The Story of Seasons game series, formerly known as Harvest Moon, has faced challenges in providing players with a fulfilling experience beyond the initial years of gameplay progression. However, the recent announcement of the A Wonderful Life Remake promises to solve this long-standing issue.
During the September 2022 Nintendo Direct, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Remake was unveiled as the second major remake of a previous Harvest Moon title in recent years. Its predecessors, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, were the franchise’s debut on the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, they fell short of fans’ expectations compared to previous titles for the 3DS.
The Essence of Fun in Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon
The slice-of-life farming genre specializes in providing a slow-to-start yet progressively rewarding gameplay experience that mimics the real challenges of building towns and cultivating land. To achieve this, the games incorporate increasingly difficult challenges, encouraging players to work towards long-term goals. These challenges may involve breeding animals for top-quality products, cultivating generations of crops to obtain premium seeds, or upgrading the farm and town to transform the entire setting.
While older games excelled in these aspects, recent installments have shifted focus towards graphics and RPG elements, neglecting the traditional gameplay that has captivated players for years.
Importance of Story of Seasons Remakes
Marvelous and XSEED’s decision to revamp older titles within the series serves multiple purposes. Previously known as Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons was a collaboration between Marvelous and Natsume. However, following their split in 2012, Marvelous rebranded the iconic series under the name Story of Seasons, while Natsume retained the “Harvest Moon” title.
Natsume went on to release farming games using the former title, but players expressed frustration with the low-quality gameplay and high price points. By remaking older titles under the Story of Seasons banner, Marvelous aims to remind players that the iconic games of past decades belong to the new series while distancing them from Natsume’s influence.
The remake of Friends of Mineral Town stayed true to the original gameplay but lacked content suitable for a powerful system like the Nintendo Switch. The absence of farm customization, limited town exploration, and a lack of animal product variety resulted in monotonous hours of crop-watering. Similarly, Pioneers of Olive Town incorporated popular exploration mechanics from games like Stardew Valley but failed to breathe life into its world. The presence of Maker Machines hampered product production, and the absence of late-game goals left many players feeling lost once they had decorated their farms.
An aesthetically pleasing farm may be satisfying in Animal Crossing, but it fails to suit the grindy and gritty nature of the Story of Seasons series.
How Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Remake Enhances Gameplay
The recently released gameplay trailer showcases various cinematic and gameplay clips from the remake. While it includes standard mechanics such as farming and homestead management, a significant evolution is evident.
According to the trailer, players will witness their protagonist aging throughout the gameplay. They can get married, raise a child, and witness that child grow into an adult, akin to the concept of the original A Wonderful Life game. Moreover, the choices players make in raising their children will influence their development, adding a unique long-term investment aspect to the game. The childhood experiences of these characters will shape their future personalities and career paths.
Fans have longed for this type of progression in Story of Seasons games in recent years, as many lose interest after a few in-game seasons. However, knowing that the protagonist won’t remain forever young and that choices are made against a ticking clock introduces an entirely new dynamic to gameplay.
The Potential Impact of Aging in Future Story of Seasons Games
If Marvelous and XSEED continue implementing this highly sought-after gameplay mechanic in future titles, the slice-of-life farming genre could undergo significant changes. A potential system could allow players to start a “New Game Plus” as the child of their previous character. This would enable farms to grow and evolve over multiple generations, allowing players to pursue new romances without rebuilding their games from scratch.
Furthermore, goals could be carried forward across generations. For instance, the first game could focus on establishing the farm, while subsequent saves could involve breeding show-quality animals or growing award-winning crops. Some animal and crop variations could be unlocked only after several generations of crossbreeding, adding depth and excitement to the gameplay.
This type of progression has the potential to revolutionize the farming genre, providing a greater sense of satisfaction beyond mere mundane tasks like milking cows or planting potatoes. While these aspects are enjoyable, having specific goals when setting up farms helps players stay engaged and prevents repetitive burnout.
While it remains uncertain how the changes in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Remake will influence future development choices, there is hope that the mechanics showcased in the upcoming game will usher in a new generation of Story of Seasons gameplay.