Take a trip to a faraway land in a time of nostalgia with STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life. This title was originally called Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life when it was created for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 in 2003 and has now been remastered and released on June 27, 2023 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S. If you love games like Stardew Valley, Sun Haven, My Time at Portia, and others, you have the original version of this game to thank, as it is one of the earliest cozy games. It takes you to a small island away from the city hustle and bustle to take over and maintain your late father’s farm. You sell your crops, animals, and other things produced on the farm to make enough income for your farm to grow and improve.
Character Creation – A Step in the Right Direction, But Limited
As a first-time player of A Wonderful Life, I was surprised there weren’t more customization options when it came to appearances. Coming into this from games like Sun Haven and Stardew Valley that were created long since A Wonderful Life — and the fantastic customization options you get in some other modern titles — I’ve grown used to the options. Sure, it’s built from an older game, but reworking it can be an opportunity to add some more options.
An important piece that was added to the character customization and a changed mechanic of the game is the added they/them pronouns, the ability to pick your pronouns no matter what your character looks like, and (as you find out as you begin to play) the ability to marry any of the marriage candidates regardless of the gender of your character, or theirs. It’s a necessary inclusive option for an RPG to incorporate and was a great use of an update to an old fan favorite.
Wandering this quiet town after fulfilling your farm chores in the early game is a great way to get to know some of the characters as well as some of the other activities available off the farm. Occasionally you’ll walk into a cutscene where you have conversations with people to learn more about what’s happening in the Forgotten Valley. The dialogue here can lead to some missions, such as getting the Goddess to appear in the spring.
As you usually see in this style of game, there is a bulletin board with various items the townspeople need that they will reward you for completing. Reading the board automatically accepts the task and there aren’t very many available at once. This does leave quite a bit of downtime in between missions but also leaves a great opportunity for fishing, setting up your shop, and getting to know more about the events offered in the other buildings in the area.
PC Mechanics – A Bit Off
While it didn’t stop me from enjoying the game as a whole, it was a learning curve to get used to some of the controls in the game on PC. I started off trying to move my line of sight by using my mouse but I had a much better time with my arrow keys. Once I got my movement down and could position my line of sight where I wanted, I went on to meet and name my farm and my animals. There’s a very limited number of characters for these names, and you cannot put spaces in the farm name, which stifled a bit of creativity.
In STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life, there are two menus. One is a game menu with options for saving, loading, audio, graphics, leaving the game, etc. The other is an items and quests type of menu that shows what is in your backpack, your relationships, accepted missions from the board, etc. It took me a minute to find the controls to open them. Typically Escape and Enter are my go-to buttons for menus, while these are Backspace and Tab.
Within the menus were a few other quirks. If there is an arrow for a particular selection, such as the number of items, you can’t use the mouse to click the arrow as it will close the menu you were looking at. When you’re ready to quit the game and looking to save, the naming isn’t intuitive — players will need to hit the Backspace button and select Write in Journal to save and Read Journal to load a previous save.
Little things aside, I really enjoyed my time in the Forgotten Valley. It would be a great pick for someone just getting into farm RPG titles. In the beginning, you get a full walkthrough of your entire farm and how it works. The more you interact with items in the game, the more information it has for you that is always accessible to reference in case you’re like me and forget things after you’ve read them.
In addition to walking you through all the options for collecting items on your farm and how to take care of everything, you also get an introduction to all of the townspeople and what they do in the town. This is something I have felt is missing from a lot of cozy games, often feeling like trial by fire. Having the full rundown of everything without having to know someone who knows, look it up, or clumsily stumble into something cool made progress much more simple. As an added bonus, you can also function as an adult without a strictly enforced bedtime. You will eventually need to go to sleep to replenish stamina (or eat a bunch of food instead) but you won’t be promptly kicked off your farm in the middle of a task to make you sleep.
All things considered there are some really great aspects of this game that make it a fun play. I highly recommend STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life for both beginners and experienced farming RPG veterans as it is its own unique experience. It is a little slower-paced than others, but this may make for a less overwhelming experience. The revamped art style is peaceful and cute to look at, the townspeople offer a variety of personalities to interact with, and there are several ways to make an income that are enjoyable options. The minor differences in how you may be used to playing are noticeable initially but don’t take away from the overall experience.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on June 20th, 2023