In 2023 remakes and remasters are more common than ever. Most interesting to see is how these new versions handle the issue of completely rebuilding versus just making modern visual improvements. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life that straddles the line between these two philosophies pretty evenly but still provides a vintage feel in different aspects.
Released on modern consoles, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life initially looks on the surface to be nothing more than an updated re-skin. However, some significant changes have made it more inclusive for the players. A Wonderful Life sets each player up as a young man who inherits a farm from his father in a small town called Forgotten Valley. Before you can claim your inheritance, you’ll need to name yourself and decide on your appearance.
The customization suite is where the updated version is better than its predecessor. Players can customize their avatar with gender-inclusive pronouns, body and fashion choices. Furthermore, none of the clothing or hair choices are gender-based. You can match any body type with any hairstyle or outfit you want. Once you’ve decided on your name, form, and pronouns, you’re ready to head to the Forgotten Valley. But note that you can’t change your pronouns after the selection screen, so be sure of your decision before you go.
In what has become a staple of the farming sim genre, your character packs up and moves from the big city to the farms in order to live a quiet life. When you arrive, an old friend of your father gives you a tour of the farm and provides you with notes that serve as a tutorial for the game. These notes are extremely useful in the early game, providing guidance when questions arise without forcing players to sit through a restrictive tutorial sequence.
As you’d expect, you grow crops and raise animals whose products you can sell for profit. A Wonderful Life normally consists of four seasons, and each game lasts for 10 days. These days last a real-life 24 minutes, which doesn’t sound like a lot but can start to stretch out the more you play. Ideally, your daily loop should include taking care of your crops and animals, visiting the spirits of the forest and seeing if they have any new recipes for you, helping dig at an archeological site, fishing, Forage, cook and interact with your neighbors around the Forgotten Valley.
Getting to know the other residents of your small town is important, as the game emphasizes that you must marry one of the local singles by the end of your first year. I do appreciate that A Wonderful Life removes the gender-locked nature of the original game’s romance, meaning players can marry any eligible single in the Forgotten Valley, opening the door for strange romances. goes.
That said, these relationships are disappointingly shallow. Since your courtship is barely a year long, you don’t get much time to bond with your future spouse. Some of the villagers already have relationships going on when you arrive, but they are never really looked into if you decide to marry one of them. It takes away a potentially interesting element of small-town drama from the game and is also unsatisfying from a storytelling perspective.
Besides, the in-game spouse doesn’t have much new or interesting to say once you tie the knot. After he married Cecilia, she mostly stayed in our house and repeated the same thing over and over again about learning new things about the housework. My younger child had more unique dialogue than I did outside of cutscenes.
Unfortunately, A Wonderful Life’s mechanics feel equally shallow during your day-to-day cycle. While pronouns, customization, romance, and visuals have been updated, your daily life in the game hasn’t received the same treatment. It doesn’t take long to do your daily chores, especially when you start upgrading your equipment. Chatting with forest spirits is also a quick job. Digging up artifacts can take as long as you like, but the process is slow and monotonous. The game encourages you to interact with everyone in town to help build your relationships with them, but their conversations are often repetitive, and it takes almost no time to give them gifts from your inventory. Even fishing and finding bait can be done while you do other tasks around the Forgotten Valley.
When the original version of this game came out, I’m sure there was a lot to do. But in the light of games like Stardew Valley, this level of activity is paltry. It’s easier to go to bed early to advance the calendar than to use every waking hour to maximize the work you can get done. Theoretically, some part of this time should also be devoted to cooking, but I often use my kitchen only when I really need it. A Tale of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has a perfection meter, but it doesn’t deplete quickly. I really only noticed it when my character gave me the hunger icon, which usually triggers when the bar is about a third full.
This meter is somewhat emblematic of my overall experience with the game. Ideas that were once innovative have become outdated or distasteful by today’s standards. While Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a welcome update to a classic farm sim, the nostalgia kicking in gives you an experience that’s sorely lacking in the modern landscape of the genre.