator.