Story Of Seasons

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: March 31, 2015


3DS Review - 'Story of Seasons'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 20, 2015 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Story Of Seasons carries on the iconic life simulation and farming RPG gameplay made famous through the series' 18-year history while infusing new and exciting features into the experience.

Story of Seasons is the latest entry in the Bokujou Monogatari franchise, which is traditionally known in North America as Harvest Moon. It's both a sequel and a new IP, but Story of Seasons is a Harvest Moon game in everything but name only.

A different name doesn't change the traditional Harvest Moon gameplay very much. You take on the role of a new farmer who arrives in the town of Oak Tree. Before you can ask, "Where are the carrots?" you're drafted into working on one of the farms that surround the sleepy town. Soon, you're on your way to a thriving farming empire. Day-to-day life consists of building up your resources by crafting, farming, and trading items to get better resources to trade for better items. It's a simple but addictive formula. It won't quench the desire of anyone who's thirsting for action, but it's relaxing to play. The game offers an Original mode and a Seedling mode, which reduces the difficulty.

Story of Seasons does a solid job of updating gameplay mechanics without rendering them too simplistic. Customization is nice and simple, and it can be applied to everything from your house to your clothes. Basic acts, such as farming and watering a simple 3x3 plot, have been reduced to the minimum number of button presses. Some may argue this is less complex, but it doesn't feel that way. There was often little thought in planning complex arrangements, while there was plenty of tedium in watering those arrangements. Things aren't being dumbed down, but there's a simplification of some borderline tedious ideas. With some of the basics streamlined, you can focus on the title's more interesting aspects.

There's also plenty of challenge for players. Managing your crops takes a lot of careful effort and thought because you have to think about how you spend your time, especially early on. Waste too much time farming, and you might not have the time or energy to go fishing. Mistime your growing seasons, and you can easily lose an entire bumper crop of rare vegetables due to the onset of a cold snap. This isn't a die-hard farming simulator, but it's easy to end up in a situation where you don't have what you need because you didn't consider everything. Sometimes you have to go to sleep early to make sure you're better prepared for the next day, though this decreases as you get further into the game.

There's a lot to do in Story of Seasons. Farming is key, but what you do on the farm can vary a lot. There's a huge selection of different crops to grow in order to turn a profit. There's a huge selection of animals that you can raise, including chickens, cows, angora rabbits, monkeys and parrots. Not all of them are useful, but they can be a source of profit or rare materials. You also can trade with other farms, which represent fictional lands and other players, and you can increase profits by finding materials that sell high in foreign markets and create a trading empire.

Of course, there's the traditional Harvest Moon marriage, which is charming if not particularly complex. You choose an eligible bachelor and bachelorette and woo them with time and gifts. Every so often, you get special events to raise their friendship — and eventually, their romantic levels. When you've gotten close enough, you can get married. A lovely wedding transitions quickly into the growing of a family, including multiple children. What really helps sell these events is the high-quality translation that is provided for the entire game.

Story of Seasons is just charming, and much of that is due to the script. The characters are fun, and it's easy to develop a group of favorites. The script avoids feeling excessively funny or self-effacing while still being heartwarming. It sometimes delves into being saccharine sweet, but that fits the bright, happy tone of the game. I enjoyed going around and talking to the various NPCs to see what they'd say. It's a good game for players of all ages because of this. The script has some jokes that might fly over a younger kid's head, but gamers of all ages can enjoy this title.

The biggest core problem with Story of Seasons is that it is slow to start. The early segments are a combination of hand-holding tutorial and low-resource tedium. It's clearly designed to slowly ease you into farming, but it's not so complex that you need the ramp-up time. As a result, the early days feel wasted because there's not a lot to do, you run out of stamina quickly, and the game is focused on guiding you.

The thing that will turn off most people about Story of Seasons is its pacing. Once you get to the meat of the game, it can be engrossing, but it takes a while to reach that point. Compared to Rune Factory and Fantasy Life, which are tutorial-heavy but feel less restricted. Early on, your protagonist's stamina is really low, so many of the starting days have reduced potential. Once the tutorial finishes, you feel hindered when compared to other Harvest Moon titles. Seedling mode can help with this, but I can't recommend it since the opening areas are more of hump than an indication of the basic design. Once you get past the first segments, the curve smooths out.

If there is one other major problem with Story of Seasons, it is a poorly optimized game. The graphics are OK, the characters are cute and charming, and the colors are lush and vibrant. However, the frame rate is quite bad. On the original Nintendo 3DS, it was far more distracting than on the New 3DS, but even there, it stood out a lot. It's a slow-paced game, so this doesn't ruin the experience, but it's certainly prevalent, especially as you get further into the game and more things appear on-screen at once. There are also some minor visual glitches, including weird texturing on a character's skin. Nothing detracts from the whole, but it is clear the game could've used some more polish on that front.

Story of Seasons is a solid entry into the Bokujou Monogatari franchise. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's full of content, and almost all of it is fun. It has a few flaws, and poor optimization and a slow early-game progression curve drag down the experience. Once you past that, though, it's just plain fun. Whether you're wooing bachelors, raising parrots or planting crops, you have a near-infinite amount of stuff to do. It can get a bit grindy at times, but there's nothing more rewarding than selling your farmed tomatoes and watching the cash roll in. Story of Seasons is easily the best of the Harvest Moon games available on the 3DS, and it's a great entry for fans and newcomers alike. It isn't for everyone, but if you're looking to till soil instead of kill monsters, Story of Seasons is a great candidate.

Score: 7.5/10

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