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July 2018

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2017


3DS Review - 'Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 30, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Settled on a homestead in the middle of three distinct and uniquely themed locales, players can explore a diverse landscape as they search for new ways to grow their farms and friendships.

Buy Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

Not every game on the market has to be an intense battle between good and evil. There's nothing wrong with taking up the sword to slay an evil necromancer, but sometimes, you need something more relaxing. That's where the Bokujou Monogatari franchise has always excelled. Once known as Harvest Moon and now as Story of Seasons, it's a franchise that has been about farming and making friends. There have been JRPG-style spinoffs and postapocalyptic reimaginings, but you're just growing crops and petting cows. Story of Season: Trio of Towns is the latest entry in the franchise, and it's a straightforward sequel. It doesn't reinvent the franchise but focuses on a basic and enjoyable farming adventure.

In Trio of Towns, you play as a young adult who lives at home with his family. When your parents prepare to move to a distant land, you declare your intent to leave home and become a farmer. Your father strenuously objects and treats you to a guilt trip. One rousing argument later, a compromise is reached. You move in with your uncle, who's a farmer, to prove that you've got what it takes to become a true farmer. It's a rather simple plot, so don't expect any sudden twists. It's mostly an excuse to explain why you're moving to a struggling farm and need to build it up on your own.

If you've never played a Story of Seasons game, you're given a farm and are tasked with making it successful. How you go about doing that is almost entirely up to you. You can focus on proper cultivation of plants, focus on successful animal breeding, or do a little bit of everything. You'll have to hoe, plant, water and nurture your plants while keeping track of the seasons, quality of your growth, and the time spent to optimize your crop yields. Don't mistake this for a hardcore farming simulator. Most of the tasks involve a few button presses and basic planning. There's some depth for those who want to maximize their profits and time spent, but the average player can find a comfortable middle ground and do well for themselves.

It's a repetitive task, but the joy of the game is in that same repetitiveness. Wake up, do chores, optimize your time, and minimize wasted effort. Dealing with a sudden rainstorm or a dirty barn is part of your everyday life. The description may sound dull on paper, but you're farming and not battling evil supervillains. Story of Seasons has had decades to perfect the formula, and it's fun because it strikes the right balance between simple and engaging. More so than previous games, Trio of Towns seems to know how much time you like to spend on doing things and rarely asks more. Even conversations are sped up, with more instant hellos for day-to-day interactions rather than lengthy word bubbles. There is some annoyance to the repetition, though, and with competitors like Stardew Valley available, it's easy to identify areas that could've been streamlined even further.

Of course, the biggest new feature in Trio of Towns is the trio of towns. Your farm services not one but three different towns. Westown is an American-themed town with a Western flavor, Lulukoko is a Hawaiian-style coastal town, and Tsuyukusa is a Japanese-themed town. Each locale has different residents and needs. You're not obligated to favor one town. You can hang out in Westown most of the time or dart between all three. You're given tasks with each town, and completing those tasks unlocks new items that you can purchase to expand and improve your farm. You can also perform various chores for the townspeople via some fun minigames. The chores take up a fair bit of time, so you should plan for them, as you would any task on your farm. Spend too much time helping others, and you might not be able to take care of your own farm.

A major part of any Story of Seasons title is the cast of characters, and Trio of Towns has three towns' worth. As with the rest of the franchise, Trio of Towns errs on the side of cute and simple. There are a bunch of characters, and most can be defined in one or two sentences. It's easy to find favorites and even easier to like the characters and their antics. They're not quite up to the level of Stardew Valley, but they're intensely charming in their own right. The character artwork is adorable, which helps the cast feel fun. As always, you can find candidates to marry. Players can select male or female protagonists, and there's a variety of suitors for each.

Trio of Towns is slow to start, but in this case, that's probably a good idea. The titular trinity of villages is rather overwhelming from the perspective of how many people, places and things you need to remember. Introducing them piecemeal means that the game gates content even harder than the last Story of Seasons title, so it takes a chunk of time to get access to everything. It also means that the early game can feel very slow. It isn't enough to sour the experience, but I think it errs too much on the side of caution. This is coming from someone who has put entirely too much time into Story of Seasons games, though. A newcomer will likely find the sedate pace comforting rather than overwhelming.

All in all, Trio of Towns is relaxing. There's very little pressure and no real mistakes you can't recover from. You can chill out and farm, or you can go hardcore and create the optimal farm. It's easy to get a profitable farm up and running, and from there, it's mostly about making optimizations and figuring out what tasks you need to do to upgrade your house or items. This means it's a solid title for players of all ages.

Visually, Trio of Towns is very similar to the prior Story of Seasons game. There have been some improvements here and there, but it's still very familiar, and that works in its favor. The game is cute, colorful and bright, so everything is instantly distinctive and easily recognized. The three towns each have their own style and flair, and it's easy to imagine different players quickly finding a favorite. Likewise, the music is chipper and does a good job of setting the atmosphere. The only real downside is that the frame rate takes a hit, especially in the more populated cities. Since it's a calm, slow-paced JRPG, though, this is more of a minor annoyance than a serious problem.

The biggest problem with Trio of Towns is that it doesn't break new ground. Most of what I've described about the gameplay can basically be boiled down to, "It's a Harvest Moon/Story of Season game." It's a tried-and-true formula, and Trio of Towns is a nicely polished version of that formula, but you've seen it all before. The trio of towns only adds more content. Some of the best games in the franchise prioritized polish above innovation, and Trio of Towns is a solid and well-made game.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is a thoroughly traditional and thoroughly fun entry in the franchise. It sticks to what makes it work and doesn't rock the boat. There are improvements, but most are so minor that they're unnoticeable unless you're a die-hard fan. It's the kind of game you can pick up for five minutes and end up playing for an hour, eager to finish just one more chore. If you're looking for a relaxing and enjoyable way to waste time on your 3DS, Trio of Towns is a lighthearted farming sim. What more can you ask for?

Score: 8.0/10

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