Title: Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: Marvelous, Marvelous Europe, XSEED Games
Release Date: June 27, 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Price: $49.94 USD
2003 was in the early days of my gaming life. I’m unsure if my family bought our copy of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life or if it was a gift or a yard sale find via my grandmother. What I do remember is spending hours upon hours playing it.
Even my mom got into it. I can’t even begin to try and count how many times I played through that game. It was my first farming sim.
The first of many.
I was so excited when it was announced that Story of Seasons would remaster this game. Here was a chance to journey back to my first-ever farming sim. It was time to journey back and see how far I’ve come.
In Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, you play as a farmer who has come from the city to take over your father’s farm. Throughout the game, you live life. You tend to your fields and animals, fall in love, and raise a family.
At the beginning of the game, you are given two small fields on the farm. In Year Two, you unlock the potential of a third large field towards the back of your property.
In my playthrough, I used one field for crops and the other to plant fruit trees. The plan is once I unlock the second field to completely move crops there and use the second field for even more fruit trees.
Mechanics-wise, it is very simple. The hoe and watering can are in the tools part of your inventory while the seeds are in the other part.
I’ll give a word of caution here for those who aren’t overly familiar. Do not immediately fill up your fields. Especially with that first tool set, it will take more energy than you have to water the whole thing much less hoe it on Day One.
Luckily tools can be upgraded, but more on that later.
Vesta and her farm are an invaluable resource. You can get both seeds and fertilizer from here. And you will need that fertilizer as both fields have soil that is not rich at all. The better the soil, the higher the chance you get a higher quality crop (and thus more money when you sell it).
In staying true to the original game, this is farming in its simplest form. There are not a lot of bells and whistles.
You start the game with a cow. Which is the greatest gift you could get. She is an excellent source of early cash flow.
Initially, your chicken coop can hold eight chickens, while your barn holds eight animals. At the end of Year One, I had two cows, two sheep, a horse, and three chickens. The horse is a freebie that you get in Summer.
Cows can be milked twice a day. There must be ten hours between them (trust me, they will not let you milk them again even a minute sooner). They usually produce three milk twice a day in the spring and fall. In the harsher months, that drops to two and sometimes even one.
Until Van’s visit on Day Three, you can only feed, talk to, and snuggle with your animals. After his first visit (if you have enough money set aside) you can get the brush. With that, you can earn additional affection from your animals.
In return, they will give you superior items. Sheep can give golden wool. Chickens have a chance of golden eggs. Milk has different grades just like crops.
Sheep are needy little things. If they see you giving another animal attention and you haven’t given any to them first, they will let their displeasure known. It’s hilarious, adorable, and at times slightly annoying.
Gradually increase the number of animals. Right now, I have my morning and evening routine down to about two hours of game time each. But with that careful routine, I’ve got one cow who consistently gives me S Class milk, both sheep give me golden wool, and I’ve started to get golden eggs from my rather finicky chickens.
After a bit, the cows will dry out, and you will need to breed them to have them start producing milk again. To keep your barns from overfilling, you must manage how many you breed and sell ones you don’t have space for.
Getting my first look at the town made me more emotional than I expected. One thing that I adore is that they changed very little from the original game.
This is also one instance where I discovered how much I’ve improved in farming sims because winning friendships with the townspeople is super easy.
For such a small town, there is a diverse cast of characters (we’ll get to the dateable options in a bit). But the traditional system of delivering gifts leads to closer relationships. From there, you can get gifts and recipes from some of the villagers.
I love revisiting the dynamics of this small town (by far the smallest village of any farming sim I’ve played). That makes them a super close community. It also makes festivals and events that much sweeter to participate in.
Visiting them every day is a simple task. Feel free to chat with them multiple times because they have several dialogue options in a day. The closer you get to them, the more it changes.
There is a relationship bar that lets you know how the townsfolk feel about you. It helps you gauge where you are with various townsfolk.
