Farming sims have been a favorite for gamers, particularly those who are a fan of “cozy” games. Maybe it’s because of the aesthetics, or maybe it’s because they allow players to fulfill their dreams of owning a home and having friends. Game after game released has been a farming or life sim of some kind. This means there is no shortage of games to try. With so many different games out there, what is worth the time and money? Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom lives up to the enormous task of being a cute and cozy sim combined with anime elements.
After getting in a fight with his parents about homework, Noby and his friends take off in a rocket made by Doraemon and land on a new planet. The group meets Lumis, who introduces them to a rundown farm in need of some love. Noby’s friends all get jobs working in a nearby town and Noby begins tending to the farm. When the gang eventually decides it’s time to go home, Queen Lucinda doesn’t trust Doraemon and his gadgets so she decides to confiscate them all. Noby must now earn the queen’s trust by getting close to the villagers and helping them out.
Friends of the Great Kingdom players get the chance to befriend a variety of villagers such as the little penguin-like boy named Ori whose mother is sick, and Aiden, a young man who has feelings for the town’s doctor Stacy but is too afraid to tell her. All of the village characters are charming and well-rounded, and none of them feel like a chore to get to know. That being said, story isn’t at the forefront of Story of Seasons games, so as good as the story and characters are, the story aspects can feel weak at times thanks to the emphasis on farming.
Like many farming and life sims, players will have the opportunity to grow plants, tend to animals, fish, cook and mine. You are gifted with a variety of tools to accomplish these things such as a watering can, a hammer, and a pickaxe. After mining the appropriate materials, you are able to upgrade these tools, which is extremely helpful as Noby doesn’t have a large amount of stamina. The game also sets you up with seeds, allowing you to earn money quickly and making players feel like they are making significant progress.
One aspect of the gameplay that can result in frustration is the utilization of the tool system. The game equips you with two “pockets”. One is for tools and other things that you “use” while the other is for items you hold, like fish, insects or food. However, seeds are placed in the tools category since you use them when planting crops. This doesn’t matter a lot towards the beginning of the game when you have just a few tools, but once you have items like brushes to take care of your animals you will find your pockets full and will have to prioritize what you use regularly if you find yourself regularly planting seeds. This does allow for some interesting customizability, as someone who doesn’t care for fishing will be more likely to their fishing rod behind while another player might leave their hammer in the storage box once their farm is cleared.
One of the more stand-out elements of Friends of the Great Kingdom is the friendship system. Throughout the game Noby will need to get close to the villagers and his own friends. This can be achieved by talking to them regularly and fulfilling item requests they have placed on the billboard. As friendship goes up, new story beats are unlocked. These story pieces help the characters feel much more well-rounded. Having new sections locked behind friendship levels makes the advancement of these stories seem organic. Players won’t be able to just speed run getting to know a character and solving all of their problems. Instead they have to work at it, take their time befriending others, and slowly finding out more about their inner battles, whether that concerns their worry about their sibling or their potentially unrequited love. The characters are the best part of Friends of the Great Kingdom thanks not only to the writing but also this gameplay mechanic.
Friends of the Great Kingdom allows players to take care of a variety of animals from chickens and cows to alpacas. Animals are incredibly adorable and also provide items like wool, eggs, and milk. Items produced are good to sell but are also helpful for cooking. All animals need to be cared for, which includes feeding, petting, and letting them outside when it’s sunny. If you don’t feed them or leave them outside overnight or in bad weather, they will get sick, and you will have to purchase medicine. If they are neglected enough, little Mary, who sold you the animals, will take them back.
On the other hand, if you take really good care of them, you can enter them in animal contests or breed them, which benefits the farm and makes for unique gameplay experiences. All of these elements make the animal care system in this game far more robust and well-rounded than many farming sim games. It allows players to feel pride in the animals they have raised, and the animal sprites are absolutely adorable to boot.
