A remake to recapture the hearts of those who enjoyed the GCN/PS2 iterations two decades ago. See how it holds up in our Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life review!
The farming simulator genre is one of the hottest on the market right now. In recent years, “cozy gaming”, or stress-free games meant for relaxation instead of excitement, have risen so high in popularity that we received a “Cozy Games Direct” last month. One of the games featured in that showcase was Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life – a remake of 2003’s Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.
After the series’ name change in 2012, the original Harvest Moon creators have pressed on with Story of Seasons titles, and are likely the main inspiration for Stardew Valley and the drove of similar recent titles, such as Hokko Life and Dinkum.
In this remake, some returning faces have been touched up, not just for cultural sensitivity, but for more expressiveness, too.
This isn’t Marvelous Interactive’s first go at remaking one of their old Harvest Moon titles; Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town brought the Game Boy Advance title to PC and Switch in 2020; unfortunately, this came shortly after Animal Crossing: New Horizons took the quarantined world by storm, so it didn’t sell as well as it could have.
A Wonderful Life, however, has been hotly-requested for a touch-up, as my partner/her brother have been clamoring for it for ages. Nostalgia is the driving force here, as quality-of-life updates are just the icing on the cake. So, now that this remake is finally here, does it recapture the heart of adults who plugged away at it as kids?
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – Performance/Visuals
This is the first Nintendo Switch game I’ve reviewed – I’m used to a beefy PC and PS5. That being said, graphics are low on my list of priorities and rarely spoil the fun for me. With Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life being a remake, it’s clear that textures, colors, and pop-in were all addressed, and it’s a pleasure to look at.
This makes the Harvest Moon iteration look drab and color-washed in comparison. There’s something to be said of the rustic, dreary vibe the original brought, but this simply wouldn’t fly in today’s market, as visual perspectives have changed in the 20 years between the two.
Framerate in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a rock-solid 30 frames-per-second with no drops to note. There is still some low draw-distance when running across town that may break immersion, but it hardly detracts from the gameplay. Don’t expect Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom levels of textures, but you can rely on this game to run consistently and not lose your focus on long binge sessions that may take place.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – Audio
As a newcomer to A Wonderful Life, I positively love how quirky this game is with its sound effects. Whenever something noteworthy happens, an exclamation point appears over a character’s head and an accompanying effect plays that kept bringing a smile to my face. Both the livestock and your dog are adorable as can be, too. Even though there’s no voice acting, there’s so much dialogue that it’s more than acceptable to just read it all instead.
Relationships with villagers are vital if you want to settle down with someone, as ample gift-giving and dialogue options will land you with the partner you want.
Sound cues in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life are placed carefully to ensure you’re treating your livestock right, planting crops accurately, and interacting with villagers favorably. Plus, the soundtrack has been touched-up with a more modern flair, retaining melodies whilst lifting the sound quality.
For example, entering Daryl’s house plays “Scientist’s House”, a percussive, futuristic, and engaging all at once that sets the mood vivaciously. Sound design is a big win with this remake, being one of the most intrinsic parts of nostalgia that’s kept intact.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – Gameplay
The hook of selling this Story of Seasons remake is firmly planted in its familiar-yet-revamped gameplay. Within this genre, there’s a certain gameplay loop that makes it so popular and endeared-to. Simply, it’s the tangible accomplishment for the fruits of your labor. Feeling that accomplishment creates an addictiveness that can’t be felt in an FPS or a MOBA; it’s ticking off that mental checklist with every action you take that makes up the main draw in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.
You start off with just a cow in A Wonderful Life. But this gift needs to be attended to, cared for, and deliver a ROI on each day within the game.
More than just tending to a farm, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is highly-dependent on you forging relationships with villagers. You’re going to want a partner, and in this remake, instead of being forced to play as a male and only courting female villagers, you have the freedom to play as a male and female, choose your gender identity, and marry any suitable villager. There was a lot of work that had to be done to implement this change, so props to Marvelous Interactive for putting in the time.
The most important choice in the game: floppy-ear dog or pointy-ear dog?
The aforementioned gameplay loop in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life rewards players by opening up so many things to do as days go by. You could go visit the Excavation Site where Carter and Flora are digging; you can dig yourself and find some treasure if you can spare the time/energy.
Alternatively, you can work on your relationships and track how much your desired partner loves you. All this can be fruitfully explored since your farming duties typically only take about half of an in-game day to complete.
More than just a farming game, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is equal-parts life sim.
As someone new to the Story of Seasons series, but having a past with tons of Animal Crossing and some Stardew Valley, it’s evident that there are tons of building blocks for the life sim/farming genre of gaming within A Wonderful Life.
My partner got their hands on this game, and revelled in its quality of life improvements whilst experiencing nostalgia from enjoying the game on Gamecube. Meanwhile, I found myself grasping the gameplay loop and feeling the farm getting better as I found a lot of things to do in the meantime.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – Conclusion
If you’re looking to get the same experience you got playing Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life 19 years ago, you’re going to mostly get that in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Plenty has been touched up and improved, but there are also some jarringly-different character models – so much so to the point that my partner didn’t recognize some characters. Newcomers like myself who’ve dipped their feet into this type of game should still have a good time, as there’s no shortage of content and there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in making your farm as strong as it can be.
So, why should you play Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life?
- You want to relive a game you grew up with in a more vibrant, polished presentation
- You’re a fan of farming/life-sim games and never played the original game
- You want to enjoy a title where you earn your keep, check off a task list, and feel yourself improve.
But why shouldn’t you play Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life?
- New character models and the happier tone may rub some original players the wrong way
- It doesn’t necessarily stack up to the best the farming genre has to offer in the present-day (Stardew Valley, My Time at Portia, etc.)
- You’ll most likely need to consult guides to truly succeed in this game.
A review code was kindly provided courtesy of Marvelous Interactive for the purpose of our Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life review. If you enjoy farming sims, be sure to check out our Rune Factory 5 review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us all about Story of Seasons!