Story of Seasons

Story of Seasons

Summary

Grow crops, raise livestock, make friends, and start a family in this revitalization of the Harvest Moon franchise!

Reviews

Reviewer: Sam B.     Game: Story of Seasons

The Harvest Moon franchise has been a long-running game with a sizable fanbase. So when Marvelous split from Natsume, there came a dilemma. Natsume owned the rights to the Harvest Moon name, which meant that Marvelous and its subsidiary, XSEED, would have to continue the series under a new name. While Natsume created its own series using the Harvest Moon name – causing confusion among players who didn’t know about the change – Marvelous rebranded its series as the Story of Seasons franchise. And though there also were some changes to gameplay, it still kept the spirit of what made its predecessors successful.



For those not familiar with the Harvest Moon games or their premise, Story of Seasons puts you in control of Oak Tree Town’s newest farmer. You grow crops and raise livestock in order to make a living. Crop and livestock diversity isn’t very great early in the game; you start off growing only turnips and potatoes while raising a cow. Further options are unlocked by creating new buildings on your farm, getting new merchants to visit town, shipping enough to specific merchants, or just waiting until the new choices are offered. Gameplay is relaxed, which comes with its own pros and cons. On one hand, there’s no in-game deadline for milestones; players can make their own or just ease through the game without worries. On the other hand, it also means that it gets slow in the beginning. During Spring of my first year, I had filled my field with crops and watered them all, took care of my cow, dove in all the diving spots in the river and caught as much fish and items as I could, and talked to every villager available, yet I still had a lot of time left in the day that I felt got wasted when I just called it a day and went to bed. I wished I had gotten the fishing rod earlier than the last day of Spring so I could at least use that to make some extra cash on the side.



Aside from a few minor changes such as new animals and tilling/watering 9x9 squares instead of individual squares, one of the biggest changes is the method to sell crops. In the past games, players had to deposit items into a shipping crate and wait for the payment. Here, the shipping box is replaced with merchants who come to Oak Tree Town’s square on certain days of the week. You start with one merchant – Asche from Silk Country – at the beginning of the game, but can unlock more as you progress. The merchants add a level of strategy to shipping that wasn’t in the original Harvest Moon games; each week, the merchants will offer more for up to two item categories than usual. For instance, if Silk Country is offering more for egg and dairy products, it would be in your best interest to hold on to egg and milk products until Asche comes to town. What complicates this system further is that crops have a freshness level that determines their value as well; turnips that were just harvested are worth more than turnips that were in your bag for a few days (there’s no such thing as rotten vegetables in the game, though). So if Silk Country is offering more for spring vegetables but won’t be back for a few days and Cabin Country is in town but aren’t offering more for your turnips, you’d have to decide whether it’ll be worth the wait or if you should just sell those turnips now. Then there’s the requests, unlocked part-way through Spring, where countries will ask for a set number of a specific item and offer not only money but a few items for it, as well as their goodwill. To add on to this, the merchants don’t just come to buy your items, but to sell their own as well. This is how you get different seeds and livestock, as well as recipes, blueprints, and patterns. So it’s in your best interest to trade as much as possible and unlock more merchants and stock.



Along with the new shipping system comes another new feature in the game: Conquest. Oak Tree Town has rental fields that grow certain crops better than your field (and, for some fields like the paddies, are the only ones that can grow some crops). But since you’re not the only farmer in town, it means you and your rivals must compete to use these fields. In Conquest, you challenge a rival for ownership of a field or a rival challenges you if you refuse to give up ownership (doing so can net you some money from the rival). The conditions for winning depend on what challenge you pick, from shipping the most items to winning one of the upcoming festivals (or at least one of the festivals you compete in; there’s no way to win at Valentine’s Day, after all). Like shipping, this requires planning on the player’s part in order to succeed and adds more challenge to gameplay.



There are two final major additions to Story of Seasons that were added in; farmland and town editing and the wardrobe. Once you have the craft table and some blueprints, you can create decorations to use around your house, farm, and town areas (which are unlocked over time). Aside from fences and factories, these don’t affect gameplay, but it’s a nice way to stylize the town and set it apart from other players, especially if people visit through multiplayer (which I haven’t been able to try, so I have no real opinions on it). And once you get a Sewing Studio and patterns, you can make your own clothing, hats, and accessories. Unlike the decorations, these do have an affect; some townsfolk will respond to certain items positively if you’re wearing them, increasing their friendship with you. Clothing, accessories, and hairstyles aren’t coded for gender, so a male farmer can wear a dress and the only comments they’ll get is from people who like the dress, which I thought was a nice touch. Clothing is also necessary if you want to compete in the bi-annual fashion fiestas. Finally, jewelry, while not showing up on your avatar, give bonuses like increased friendship with animals if you wear the right combination.



As with past Harvest Moon games, you are encouraged to socialize with the people of Oak Tree Town. All the townsfolk are interesting, though not very complex. You can befriend them by talking to them, wearing items they like, going to festivals (you get more friendship points if you win a contest), and giving them gifts (especially on their birthday and especially wrapped gifts). Among them are twelve marriage candidates, six girls and six boys (all straight, sadly). If you increase a candidate’s affection, go steady with them, and witness all their heart events, you can marry them and eventually have children. This adds a few things to gameplay, but it’s not required save for an achievement, so if you’re happy being single there’s no pressure to settle down with anyone.

Story of Seasons remains faithful to its predecessors while adding in new elements; there was content in the game like the safari that I didn't have the space to cover. New players can jump in with no problems and veteran players will find something new. Combine with bright, charming graphics and upbeat music, it’s a joy to play. There’s also a sequel coming out in 2017, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, and I can only hope that it’ll take a lot of what made this game great.

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Dev/Pub

Game Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Game Publisher: XSEED Games

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