The Non-Harvest Moon Harvest Moon That Actually Isn’t Harvest Moon, by the People who Developed Harvest Moon. Yeah. It’s Harvest Moon
For whatever reason, I’ve always gravitated towards simulation games as a sort of palate cleanser between heavier experiences such as JRPGs and FPS’s. Enjoying the slower pace and customization options usually present in such titles is generally refreshing after the intensive story and action experiences I usually find myself playing. One of those series that I return to over and over through the years is Harvest Moon.
Story of Seasons is oddly enough the continuation of that series. Time for a history lesson on why that is. Way back in 1996, VIS (which later got purchased by what then became Marvelous AQL) developed and published a game called Bokujou Monogatari (Literal translation as The Farmy Story). VIS contracted Natsume to publish the game overseas, and that end product was localized as to what we know as Harvest Moon. Since then, all Bokujou Monogatari games have been published and localized by Natsume. That is until Marvelous acquired a company named XSEED, who is well versed and capable in publishing and localizing games. Harvest Moon: A new Beginning was the last Natsume published entry. Because Natsume created and owns the name Harvest Moon, XSEED cannot publish Bokujou Monogatari under that title. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley was developed and published completely by Natsume in an effort by them to create their series expanding on and incorporating new and unique elements of their own creation. Story of Seasons is the new title for the continuation of the Bokujou Monogatari series by Marvelous.
Anyone that has played A New Beginning will immediately recognize the artwork and assets in Story of Seasons. The game continues the time tested tradition of moving into a farm and taking it over and working to become successful. Unlike most past Harvest Moon entries, Story of Seasons lacks any pretense of a story at all, and does not place any time constraints overall. Despite this sore lack of story, the removal of an overarching time to hit a certain goal removes a lot of pressure from the game and boils it down to what the game does finest; relaxing farm and relationship simulation.
Once again the bachelor/bachelorettes return with the capability of marriage and children. Sadly, same sex marriages/relationships are limited only to friendships like almost every entry prior. An additional layer of relationships with traders has been added in lieu of a shipping box. As you play, you can garner the attention of additional traders that each pay varying amounts for particular products and items. This opens up the choice to hold onto items until they are in “season” or much wanted by a particular trader to cash in on demand. While this isn’t groundbreaking, it adds another subtle layer to the gameplay instead of just dumping everything you don’t want in a box and waiting on cash flow.
The massive customization options and crafting makes a welcome return from A New Beginning. Every inch of your farm and your clothing can be customized with hundreds of items. The ability to customize the town has been removed in favor of gaining the ability to quicktravel between various points of the expansive map using your horse and carrots. On top of that, the ability to expand your farm has been removed in favor of a new mechanic involving leasing fields for growing specific types of crops. You actually compete with several other farmers in town for the rights to these fields if anybody’s lease expires.
Multiplayer returns but is as limited as other recent titles in utility and depth. Across WiFi or local wireless you can visit friends farms and wave a magic wand over livestock and crops to increase their quality, much like social farming games through Facebook and other mobile platforms. While it is a bit shallow, it does allow you to see your friend’s town and farm. For being a game that feels you so connected socially to AI friends and other countries in game, this feature lacking multiplayer is a tad surprising.
While it does change up the name but not the game so much, Story of Seasons is definitely an enjoyable and relaxing entry in the genre. The depth of customization and the ease of gameplay is certainly attractive over similar titles and certainly a win for Marvelous. I’d definitely suggest this game to anyone who’s played any prior Harvest Moon titles or enjoys similar experiences such as Animal Crossing. You definitely get back what you put in the game, as just like any simulation title, its you and little instances that make your own experience.
Final verdict: 4/5.
Available on: SNES, 3DS (Reviewed); Developers: Marvelous Interactive; Publishers: Marvelous; Players: 1