Story of Seasons: A new farming era blooms

April 2, 2015


The schism of the farming game world — that of developer Marvelous and Western publisher Natsume —is finally starting to show its repercussions. Since Marvelous decided to hand its Bokujou Monogatari series to its own team at XSEED and Natsume forged ahead with its Harvest Moon IP, it’s easier to see what each brought to the table. In Natsume’s case, it turns out that’s not much more than enthusiasm and good intentions. With its first separated release in Story of Seasons, Marvelous shows this move to have been only a good thing.

Still, though, it’s important to know that Story of Seasons builds on its predecessor, Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, and shares a lot of systems and gameplay with that release. Both are a big step away from what had defined Harvest Moon since the Game Boy Advance days, moving away from a rigid, sprite-based grid system and into a more organic, polygonal world. Even with those changes, it remains recognizable. You have crops in easily-watered formations, cows in barns, horses, love interests and a labor-intensive upgrade system.

Story of Seasons may be a new IP for XSEED, but the title was developed in the long-running Bokujou series, and as such it’s not set up to be particularly friendly about introducing mechanics. It doesn’t leave you completely on your own, with a series of tutorials and a book-based reference system, but it somehow strikes a balance that can, at times, make you feel simultaneously talked down to and totally lost. This feeling doesn’t last long, at least in the settle-down-for-a-few-months world of farming sims, but it’s unfortunate in a game that could have been an entry point for a new generation of fans.


The localization move to XSEED shows, and it’s for the better. The conversations flow better with the villagers and the reminder and reference text has a subtle whimsy without getting in the way. The voice acting is markedly improved, as well. It’s clear that it’s still built on the work driving Marvelous’ previous Bokujou games; the action is choppy, the animations are less than natural and there’s only so much you can pep up boring exchanges with townsfolk. Even with these reminders of the series’ past, longtime players should be more than comforted to hear that there will be fewer rough spots to tolerate on the way to happy farming lives.

So: those lives! There’s a lot more talking in them this time around, and a lot of persistence needed to start having that talking mean something. Relationship-building is a big thing in Story of Seasons, and sometimes it can feel like running repeatedly into a conversational brick wall, but just like with your crops, persistence and patience pays off. (It would help if there were a bit more feedback during the process, though, or even choices; you basically just walk up and hit the button every day.)


Farming is a bit less mystical this time around. Rather than magically-expanding farmland and eventual farming omnipotence, this entry builds around the idea of constant competition and shared farming space. You have your own farm, but it’s small; to gain access to other areas, you’ll have to meet various requirements and wrest control from other townsfolk. These areas are better at some crops than others, and temporary specialization is the key here.

These areas are spread about the town, though, and that brings up another issue: walking. There’s a horse-travel system in place, but you’ll still spend more time than really necessary just getting from your home to your remote farms, then through downtown and back. Of note is the franchise’s once-signature shipping box, which is absent here; instead, you must trek to town (and on the right days!) to find a buyer for your goods. It mitigates the efficiency gains in the farming itself, to a certain extent, and I’d much rather be doing tedious farming in my farming game than tedious other things.


It may sound like I’m being rather negative about a lot of Story of Seasons, but it’s only to underscore this point: this isn’t a farming game for people who don’t normally like farming games. This isn’t going to appeal to those who only dabble in Rune Factory or even the king of repetitive task management, Animal Crossing. What it is, though, is a refined farming game, and it’s been a little while since people who play these games regularly have gotten to play one that feels this worthwhile. Everything here feels as it used to, but well-sanded to cut down on the rough edges.

Story of Seasons isn’t a game to be taken lightly. Like adopting a pet, it’s a commitment that takes a lot of work, but it can be truly rewarding if you see it through. And at least this time, it’s already housebroken.

Pros: Streamlined farming, lots of upgrades and unlockables
Cons: Travel tedium, slow relationship and mechanic development

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.