Very like an axe, sickle, or hoe, nostalgia is a strong device. In Story of Seasons: A Great Life, it is what leads your farmer to return to Forgotten Valley in hopes of making a life just like the idyllic one led by their mother and father. It is also what led me–clad in my best, rose-tinted glasses–to revisit A Great Life with its latest remake. As I downloaded this new model of a sport I as soon as sunk a number of hours into for my Nintendo Change, I reminisced in regards to the first time I performed the sport 20 years ago–the really feel of my grandparents’ itchy carpet, the satisfying “click on” of my purple GameCube closing earlier than it kicked right into a gentle whir… It was by no means my favourite Harvest Moon game–that spot was reserved for Again to Nature–but it was one which I discovered distinctive and pleasant.
In some methods, I additionally really feel that approach about its 2023 remake. Story of Seasons: A Great Life is a really completely different sort of farming simulator in that it is one which focuses extra on relationships, household, and legacy than farm work. It is a idea I can get behind, and A Great Life’s emphasis on streamlining gameplay and eliminating tedium is a breath of contemporary air. Nonetheless, regardless of social-sim dynamics being on the forefront of A Great Life, participant interactions and the neighborhood itself really feel shallow. Though the character creation course of is perhaps extra concerned than ever, few NPCs are memorable, dialogue is scarce, and the sport’s idyllic setting turns eerie rapidly as a result of city’s vacant ambiance. But if I issue out this less-than-wonderful content material, not all that a lot is left, making A Great Life really feel dated and empty–especially when in comparison with different video games within the now-highly saturated farming sport style.
Like most farming sims, A Great Life begins with a letter–only this time it is despatched from your character slightly than to you. After rising bored with life within the metropolis, your character pens a letter to your mother and father’ former buddy, Takakura, informing him of your intention to come back to Forgotten Valley and take over your mother and father’ previous farm. Upon your arrival, Takakura affords your farmer a cow, a good sum of cash, and a tutorial that fantastically walks the tremendous line between overbearing and uninformative, earlier than supplying you with whole management over your character and farm.
This tutorial–and how simple these notes are to entry in any respect times–comes in clutch on account of how dramatically completely different A Great Life is from different farming sims. Whereas video games like Stardew Valley and the overwhelming majority of Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons video games provide you with a big, dilapidated area, your A Great Life farm begins in a neat and tidy state with solely two small plots of land–one with poor soil high quality and one with common high quality, an element which incessantly comes into play. The majority of your farm is a fenced-off area your livestock can graze upon, which rapidly informs you that animal husbandry must be your focus and is the most important money-maker; it is a dramatically completely different method to farming sims, which usually depend on crops to get your money flowing. In the end, these qualities truly make A Great Life an excellent farming sim for style newcomers to get into–there’s much less to handle, much less to do, and lots much less to fret about.
Nonetheless, for these extra conversant in the style that is solely the start of the lengthy listing of variations. For instance, you can’t ship any gadgets you forage or collect in A Great Life–that bin is reserved solely for gadgets you harvest. As a substitute, you will need to wait till the touring salesman Van involves city or arrange your personal stall within the middle of city, in hopes that your wandering neighbors will see your sales space and slowly enterprise over. Moreover, a yr in A Great Life is barely 40 days lengthy, with every season representing 10 of these days and containing one vacation. This implies time goes by rapidly and duties that you’d usually do daily–such as watering your vegetation and milking your cow–can and ought to be completed twice a day on this sport. This additionally provides the sport the room it must span a number of years, giving gamers the great alternative to observe their neighborhood change and their future little one develop.
And whereas there are a handful of issues you may improve in your farm and in your stock, there’s zero useful resource gathering and attaining these upgrades does not really feel like a lot of a spotlight. In truth, slightly than having any kind of farming or monetary targets, the sport emphasizes that you will need to get married in your first yr of residing in Forgotten Valley–or else the sport will finish.
