A lot has changed with farming sims since Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life originally released nearly 20 years ago. What was once a relatively niche genre has now seen many new releases each year, with Stardew Valley arguably becoming more recognizable than the games that inspired it. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life comes at a time when people have more choice than ever when it comes to farming games, and in many ways, it’s failed to keep up with the times.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Keeps Things Simple
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life takes place in the remote Forgotten Valley, where you’ll take over your late father’s farm and start your own family. There’s limited character customization (including a separate choice for pronouns), but your backstory will always be the same. It’s a simple setup, letting you get into the farming gameplay quickly.
Farming itself should be familiar to those that have played other Story of Seasons/Harvest Moon or modern farming sims, having you tend to your fields and animals each day, using harvested crops and produce to make money or cook many different dishes. Seasons are only 10 days long in A Wonderful Life (rather than the typical 30 for these sorts of games), meaning that crops grow quickly — even the slowest crops are still ready in a single season.
To keep up with this accelerated seasonal cycle, animals also give a boosted amount of produce. Cows give multiple milk each day — the amount changes per season, however — and wool is worth a lot of money, even for the most basic kind. You’re given all the tools you’ll need too, though better ones can be purchased from the traveling salesman that visits every few days.
Unlike the original A Wonderful Life, animals can’t actually die. This means that, even if you fail to take care of them daily, you’ll still be able to keep them around with little issue. It also makes it hard to tell what the health stat for animals actually does, as having it drop low doesn’t actually do anything now. This doesn’t actually matter much in the long run — animals can just be left outside with some grass most days — but that just makes the change even stranger.
Outside of taking care of the farm, your main goal during the first year is to find a partner. In fact, the game will straight up end if you decide not to get married by year 2. Some characters have received redesigns for better or worse, with Gordy being the only candidate that wasn’t available for marriage in any previous version. All 8 candidates can be married regardless of gender, with all having new event scenes to give them at least a little more screen time.
Unfortunately, these characters suffer from the same issue the original releases had — you barely get to know any of them before you have to marry. As with crops and animals, gaining affection with marriage candidates is incredibly sped up. I was able to propose to Molly within a few seasons of starting, and all I did was give her some random flowers I picked up off the ground. Considering you spend the rest of the game married after year 1 (even having a child), this lack of time to actually learn about the characters is odd.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Is Both Rushed and Far Too Long
In fact, the entire game feels both rushed and far too long for its own good. The first year isn’t too bad, since you have the goal of finding a partner and are just starting out with the farm. But as the seasons go on, you realize that there isn’t actually much to spend your time on each day. You can tend to your crops, but this is over quickly (especially when you have the better tools). You can talk to the villagers, but they only have a couple of lines of dialogue per season. You can go fishing or head to the dig site, but neither is particularly engaging (fishing is particularly unrewarding in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life).
It got to the point that, part way through year 2, I just started going to bed early on in the day. Sure, this meant that I missed out on some produce (cows can be milked 2 times a day), but by that point, I didn’t really care about how much money I was making. Your partner and child don’t change up the daily loop much either. You can take your child to certain places and people to influence how they’ll grow up, but the process is so grindy and ultimately pointless that there’s little incentive to do so.
This is compounded by just how many years you have to go through, and the way it’s all structured. There are 6 main chapters, each taking up 1 in-game year. At the end of a year, there’s a time skip, leading into the next chapter as you and other characters grow older. This could have potentially been an interesting twist on the genre, having you age as you raise your children and watching Forgotten Valley change. But the time skips ruin any real connection you could have, introducing new characters (and even taking one away) with little fanfare. Not to mention the fact that your farm somehow stays exactly the same over the course of years during said time skips.
Because of this, the general gameplay loop is slow and unrewarding, and the story (when it does make an appearance) is rushed through quickly. You’ll see the majority of events during your first year, leaving these few story events as the only real thing to look forward to. When you compare A Wonderful Life to modern farming sims, it’s lacking in events, character dialogue, or any meaningful ways to spend days outside of simply farming and sleeping.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life | Final Thoughts
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life ends up being a pretty average game, offering basic farming gameplay and characters that don’t get enough time to develop. The family spin on things could have worked, but is woefully underutilized. The remake did little to change this, offering up some minor differences that don’t fix the A Wonderful Life’s core issues. This is likely good news for those that want a mostly faithful experience. However, when compared to the decades of farming games that have been released since, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life just doesn’t hold up.
TechRaptor reviewed Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life over the course of 40 hours on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- Improving your farm can be enjoyable
- Some new content added in the remake
- The new visual style is pleasant
- Lack of meaningful content
- Too many chapters
- Barely any character events