Story of Seasons is the latest title in the Harvest Moon series. Except it’s not here in the United States. This is thanks to an issue with licensing, because Natsume who published previous games in the series owns the rights to the name Harvest Moon. However just because Story of Seasons comes without the title of Harvest Moon doesn’t mean it’s not a Harvest Moon game.
I should note before I get into the review that I have very little experience with the Harvest Moon series. While the series has been around since the Super Nintendo back in 1997 (or 1996 if you go by the original Japanese release date), Story of Seasons is the first game that I’ve played. Why that is I’m not so sure — I had heard of Harvest Moon, but perhaps it never interested me back then. Having friends that talk about it I thought it would be nice to try it out. And so I did.
Before you get into the game, you have the choice to create your character, who can be female or male. Unfortunately, it seems to be a little lacking. Obviously character creation isn’t the main draw in a game like Story of Seasons but considering the fact that the game is about living life on a farm, it should at least offer a number of options. Don’t get me wrong, while the character creation is limited it’s still a nice inclusion. Since it’s the first thing you do on your journey to becoming a successful farmer, it’s pretty important.
After that you’re dropped into a tutorial which lasts around a week and the fun begins. The tutorial introduces you to the principal mechanics and teaches you everything you’ll need to know about the basics of farming but you’ll continue to unlock new things throughout your entire time playing. It also introduces you to the characters of Story of Seasons, but throughout my time playing the game, I didn’t care much for them.
While there are an abundance of characters around the town, most of which have their own farms, I just didn’t find them very interesting. This includes Eda, who teaches you a lot about what you’ll be doing over the countless hours that you spend toiling away on your farm. It’s hard to say whether or not that is a fault with the game though, because during the time I spent playing for my review, I felt as if I didn’t have time to talk to the characters.
They do have plenty of dialogue and there are a number of mechanics that support talking to them, but talking to them isn’t really a necessity. That’s a good thing, because if it were, I think the game would be a whole lot less interesting. Forcing dialogue isn’t a good design choice in my opinion and while there are several instances in the game where you do have to sit through it just to unlock a new item or facility, it’s not too overbearing.
As I said earlier, the main draw in the Harvest Moon series seems to be farming and that’s where I spent most of my time. There are some interesting things done with social interaction but I typically avoided them for the most part with the exception of pursuing my favorite girl in the game by the name of Lillie. While a lot of people around town can be your friends and the game incentivizes talking to them, to me she was the only person that mattered.
This is because, in my opinion, talking to people took away valuable time that could be spent doing other things. After all, Story of Seasons is a farming game, isn’t it? There is a day and night cycle, and that means that your time is limited. While there are a lot of hours in the day, it’s easy to get sidetracked doing many of the optional things around town and that includes talking to the people there.
I had heard about the social aspects and the relationship system, so I wanted to get married to Lillie. At the time of writing this review that hasn’t happened yet since it’s such a lengthy process, but I did manage to take her to a ball and win her favor and it’s the little things like that which matter. Throughout the game there are a variety of festivals and events, including competitions and holidays. I didn’t find time for most of those, but I also knew that I had no chance of winning early on.
As a prime example, the first event you can enter is one for livestock. But at the time of the competition, you only have one cow and they’re probably at the lowest rating possible which means you’re definitely not going to win. These events aren’t necessary and you can actually skip them. That’s what I did for the most part in order to save time to spend fishing, diving, scavenging and farming. But I did still make time to try out the events once in a while and they can be quite varied. The only problem I had is that I was never prepared for them.
That’s entirely my fault, obviously. Some people will get into the social aspects of the game and other won’t. Either way is fine. I myself fall into the second camp. That’s what I like so much about the events being optional — they aren’t required. You can spend all of your time farming or you can split it up and do other things. I chose the former for a good portion of my time with the game, though I have recently started to try out some of the other things the game has to offer.
Unfortunately, in my experience, a great story isn’t one of those things. There is a bare-bones narrative that includes some of the people in town and there are events to support that. But beyond that, there isn’t much of a story and for most people that’s probably okay. I’ve never played the earlier games in the series so I don’t have a point of reference as to what I should expect, only the conversations I’ve had with my friends about the games. Though I would have liked to see was a little more of a narrative.
To be fair, that kind of thing can be hard to pull off in a game like this and so it’s kind of understandable in that regard. I typically enjoy a good story, but that was one of the only things I missed. Thankfully though, the gameplay makes up for what Story of Seasons is lacking in, well, story. But it’s only after a couple of months that you really get to enjoy all that Story of Seasons has to offer.
While the tutorial lasts about a week, you’re still learning and unlocking things after that. At Summer of the second year, I’m still learning and unlocking new facilities. But until Fall of the first year, a lot of what you can do is gated by your lack of stamina and decent tools. Want to plow some fields but there are trees or rocks in the way? Well, it’s going to take you a while to get rid of them early on.
I spent several days clearing rocks and trees in order to plow my fields and plant my crops, because the amount of stamina it takes to do those things early game is insane. This is because the tools you start with are very poor quality and get upgraded over time. Obviously the solution would be to upgrade them, right? While upgrading the tools does make them take less stamina, it can also be quite a pain. This is because to upgrade each tool you need two of any given ore or bar and the later into the game you get, the harder that is.
The first set of upgrades require iron, which is pretty scarce in the early game. The only way to find it is by diving in the rivers until you unlock the Safari which doesn’t come until Fall of the first year. The same goes for other metals too. As a result, you’ll spend days, maybe even weeks or months, tracking down the materials you need to upgrade your tools. If you don’t accelerate the process saving in front of rivers or the mine at the Safari (which I think is cheating), you could be looking at a very long time spent just looking for the resources.
Surprisingly, that’s probably the biggest issue I have with Story of Seasons. Overall it’s a very good game and provides a nice relaxing farming simulator. It does get repetitive but Story of Seasons isn’t necessarily a game that you’ll want to play for hours on end. That’s what I did and I found it can quickly lead to burnout. Again, that’s not a problem with the game. This kind of game isn’t designed to be played for large periods of time. Like most handheld titles, it’s better to play once or twice a day on your commute.
The first two months of the game are brutal, even agonizingly slow, which is made even worse by the fact you can only ship out your crops through other countries. Early on you’ll only have access to one of them and until you unlock more you might be waiting a few days or even up to a week to see a trader to sell off your goods. Since the local traders in town usually restock pretty often, having money is important. What do you do when you run out of money and have to wait for a merchant to show up? Farm more, I guess.
While those two problems can ultimately lead to a headache, they’re not tarnishing your game experience. Sure, there might be times when they can become quite obnoxious but if you power through it and make it to Fall of the first year, it’s relatively smooth sailing from there. I spent over 30 hours playing Story of Seasons for my review and I’m still not done yet. There’s a lot left to do and I still plan on doing it. In that regard, Story of Seasons is an excellent game. Just don’t expect it to be over quickly. If you pick Story of Seasons up, you pick it up for the long haul.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: 3/31/2015
- A fun and relaxed farming experience
- Plenty of things to do when you’re not farming
- Hours of gameplay. I clocked in at over 32 hours for this review and still had things left to do
- Seedling difficulty offers an easier path. I recommend taking it if you want less of a grind, there are no penalties
- Starts off very slow but does pick up once you get to Fall of your first year
- Upgrading your tools can be a chore due to the random nature of acquiring the right materials
Disclaimer: A copy of Story of Seasons was provided to BentoByte by the publisher for the purpose of review.Tweet