Story of Seasons Review (Nintendo 3DS)
“Today is the day,” I said to myself as I hopped out of bed at dawn. My house was shabby, a dilapidated shack even, but that was all about to change. It was the day I’d finally collect enough lumber and small stones for a home upgrade. It started out like any other day—I watered my crops, greeted the villagers, and scavenged for supplies. As my stamina depleted, I chopped and hammered and finally—finally—let the carpenter know I was ready for some home improvement.
Story of Seasons, for all intents and purposes, is Harvest Moon without the title, and continues the series’ tradition of making the mundane into compelling gameplay. As a new farmer (male or female, the choice is yours) in a sleepy village, it’s up to you to expand your selection of crops, raise a stable of animals, and even improve the town’s economy through trade. It’s a lot of responsibility for one novice farmer, so Story of Seasons introduces each new concept very slowly. A little too slowly, even. It starts with a deadly dull tutorial that lasts seven in-game days, and veteran Harvest Moon players are sure to be bored with how slowly each basic concept is explained. I spent the first hour or so going through the motions as quickly as possible, and it was a huge relief when my training period was over and I was ready to move into my own farm, ramshackle as it may be.
For those who haven’t been enjoying the Harvest Moon series since its SNES inception, the tutorial might serve as a welcome introduction to the world of virtual farming. Story of Seasons works on a four-season calendar, with each season taking up 30 in-game days. Each time of year brings with it different types of crops and weather—spring has a few rainy days, while summer is relentlessly sunny and winter is, not surprisingly, snowy. Trading those crops allows you to make more money, which can be spent on seeds, animals, upgrades, blueprints, and a variety of other items. It’s a circular game with no end; the more you work, the more you trade, the more you buy, and the cycle repeats anew—theoretically with an increase in quality of goods as you become more experienced and are able to upgrade tools.
There are a few wrinkles that add some depth to the tried-and-true formula. Trading in particular is a lot different than in standard Harvest Moon games. Generally, the series had you bring your crops to the general store or other businesses to sell them at a set price. In Story of Seasons, different countries will visit the trading grounds, and market trends dictate which items are most in-demand in various regions. Trading better and more varied products attracts more outside countries to your village, which presents more opportunities. You can even accept trading missions in which countries demand a specific type of item, and you’re usually well rewarded for your efforts.
The other big difference in Story of Seasons is that your farm isn’t the only game in town. You’ll find yourself strolling through fields and farmland far more diverse and advanced than your own, and you can even rent out additional land from the village to expand your crop portfolio. Unlike at your home farm, where the season dictates which crops can grow, these town-owned fields each support different types of crops—so you can grow root veggies year-round while potatoes are limited to spring at home.
A major problem with Harvest Moon games in the past is that doing your virtual chores becomes an actual chore as your farm expands. In Story of Seasons, all tools work on a 3x3 grid by default, so you can water or pick nine plants at a time instead of one. The expedited gameplay might sound blasphemous to Harvest Moon purists—usually it takes a lot of time to get tools good enough to multitask like that—but it keeps the game moving at a brisk pace and encourages quicker growth while maintaining the desire to upgrade to better tools and gain more land.
Story of Seasons might be different in name, but at its heart it’s very much a Harvest Moon game. This is a series that has evolved very little in nearly two decades—it’s still got the cutesy graphics, basic gameplay, and “new kid on the farm” premise with a few variations here and there. It’s not the game you turn to when you’re looking for a challenge or in-depth narrative, but there’s something so comforting about the routine of it all. Finding that last bit of material for an upgrade, perfecting a recipe, unlocking new animals, winning livestock and crop competitions—a series of small events are always pushing you forward, compelling you to keep playing. And since there’s no end game, I’ll still be playing Story of Seasons long after I write this review, a true test of a game’s longevity that it passes with flying colors.
This review was completed with a retail copy of Story of Seasons provided by the publisher for Nintendo 3DS.