“New Farmers Wanted! Join us and help Oak Tree Town grow as you work the land!”
Application submitted, you are delighted to learn that you have been accepted a week later and prepare to leave city life behind as you move to the countryside. Were living out your dreams only as easy as it is in Story of Seasons, but, having received thousands of applications, it was your honesty and passion that had apparently shone through.
Guild Master Veronica is the first friendly face that you meet, talking through the duties that she looks after whether that be running town events or posting job openings. For those that have played Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it’s easier to think of her role in the same way as the ever loyal secretary Isabelle, always being there to help you in your daily tasks.
With your farm not yet being ready to move into, the player is asked to stay with another farmer for a week. It’s the perfect excuse to endure Madam Eda’s sagely advice, with the opening hour expectedly making sure that newcomers know everything that they are required to do to. That guidance is naturally appreciated, teaching you the important basics about collecting materials, raising crops, tending to animals and relying on items such as the Toolbox and Storage Box. There’s much to learn, but you can always pull a weighty tome from the nearby Bookshelf to retrace any lessons that you have been taken through.
There are evident parallels to Harvest Moon, with Natsume’s ownership of the brand having resulted in Marvelous needing to make the sudden name switch. That is most notably seen in the stamina system, which requires players to keep eye on a heart meter that slowly depletes as they perform any gruelling labour – depleting more quickly if your character becomes unwell.
Madam Eda’s imparted wisdom is interspersed with other activities to hold your interest, such as diving in rivers fully clothed with newfound friend Fritz. But, it is when Story of Seasons eventually lets go of your hand that you can finally become engrossed in the task at hand. Unshackled from such tutelage, you are largely free to turn your small plot of land into a flourishing business.
Caring for your crops and livestock will allow you to accumulate resources that can then be sold at the Trade Depot, earning you valuable funds that can then be reinvested to help spur your farm’s growth. Seeds and livestock not usually found in your region are regularly sold at the marketplace from traders that have travelled from far away lands, meaning that the player’s experience is sprinkled with discovery throughout.
Players will also have chance to busy themselves with the steady expansion of their farm, constructing new buildings from detailed blueprints. Aside from personalising your home, these are divided into Decorations, Barns and Coops, while there’s also chance to build a Sewing Studio, Cheese Factory and Winery among others. These expand on your crafting opportunities, providing more activities to busy yourself with for hours on end. And that’s not even mentioning the Safari, fishing, cooking, mining, beekeeping and cultivating mushrooms!
As with Harvest Moon over the years, Story of Seasons similarly takes you beyond simply being a farming experience. Befriending the locals and other farmers is part and parcel to the game, building affection levels – represented by a flower’s colour – that could eventually lead to dating, marriage and starting a family. Giving gifts is an important way to raise such level, but be sure not to give them something that they hate!
The game’s aesthetic is quaint enough. Characters are represented by hand drawn illustrations when speaking, and the world around you is coated in warm colours to make it all the more pleasant to be in. The frame rate can feel unstable in places, but the stereoscopic 3D effect works well with petals gently floating across the screen. But while Oak Tree Town is a particularly idyllic setting, the accompanying soundtrack disappoints in that it often meanders into repetition.
With each pixel brimming with charm and packing enough content to occupy you for hours on end, Story of Seasons succeeds where others have failed. Plus you can look after camels, which automatically makes it the greatest farm sim to grace the Nintendo 3DS.