Story of Seasons First Year Impressions
Before I start my actual impressions, I’d like to mention a couple things of where I’m coming from with this. I’ve been a fan of the series (which I will be calling Farm Story) since the original SNES title. So much so that back before Natsume lost the localization job for the series (on the last game they localized of the series before they started making their own games with the series name) I wrote a personal retrospective, it’s hanging around the Natsume forums and it’s also on Destructoid (and just for kicks I’ll link it if anyone wants to read it for a better view of my stance on this series.) The idea of someone else handling the translation was a thing that actually excited me, so I could see someone else’s take on the series. Well that’s enough of a preface, let’s get started.
Story of Seasons is the latest game of Marvelous AQL’s “Bokujou Monogatari” series, of which I will refer to as “Farm Story” for the rest of this piece. Translated for years by Natsume under the title “Harvest Moon” in the United States, the series was given to XSEED for this newest installment. XSEED being part of Marvelous, it only makes sense. However Natsume owns the “Harvest Moon” title, so a new name has come to the series. Does the new localization team give substance to this new story? If my first year in the game has any say, I believe so. The piece has been written in several segments where I talk about various things I’ve noticed or found or done in the game, some are just informative, others have my personal thoughts on them. At the end are my overall final thoughts.
Oak Tree Town:
Story of Seasons is a farming/life game. The set-up for the game is your character (which you can customize) receives a pamphlet in the mail advertising the idea of moving away from the city to settle down in some little unknown town in the middle of nowhere to be a farmer. Sending in the application you find you that you were selected. The game begins as your character arrives in Oak Tree Town. Oak Tree Town is a bit different from other towns in this series. See this town has no actual mayor; the town is owned and run by some guild.
The point of the game is to build up the village through your farming and shipping to bring more people to the town and more businesses from other countries as well. This is all added to the normal “Be a successful farmer, build a family” stuff the series has almost always had in the main titles. Overall I enjoy Oak Tree Town, its layout confused me a bit at first, mainly the stair placement, but after a few days I learned and started navigating just fine. It’s nice to have a set town again, as “A New Beginning” had you build the town yourself, which while an awesome idea, didn’t feel as… decent as one prebuilt in the game. There’s still village customization, but only in specific points that are given to you over the course of the game.
So far I like the new batch of characters. Veronica is the first person you meet in the game, as she gives you the tour of the town and surrounding area. Then you meet Eda, who for your first in game week takes you under her wing and serves as the basic tutorial. She also happens to be your next door neighbor, running the farm next door. Oh did I forget to mention that there are 4 other farmers?
Yup, that’s another new thing, you are the fifth farmer to start living in Oak Tree Town. You are in competition with the other farmers for the public fields, spot in the game world that grow different types of plants better. You have to win some kind of competition to get one, and then it’s yours for 30-31 days. I haven’t really done much with the public fields, so my knowledge of the mechanic isn’t that great.
Aside from the other farmers, there’s quite the bunch in this game, including five candidates for marriage for each sex the player could choose. More characters come as the town gets more popular. I still don’t have all the main characters in my town yet. However each one is great and fun to talk to in their own unique way. Also, Iris is mine, back off. (Joking of course, as I can’t control who each person chooses to go for.)
Story of Seasons has some “Oh man these new changes are fantastic!” moments in the game. For starters, your crops all work on a 9x9 grid. When you till the soil with the hoe, it creates one of these grids. One bag of seeds will fill this grid (or be one large plant, like a tree) and when you water them with the watering can, it waters the entire grid. This also applies to harvesting, just stand in the grid, press the A button and all nine crops are harvested into a box that you pick up. All crops remain “fresh” for 3 days too, so you have a decent chance of getting the most G for your crops.
The game probably has the largest variety of crops I’ve ever seen in the series, all the main staples are here, plus a whole lot more. I’ve grown things from Potatoes and Turnips to Tea Leaves and Flax, and that’s just the stuff I can plant on my own farm land, there’s also mushrooms, patty crops and flowers to grow as well, and the above mentioned trees. It really is impressive how many different crops there are to grow.
The animal selection in the game is great too. There are different breeds of cows and chickens, as well as alpacas, angora rabbits, and animals that will live in the game’s safari area, like elephants. Yes you can own elephants in this game. Caring for the animals is rather simple, just make sure they have food, brush them, talk to them, and harvest their produce. Taking them to the safari will eventually lead to a better, but different produce, like Milk+ for cows (though they could have called it Golden Milk) and Golden Eggs for chickens.
You can also have pets, as in more than one. One of the structures you can build (which more on that will be in the crafting section) is a pet house. You can have five pets in it, plus one that can live in your house with you. Pets will do various things, for instance the cat I have in the game occasionally brings me gifts. It’s a nice dynamic with the other animals.
