Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – An Updated Classic That Hasn’t Quite Catched Up

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – An Updated Classic That Hasn’t Quite Catched Up

Remakes and remasters are more common than ever in 2023. What’s most interesting is how these new releases address the issue of complete rebuilding versus just modern visual enhancement. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life that straddles the line between these two philosophies fairly evenly but still delivers an outdated experience in various aspects.

Released on modern consoles, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life initially looks like nothing more than an updated re-skin on the surface. However, some significant changes have made it more inclusive for players. A Wonderful Life establishes each player as a youngster who has inherited a farm from their father in a small town called Forgotten Valley. Before claiming your inheritance, you must name yourself and decide what you will look like.

The customization suite is where the updated version surpasses its predecessor. Players can customize their avatars with inclusive pronouns, body, and fashion options. Beyond that, none of the clothing or hair options are gendered either. You can combine any body type with any hairstyle or outfit you want. Once you’ve decided on your name, appearance, and pronouns, you’re ready to head to Forgotten Valley. But note that you can’t change your pronouns after the selection screen, so make sure of your decision before you go.

In what has become a staple of the farming simulation genre, your character packs up and moves from the big city to the farm to live a quieter life. Upon arrival, an old friend of your father’s shows you around the farm and provides you with notes that serve as a tutorial for the game. follow a restrictive tutorial sequence.

As you would expect, you grow crops and raise animals whose products you can sell for profit. There are the usual four seasons in A Wonderful Life, and each lasts 10 game days. These days are 24 actual minutes long, which doesn’t seem long but can start to drag the longer you play. Ideally, your daily loop includes tending to your crops and animals, visiting the spirits of the forest to see if they have new recipes for you, helping to dig at the archaeological site, fishing, foraging, cooking and talking with your neighbors around Forgotten Valley.

Getting to know the other residents of your small town is essential, as the game insists that you must marry one of the local bachelors by the end of your first year there. I appreciate that A Wonderful Life removes the sexist nature of romances from the original game, which means players can marry any eligible bachelor in Forgotten Valley, opening the door to queer romances.

That said, these relationships are unfortunately superficial. Since you’ve only been dating for a year, you don’t have much time to bond with your future spouse. There are relationships already going on between some of the villagers when you arrive, which are then never really addressed if you decide to marry one of them. It takes away a potentially interesting element of the game’s small town drama and is also unsatisfying from a storytelling perspective.

Also, in-game spouses don’t have much new or interesting to say once you get married. After marrying Cecelia, she largely stayed in our house and repeated the same phrase about learning new things about housework over and over again. My young child had dialogue that was more unique to me than outside of the cutscenes.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of A Wonderful Life feel just as superficial during your daily loop. While pronouns, customization, romances, and visuals have been updated, your daily life in the game hasn’t received the same treatment. Doing your daily tasks doesn’t take long, especially once you start upgrading your tools. Chatting with forest spirits is also a quick run. Digging up artifacts can take as long as you want, but the process is slow and monotonous. The game encourages you to chat with everyone in town to help you build your relationships with them, but their dialogue is often repetitive and it takes almost no time to give them gifts from your inventory. Even fishing and foraging can be done while you do other tasks around Forgotten Valley.

When the original version of this game came out, I’m sure it seemed like a lot to do. But following games like Stardew Valley, this level of activity is disappointing. It’s easy to go to bed early to push the schedule forward instead of using every waking hour to maximize what you can do. In theory, some of that time should also be spent cooking, but I often only used my kitchen when I really needed it. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has a fullness meter, but it doesn’t decrease quickly. I only really paid attention to it when my character gave me the hungry icon, which usually seems to trigger when the bar is about a third full.

This counter is somewhat emblematic of my overall experience of this game. Ideas that were once new are outdated or uninteresting by today’s standards. While Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a welcome update to a classic farm sim, stripping away the nostalgic bent leaves you with an experience that seems to be lacking in the genre’s modern landscape.

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