It first began with Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life back in 2003-2004. Years later, it evolved and introduced a female protagonist as Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life. Today, the Nintendo Switch has Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, allowing you to decide who you want to be, with a dash of some modern-day changes such as same-sex marriage.
Your father has passed away, and you have inherited his farm. You can either claim this new life as your own or think twice and end the game. Choosing to live the life as a new farm owner won’t be different from other farming sim games. Chat with the villagers, give them gifts to raise their affection for you, and experience both character events and festivals throughout the seasons.
What I do appreciate about Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is how the game evolves as the years pass by. The game is split into chapters and things don’t stay the same. Characters age, you get married and have a child (this might be where the game starts picking up a bit), quality of life improvements are added (I’m looking at you, kitchen upgrade), new people move in, and more.
Unfortunately, there’s a lack of festivals and they’re mostly just short cutscenes. You’re not going to have any cow racing competitions or play any hide and seek activities. What you will find is a delightful cast of characters each with a rotation of things to say. There’s a variety of personalities—you have the mad scientist, the grumpy-looking old man, the city lady, the guitar-playing hippie, and the list goes on. Triggering the villager events may be a challenge in itself, unless, of course, you frequently enter and exit buildings.
There’s a fair number of things to do in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. You can grow crops, raise and nickname animals, go fishing, explore the map, gather flowers and mushrooms, talk to villagers, mine for treasure in a cave, complete bulletin board requests, and play mini games. It sounds like a lot, in theory, but it’s easy to get tired of the daily routine.
Time moves quickly in the game. A season lasts 10 days and an in-game hour is 1 minute. Despite this, I’ve found myself playing in little bits every so often. The game starts slow, and it’s a grind to go from rags to riches, but there’s a sense of accomplishment for each milestone made with how expensive most things are in the game.
It’s expected of you to grow crops and raise livestock as the new farm owner. There’s a nice variety of crops to grow and animals to raise. Once you know how to unlock it, this number increases, especially for crop seeds. Crop seeds only thrive during specific seasons, which makes it essential to plan out when to plant them. There is a minor flaw in selection when managing the crop fields, but nothing that can’t be worked with. Even though stamina is in the game, it feels non-existent on a normal day.
The daily routine unfortunately gets monotonous quickly. Completing bulletin board requests or growing crops does not feel as rewarding as it should be. The majority of the bulletin board rewards can be found on the floor, purchased for cheap, or can easily be acquired from the farm’s produce. Selling crops feels like a waste of time when they are better suited for cooking. There’s no point in selling animals other than to free up space. It’s a grindy game that doesn’t feel as satisfying for the work being put in.
Despite the negative comments above, I’ve found myself coming back to it. It’s a game I may feel to put some long hours into one day, but the next I might feel to take it easy and only play for a couple of minutes. So if you’re like me who hasn’t received the magical nostalgia from the previous versions of this game, there is hope in finding it enjoyable with breaks in between.
Mining has been one of my least desirable activities in this game. If it wasn’t a good way to gain some quick cash, I would have outright neglected it. It’s a button-mashing waiting game. You must repeatedly mash A on one of several blocks to dig deeper until you discover treasure. There are no enemies to fight off or avoid; this is normal for a Story of Seasons game, but my expectations were higher after playing Pioneers of Olive Town.
My frustration did not begin until the NPCs walked by me while I was searching for treasure. They disrupt the digging if they get too close and you must reposition yourself on the block to continue digging. The agony doesn’t end there. Sometimes they stop right next to you, forcing you to find another block to dig until they move again. It’s a little frustrating dealing with this until the second year. Thankfully, it does get better.
Townsfolk and Map
It’s known that giving NPCs gifts is an important feature in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Give them a gift each day and their affection for you will rise. They all have their likes and dislikes. If you normally struggle with getting on the good side of characters in these types of games, you’re in luck because it’s easy to tell what gifts they prefer based on their personality. Additionally, this game has the option for same-sex marriages, unlike the game’s predecessors.
The map is small but it’s small enough to finish most of the tasks in your daily routine. It does get repetitive and dull early, but I still found joy playing a little each real life day. What I like about the map is how it marks the location of each character in the game. Some may not be accessible because they’re hidden behind a door, but it provides a good challenge on finding the right time to visit.
You’re given the option of changing the appearance of your character upon starting the game. You can name your character and state your pronouns, which I appreciated. You can adjust your face type, hair style, skin, eye, and hair color along with your outfit. You even get the choice between a pointy-eared dog or a floppy-eared one at the beginning of the game.
There’s a lack of face types but there’s a good amount of hairstyles to choose from. Obvious body features such as face color or eye color cannot be changed. Your animals can be given a nickname, but I’ve found the eight character limit irksome at times. Outfits can be collected throughout the seasons or from DLC, which has been incredible as long as you’re willing to provide the in-game money for it.
Graphics and Soundtrack
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life looks nice and runs smoothly on the Nintendo Switch. The character models and animals are well designed. I do love the little animations the developers have added when villagers accept a gift or snuggle with an animal.
The soundtrack is soothing, but some of the audio effects can be unpleasant. Walking or riding your horse can sometimes sound weird. Entering certain areas produce a strange sound, and then there’s the sudden dead silence in other areas. At least the game cues the sounds of nature.
It may seem as a wonderful life on the outside, but Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has some torturous secrets within. I’ve needed breaks from it even though I’m one to blaze through these types of games. But it has always managed to call me back to it. It feels like a game that goes easy on newcomers, but can be grindy enough to put them off. It’s a decent game, but a bit on the lacking side for $50.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life gets a 7/10.