Crafting is a huge part of this game, more so than in any other game of the series. Everything is useful that you find to some degree. To craft you need the blueprints for the item, and the ingredients to make it. Using the crafting system you’ll improve your house, upgrade your tools (sorry, no blacksmith in this game), build barns, chicken coops, and pet homes, as well as decorations like fountains, wallpaper for your house, chairs, your kitchen, etc. Everything that can be crafted uses the system, just not the same piece of equipment to craft. For instance to build a structure or upgrade your tools, you do it at the craft and edit table. To cook, use the kitchen.
The edit table allows you to move around things in your house or on your farm to set it up how you like, just note you CAN’T move your house. This brings us to how deep this crafting system is. Say you want to get the seeds from your 2 star crop at the end of the season, so that you can use 2 star quality seeds from the start of the next year’s season to keep improving. First you need to build the seed maker building and place it on your farm. Then you need to take those 2 star crops and put them in the crop drier. Wait about 25 in game minutes, and remove the dried crops, then place the dried crops in the thrasher, and when that’s done, you harvest the seed bags.
There’s a bunch of crafting structures, I have 4 built, and a fifth in my blueprints binder. The Seed maker I explained above (you can also use weeds to make fertilizer to improve your star rating on crops, required to win the harvest festivals on the 30th of each season), the winery, the spice shed, and the sewing studio, the pottery shed is not yet built, but each of these uses this multi-step process to make the stuff. So far making clothes for you to wear, or sell, or display in the fashion show is the one with the most steps and time to do. To make an outfit you need the studio, then you need the base components, like wool, the wool needs to be turned into yarn at the spinner, then turned into cloth at the loom, and then finally use the sewing machine to turn it into clothes, this process takes over a day (mainly on the actual sewing machine).
To get some of the components you’ll need to mine, and there’s only one spot you can do that at (really, only one node). It’s in the safari, so you won’t be mining until Fall of year 1. But you can mine once a day, and get between 5 and 10 items (it’s random) when you do mine. It seems limiting at first, but since you can ride your horse there, and your animals like it there, it’s not a HUGE problem in the long run.
Shipping and Traders:
In most of the previous games in the series, the player would take their produce or stuff they find in the mountains/forest/whatever and put it in a shipping bin on your farm, and the money would be added to your wallet either at the time the shipper comes or the next day. Some games changed it up, in Hero of Leaf Valley and Save the Homeland you sold your items directly to the npcs, and in A Wonderful Life you could ship stuff, sell it to Van, or set up your own shop.
Story of Seasons handles this differently. You can only sell your goods to foreign traders who visit occasionally. While at the start there’s only one, so there could be upwards of five days without any traders in town, as you ship stuff, more come, adding not only more places and opportunities to sell, but also new items, recipes, blueprints and clothing patters to buy. Some of the traders also sell animals. One trader sells a mystery seed on occasion, which is a clever crossover with Nintendo, as this seed will grow into a Super Mushroom, a Fire Flower, or a Starman, having a different positive effect on your crops depending on which you get.
What’s a Farm Story game without festivals? Holidays really help bring these games to life and Story of Seasons is no different. Most festivals are expos/competitions like the harvest festival, the various animal festivals and the fashion show, but there are a few others that aren’t like the fireworks display. There were however two festivals I felt were weak in this game. Those would be the Starlight Gala and New Year’s. The Gala is underwhelming because of the graphic they used for the sky… It’s not good, in fact you can’t really see any STARS in it, which hurts the whole point of showing the sky. New Years is ok for what it is, but when some games in the series past showed the first sunrise of the new year, well it’s not quite as memorable without it.
Overall the game is decent to look at, it has a simple art style with lovely character portraits. The User Interface is clean and the font looks great even on the 3DS XL. Framerate is solid, even if where crops can be planted run at a lower FPS than the rest of the game, it’s never bothered me, but I can understand why it does bother some. The 3D effect works ok, and on occasion I turn it on, but considering the camera angle the game is at, having the 3D on doesn’t really do much usually.
On the audio front, I think it’s about time Marvelous got a different set of UI sounds, they’re the same ones from A Wonderful Life and it’s starting to get old. The music is hit or miss in my opinion. Most of it sounds ok, but it’s a lot of really short loops, spring is easy to find the looping point. My personal favorite is the winter theme. At least the season themes have a nighttime variant, it’s a nice touch. Some of the festival music seems to be a remix from a song in Back to Nature.
Overall I feel Story of Seasons is a strong game. It takes the deep crafting system of A New Beginning and adds to it. The new cast of characters is a great bunch, the new setting is nice and it plays well. I’m excited to see what Marvelous and XSEED do with the next installment. The Farm Story series is on a great path with these changes. Now maybe they can make one that fully takes use of the New 3DS, and make a fully 3d, not top-down game that incorporates bits and pieces of every title into an even more wonderful experience.
Based on my first year in the game, it’s one of the best titles to come out for the series in recent years, and should be looked at by anyone who’s been a fan of this series for any length of time. Story of Seasons is very much a story worth experiencing.