STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life
Publisher: Marvelous Europe
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 27/06/23
A code was provided for review purposes
Another remake crops up
After the recent success of the Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town remake back in 2019, it made nothing but sense to see Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life receive the same treatment. It’s a well-revered entry in the Harvest Moon franchise from the PS2 and GameCube days, and expectation has been high ever since its announcement.
Now, the original Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life was released almost 20 years ago, back in 2003. That’s a long time in the video game world, and a lot has changed. For starters, the farming/life simulation genre has seen a dramatic rise in popularity – both developers and players have developed a keen interest in games of this ilk. As a result, design philosophies have continued to evolve.
Rejuvenating a classic
What made Friends of Mineral Town such a successful remake is that it replicated the classic Harvest Moon formula in both style and system. In other words, it’s timeless. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, on the other hand, is not. Whilst we’d all love it to be, and there will be some who beg to differ, this game shares more similarities to newer farming sims than it does old, and this presents a problem.
Nostalgia alone is not enough. Revisiting Forgotten Valley with updated visuals and new character options felt fantastic to begin with. There’s a lot of care and attention that has been channelled into making a smooth and detailed remake. Qualify of life changes and 21st-century inclusivity are welcome additions. However, this is a faithful remake. Strong emphasis on faithful.
Needs more sun
For better or for worse, this is largely the same game that fans of the series will remember fondly. It rarely deviates from its slow-paced and gentile nature, instead serving as a reminder of simpler times when cooking meals, selling goods, and caring for animals was all that we needed.
That said, there is something else this game needed – some instruction. As an avid Harvest Mooner, and now a Story of Seasons convert, I don’t remember feeling such a lack of direction when playing the original. I’ve certainly not felt it in recent releases, either. Outside of some simple guidance from Takakura – given in the form of on-screen journal entries – there is little to share about what you should be focusing on and when. This game relies heavily on previous experiences with the genre, which brings us to what is, ultimately, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life’s most substantial issue.
Go to market
For most returning farmers, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life will provide a warm feeling of nostalgia with a few modern sensibilities thrown in. For others, it will serve as a reminder that the genre has moved on somewhat and, whilst we will forever be grateful for the more experimental farming sims, it doesn’t offer enough to maintain interest.
The third group, and the one that highlights perhaps the biggest disappointment of this remake, are the budding farmers who are yet to take the plunge into the world of farming and where this could have been the perfect entry point. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life just isn’t that. There are many other games on the market that do a much better job of onboarding new players, and the gaming experience will hold up too.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a welcome addition to modern console libraries. It holds a dear place in many people’s hearts, and it’s always lovely to see games like this get more time in the sun. Unfortunately, this remake falls short of introducing new players to farming or the franchise and will, in some instances, fail to reignite the love affair people once had. It isn’t classic enough to be retro, nor is it modern enough to hold its own amongst the other games out there.
You can purchase STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life from the eShop. A physical version is also available at some retailers.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.