Speaking of contests, the village holds several festivals held throughout the year. Each season has at least five different events that provide a fun variety of activities, meaning there is something for everyone to enjoy. Some are extremely interactive, such as the Watermelon-Splitting Contest in the summer or the Treasure Hunt in Winter. For those looking to sit back and enjoy, there are festivals to watch fireflies or release lanterns. While it’s not unique to have celebrations in farming simulator games, Friends of the Great Kingdom manages to provide a level of warmth and variety rarely seen in other pieces of media.
If taking care of your farm gets too overwhelming, the game also provides a multiplayer option. A friend can join you in co-op by playing as the Doraemon to your Noby. This can provide an extra source of fun, especially with the only option being offline/local meaning your friend will be sitting on the couch with you . However, both players will now split the stamina bar instead of each getting their own. Thankfully, naps can extend the life of your day on the farm, but running out of stamina can be quite frustrating, especially when things like mining that take a lot of energy benefit the most from co-op.
While it’s a minor thing, a frustrating aspect of Friends of the Great Kingdom is the map. At first glance the map looks fairly simple. However, when traveling, it doesn’t always translate to the real world system. From the map it might look like if you travel to the right from Moo Moo Lane that you’ll end up in the Roaring Caverns, but instead you’ll end up in Castletown Plaza. To get to the caverns, you will have to go up and around from the plaza. It’s not the end of the world, and you can get used to it if you play a lot, but when first starting out, the lack of intuitive design can make traveling around the area a little infuriating.
The art of Friends of the Kingdom is one of the most stand-out elements. The character designs are all soft and unique without being over the top. There are four races within the kingdom that allows for a nicer variety of character designs like the Icephs, a penguin-like race that are incredibly adorable and are easily distinguished from the more humanoid races. Some of the characters have a very Legend of Zelda-type feel to them, which helps remind players that this isn’t Earth but a new planet.
Overworld backgrounds and buildings in the village have a bright feel to them that gives the game a cozy and welcoming vibe. One of the more interesting elements of the game is watching how the surroundings change with the seasons. The trees and flowers in particular have a soft, dream-like quality. This contrasts with the character portraits of Noby, Doraemon, and friends, who can sometimes have a harsher and brighter feel in their character portraits, compared to their new friends. Still, it’s not a huge difference and can easily be overlooked after the first few hours.
Friends of the Great Kingdom’s music is by no means a standout, but it certainly gets the job done. Most of the tracks in the game assist in the cheery yet peaceful vibes the game is going for. The score blends into the background but doesn’t entirely disappear, which is a good balance to have, especially in a farming sim game. It could be a good instrumental soundtrack to put on for some background noise while studying or doing chores that won’t distract you.
Although the voice acting in Friends of the Great Kingdom is entirely in Japanese, the performances are good and transcend language. Three standouts are Noby, who as the main character balances a lot of emotions at once; Lumis, who is putting on a brave face for his friends while also dealing with his own worries; and Ori, the adorable little penguin boy that is so concerned for his sick mom. While all the performances are good and distinct, these three have a lot of emotion put into them. One note however is that if you aren’t used to Doraemon’s voice, you might consider looking it up to make sure it isn’t too grating before you download. It’s a great performance, but his voice is very distinct and might be a bit much for those who don’t enjoy it.
Friends of the Great Kingdom’s replay value relies entirely on how much you enjoy repeating similar gameplay. There is little variance in what a replay can provide, outside of perhaps the order in which you plant crops and raise animals. Quests from the billboard that you can fulfill from the villagers are randomized, which provides some variety as well. Many people who enjoy farming sims do like the idea of starting over with the knowledge they earned from putting hours into the game, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, this game will be a one and done.
Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom is a relatively simple game with a lot of charm and heart. While some elements of it may seem clunky, the adorable characters and a story of hard work and courage are more than enough to offset these minor issues. Those looking for a challenge would be better off with other games, but if charm is what you’re here for, this game will sweep you off your feet.
Final rating: 7.5/10.