For a town as small as Forgotten Valley, many dating options exist. What’s more, is that this represents the biggest change from the original game. In this game, you can court whoever you want, regardless of gender.
But you get to know the various suitors and their affection for you grows. In addition to the gauge you have with the rest of the townspeople, you have two additional indicators to tell if you have arrived at a time when it is suitable to propose.
The first is an affection gauge – the traditional hearts familiar in most farming sims. And the second is that you can read their diaries. Every romanceable character has one, usually where they live. A piece of paper will represent it. It will then say “I like (insert your pronouns here)” and have some hearts. Once you have four red hearts, they are open to a proposal.
Traditionally, one gives a blue feather to the person they fancy as a marriage proposal. The Harvest Sprites will give you one in Summer; you just have to hang on to it until needed. You simply give it to the person like you would any other gift, and if they accept it, there is a cut scene, and then you’re engaged. A second one happens the next day when they visit your farm.
You must get married before the End of Year One. You’ll be given options if you do not propose to someone before then. Either you choose one or your time in Forgotten Valley is over.
You must wait until Day Three when Van first opens his shop to get the Fishing Rod. My best advice is to make as much cash as possible from foraging and your cow. I even sold the milk from that morning to Van instead of putting it in the box for Takura to take to town to get enough.
You can learn from my mistake (or lack of remembering this small detail until later in the season) and go to the Dig Site on Day Two and see what treasure you can unearth to help. More on that in a minute.
Friends can attest to how uncoordinated I am when it comes to fishing – though I have gotten better. I blame the original version of this game for that.
By far, this is the simplest fishing system that you will find in a farming sim. You wait until the fish bites; simply press Y until it comes up. No meter to keep an eye on or a minigame you must complete.
Unfortunately, that does come with a catch. Fish aren’t nearly as lucrative as they can be in other games.
Part of that is because, for the first two seasons, you only have access to the most basic fish (thus the cheapest sale value). But overall, even when you get to the next level (you can gain one a year – more on this in a second) they don’t sell for a whole lot.
This leads to the easiest way to make money early on in this game…
The Dig Site
Cross the river and take the path from Vesta’s farm to the waterfall to find the Dig Site. There you will meet Carter and his assistant Flora who are trying to discover secrets of Forgotten Valley’s past with their dig.
You can head up there and dig any day Van does not come to town. Every square (in Year One – there are 12) has something in it. Sometimes it is a coin, others a figurine, crystals show up, and usually one square has a golden relic.
Patience is key here. Talk to Carter; he will give you a shovel and a bag to hold your finds. You will not have access to any of your normal supplies. From there, you highlight a square and dig. Ensure you keep digging until an exclamation point shows up above your head; that means you’ve found something.
The Dig Site is the easiest way to make fast cash in Year One – especially in the early days. It is an especially good idea to visit before Summer – but more on that in a second.
Once a year, you will find a tablet. Carter will hold on to that. If it is Year 2 or beyond, he will tell you what he learned from the previous year’s tablet.
The dig site is open from 9-5, which sometimes frustrates me because I would get so close to finishing all 12 squares only to be forced to stop. At the same time, it does prevent you from spending all day there. After 5 you can usually head home or into the village proper to talk with people and do your evening farm chores.
The only tools you buy are the brush and the fishing rod. Everything else is given to you either at the start of the game or after you buy your first sheep (you get the shears then).
There are copper, silver, and gold tools. Each allows you to cover more ground in a single action and take less energy. Once you acquire the first upgrade, watering crops (and anything else that uses a tool) becomes easier. I also believe that the milker and the shears also help increase the chance of quality products.
I’ve had a blast returning to my first farming sim. To my surprise, I remembered where some things were despite two decades passing.
One of my favorite things about this release is that it stayed true to the original. Yes, they updated the graphics. And yes they have made courting more inclusive.
But at its heart, this game is the same game. It provides a great place for the next generation of gamers to jump into this beloved genre.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has been everything I hoped for in this release. I’m thankful to the development team for giving me the chance to return to Forgotten Valley.