That is the place you begin to expertise some friction. Whereas a streamlined farm and shortened calendar sounds nice in concept, its execution in A Great Life leaves lots to be desired. Outdoors of tending to your farm and choosing random herbs and flowers, there are primarily 5 issues you are able to do: Go to the town, go to the Harvest Sprites to seize a recipe, socialize together with your neighbors, mine, and fish. That feels like a good quantity, proper? This is the issue: Every one in every of these actions is extremely shallow and boring. To go to the town, you go to the outskirts of city, point out that you’re prepared to spend six hours visiting the town, after which the display screen goes black and you come back six hours later. I’m nonetheless undecided if it truly does something.
Visiting the Harvest Sprites entails consuming a mushroom, coming into their house, after which speaking to one in every of them to get a recipe. If you happen to attempt speaking to the opposite two, they will simply repeat that they do not have a recipe for you right now. Mining consists of coming into a tiny dig site–probably made up of 15 squares–being handed a shovel, and repeatedly digging on the identical squares in an try to seek out fossils. And fishing sees you solid your line, wait to your bobber to sink, after which maintain down a button. That’s it.
Nonetheless, socialization is perhaps essentially the most irritating half. Seeing as I’m instructed emphatically and incessantly that I must marry somebody with the intention to reside in Forgotten Valley, which after all feels unusual in itself, attending to know somebody is clearly an enormous precedence. However there are just a few issues with this: The parents you may marry are largely stationary and uninteresting, coronary heart occasions are transient and never significantly gripping, and items and dialogue really feel impersonal. Whereas I’m delighted developer Marvelous added same-sex marriage to the sport, it does not make up for the truth that the candidates aren’t essentially the most vigorous group of individuals. I gravitated in the direction of Matthew and Molly in my playthrough, as they exuded essentially the most persona, however everybody else felt kind of one-note. Whereas I in the end married Matthew, the romance did not really feel participating or earned. Although I loved Matthew’s Darcy-esque persona, it did not really feel as if we received to know each other, bonded, and fell in love. And perhaps I am simply sappy, however that is a sense I am fairly keen on in any video games with a romance component and would have most well-liked to expertise as a substitute of the pressured state of affairs we’re provided.
Even with reference to friendship, the city is simply… vacant. It is a phrase I maintain coming again to, however one which aptly describes Forgotten Valley, a spot the place issues like a basic retailer, library, faculty, museum–any kind of vigorous and purposeful constructing, really–don’t exist. Dialogue is usually recycled, the townsfolk seldom work together with one another, and the city is extra stuffed with unusual scientists than individuals who really feel like a part of a tight-knit neighborhood. Whereas there’s this core of sentimentality right here, it’s a must to look extraordinarily exhausting to see it–and that in the end makes for a very isolating expertise. Oh, you can too full merchandise requests to your neighbors, however it occurs so sometimes, it is one thing I am solely simply now remembering exists. To be fairly sincere, there have been a number of days I went to mattress earlier than the solar had even set–there was nothing to do, nobody to see, and standing by a river hitting a button to reel in a fish each 20 seconds simply did not sound tremendous interesting.
Some issues break up the monotony–holidays, occasions together with your little one, and watching them develop up (which might be the good function and makes the fast calendar value it) are good. The sport’s graphics and music are pretty sufficient, gameplay is considerably smoother than it was within the unique, and its streamlined method to farming and quality-of-life updates, equivalent to including NPC icons to your map so you do not have to look very exhausting to seek out folks, are good options. Sadly, your complete bundle is simply not sufficient.
Again in 2003, A Great Life provided a refreshing and mawkish tackle the farming sim style. Nonetheless, even then, it felt a bit empty when in comparison with what many different simulation video games have been doing. Whereas Marvelous added better inclusivity, readability, and extra occasions and dialogue, it does not maintain this 2023 remake from feeling empty and caught prior to now.