by Sarah Vaughn
Longtime fans of the Bokujou Monogatari franchise have been waiting more than two years for a new game in the popular series, and now that it’s finally within North American reach, some may not recognize a traditional Harvest Moon game due to the name change. The name and localization company may have changed, but upon playing, it’s easy to see that Story of Seasons is continuing Bokumono’s tradition of being the greatest evolving farm simulation RPG series of all time. It even starts in the standard way of you moving to a crappy farm in a random village and becoming an important part of the farming community.
One of the surprising new features of Story of Seasons is the inclusion of two difficulty levels, Original and Seedling modes. Seedling mode cuts down a lot of the normal tediousness people might object to by reducing the amount of stamina using tools requires, as well as reducing the cost of items in the shops and the requirements for unlocking trade vendors. This is great news for newer (or less patient) players! As a veteran to the Bokumono series I went with Original mode, and ended up regretting it a bit as I struggled to come up with enough cash and materials to quickly build my successful farm life. But whether you go hardcore or easy mode, you will always have plenty of tasks to fill your days with.
Farming is, of course, one of the biggest parts of the game, and with tools that allow you to hoe, plant, and water a whole 3x3 plot of land right from the beginning, it’s quicker and easier than ever. The variety of plants you can grow is pretty spectacular, including vegetables, fruits, grains, flowers, and even some really cool Super Mario crops! In addition, thereare tons of different animals (bunnies!) to raise in Story of Seasons and I’ve been kept busy building new barns and coops to house them all. As you talk to and feed your animals they grow to like you more and more and will give you better products as a testament of their love.
Love and affection are definitely shown by way of STUFF in Story of Seasons. The quickest way to make friends is through giving gifts, especially those you cook or craft, though talking to villagers and participating in festivals definitely helps. Locals will be eager to befriend you, but it’s up to your own efforts to get close, and becoming close friends is to your own advantage. Story cinemas of encounters make you feel like you’re actually getting to know people, as well as furthering the story of your little town and farm.
Obviously there are bachelors and bachelorettes to put the moves on, and romance blossoms little by little with gifts of seaweed and bugs (Raeger will be mine!), leading up to the inevitable climax of getting married and paying for your own wedding. The game is skewed a bit young, as a lot of the marriage candidates look super kiddie, but due to the awesome character designs, everyone should be able to find someone they’re into. You can even go for personality rather than looks if you really feel like it.
As far as looks go, this is easily the most superficially customizable game of the Bokumono series. You begin by customizing the gender and look of your character, but it goes a lot further than that. You can build tons of different furniture for your house, as well as items both decorative and useful for your farm itself. Your first house upgrade will include a closet that not only lets you change your look any time you want, but also allows you to change your clothes! The Sewing Studio will be vital to those of you who are into fashion, and there are a ton of blueprints for different outfits and accessories, some of which are even useful for saving stamina and other things.
The biggest claim to fame of Story of Seasons is the Trade Depot. Merchant wagons will come into town on various days and that is when the economic magic happens. There’s no shipping bin in this game, so you’ll have to save crops and other items to sell when a vendor is in town. When you first start the game there will only be one vendor, but as you ship out more things and provide items requested by the merchant, more will appear. Each wagon has different stock, so you’ll have to plan your buying accordingly. You can also buy some things from the merchants that live in town, but the variety there is pretty limited, so check daily to see if any of the special vendors are visiting.
I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve avoided Bokujou Monogatari games because they thought it would be like playing Farmville, but as someone who has experienced over half a dozen of the former and played the latter every day for over a year, I definitely think they’re incredibly different in look, gameplay, and overall feel. There are SO many different things to do in Story of Seasons. I didn’t even mention decorating different areas of your town, or all the contests and events throughout the year, or the multiplayer I haven’t been able to try since the game isn’t out yet, or the safari, or the new conquest system where you fight it out with other farmers for rights to farm the community fields throughout the land. There’s honestly so much content in the game that I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in my own playthrough, and this is totally going to become another 100+ hour hobby for me. If you’ve played a previous Harvest Moon game and loved it, or if you’re just curious about farms, you will want to give Story of Seasons a try for sure!
+ New Harvest Moon Bokumono game!!!
+ Lots of customization
+ Really nice art and great backgrounds
+ New villagers to get to know
+/- Enormous(ly fun) time sink
+/- Lots of things to unlock
- Game can be tedious if you’re easily frustrated by doing things over and over
- No way to take screenshots