Image via Marvelous Inc.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review — Enjoying Simplicity

Return to the simple life in this remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

Not only is Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life a wonderful remake of the 2004 Gamecube game, complete with more inclusive features and content than the original, it’s a joy to play. Having experienced the original as a child, being able to step directly into nostalgia remade with such attention and care was like standing by a warm fire on a clear, cool night on the farm.

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A Wonderful Life does so much with the original that it’s almost a new game instead of a remake. There are redesigned characters, updated NPC names, new events, new crops, festivals for each season, the ability to play as a male, female, or non-binary characters, and marriage options regardless of gender. There’s a lot here, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

Image via Marvelous Inc.

If you’ve played Harvest Moon, other Story of Seasons titles, Stardew Valley, or other farming simulators, then the gameplay mechanics in A Wonderful Life will feel familiar.

A large part of Story of Seasons is planting and growing crops while taking care of animals on your farm. While you wait for your plants to grow, you can spend time in town to meet the residents of Forgotten Valley, building relationships that can turn into marriage. You can also participate in classic farming sim activities like fishing. Or you can purchase new outfits and play dress-up to find your favorite look.

While farming-sim vets will find all of that familiar, one mechanic included in Story of Seasons that’s a little different if you’ve played other farming simulators is aging. While this is part of how the game allows you to play through multiple generations working your farm, it can be unexpected to have your character age if you aren’t aware of the system.

This comes in combination with a calendar design, where each season is 10 days in-game, so the years pass quickly. As a result, marriage becomes a priority if you want children to play as and continue the lineage of your farm — and playing as your primary character grows older.

There are four bachelorettes and four bachelors to choose from in the Forgotten Valley, and they each have a unique charm, from the loner Nami who learns that she belongs in this small town to Matthew, who’s trying his best to socialize but just isn’t good at it because he’s shy. This makes the journey toward romancing them more interesting because getting closer to these NPCs lets you learn about more than their likes and dislikes, and raising friendship with all characters instead of just your marriage option makes the Forgotten Valley feel like a living, breathing place.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

As another effort toward being more inclusive, you can choose any marriage option regardless of the pronouns you selected in character creation. After marriage, the size of your house increases, and you’ll have a child whose gender you can select during the wedding.

Before you start your farm, you’ll be taken to a character creation suite. There are two parts to character creation: things that can’t be changed after you start (such as eye color, face shape, and skin color) and things that can be changed after you start (such as outfit and hairstyle). Then, after you create your appearance, you get to select your name and pronouns.

In Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, you had limited options for your character. But Marvelous Inc. has made efforts to be more inclusive with Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, and you can now select your pronouns, which includes the option to be non-binary with “they/them.” The pronouns you choose are not dictated by the body type you select, making the Forgotten Valley a place where you can truly be yourself.

Image via Marvelous Inc.

Between the original and Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, the main story of the game hasn’t changed in any significant way. But honestly, most players aren’t picking up Story of Seasons games or other farming sims for the story.

Without going into spoilers, the plot for Story of Seasons revolves around bringing the goddess back to the Forgotten Valley. However, you can play the game and ignore the main story if you want, and this is part of the low-stress atmosphere that Story of Seasons brings with it that I love. I spent hours in this game without touching the main quest. Instead, I ran around fulfilling villager requests and snuggling my puppy, Pooki, and cow, Cowrla.

I also ran into heart events at random, which made it feel like something was always happening in the Forgotten Valley. It helped make the world feel alive, even if it’s small, and the events always have a wholesome feeling to them that leaves my heart warm.

With how quickly you can raise your friendship with the residents, there’s a chance to see a cutscene anytime you enter an area or building. Even stopping by the beach gave me an event with Gordy, where I lost friendship with him by speaking instead of staying silent. But I loved getting to learn about each character because sharing moments with them makes Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life feel like it’s about the Forgotten Valley as a whole instead of being focused on only the farming aspect.

The merit of a farming sim for me isn’t the story — it’s the mechanics and farming elements — but if I can get absorbed in the game for hours, completing simple tasks and growing crops without realizing that the day is passing. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life accomplished that with ease.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life — The Bottom Line

Image via Marvelous Inc.

Pros:

  • Nostalgic
  • Modernized to be inclusive and smooth
  • Made fresh with new content

Cons:

  • PC controls are clunky
  • Small setting
  • Minor performance issues

Overall, it’s difficult to find faults in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. It’s a remake of the most popular Harvest Moon, and Marvelous Inc. has taken the game to the next level by adding more content and making it more inclusive with the option to be male, female, or non-binary and the choice to marry any bachelor or bachelorette no matter which gender you choose to play as.

I ran into a few performance issues playing it on PC where the framerate dropped suddenly, but it happened only a few times, and the game remained very playable. As far as the actual controls go, my only complaint would be the controls on keyboard and mouse. This is a remake of a game that wasn’t originally on PC, so using a keyboard and mouse to play it feels clunky even if you change the keybindings.

When I play Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, I feel the enchantment of nostalgia, but it’s mixed with the fresh features and looks of being remade. If you like farming sims, particularly the old Harvest Moon games before the name change, then I highly recommend Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Marvelous Inc. took an iconic farming simulator and managed to make it even better.

[Note: XSEED Games provided the PC copy of Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life used for this review.]

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Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review — Enjoying Simplicity
Return to the simple life in this remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

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Author
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Melissa Sarnowski
Melissa Sarnowski has been working as a gaming writer professionally for two years, having been at GameSkinny for over a year now as a horror beat writer. She has an English degree from University of Wisconsin - Madison. While she focuses on all things horror, she also enjoys cozy games, MMOs like FFXIV and WoW, and any and everything in between.