Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life – Review
Follow Genre: Farming simulator
Developer: Marvelous
Publisher: Marvelous
Platform: PS4, Switch
Tested on: Switch

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life – Review

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Good: Lots of small QoL improvements to streamline gameplay
Bad: In-game economy rebalancing messes up the game's pacing
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These days, the Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons franchises are two entirely separate series of farming sims, being developed and published by Natsume and Marvelous respectively. However, this wasn’t always the case as both series have their roots in the same Japanese game, Bokujou Monogatari. Now, we won’t be delving into the complicated shared history between these long-running series. The reason that we brought it up is because Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is actually a remake of 2003’s Harvest Moon game on the Gamecube. Is this a glorious return to the roots or should Story of Seasons have stayed on its own path?


Most farming sims just focus on farming, but A Wonderful Life bucks this trend. In fact, the game’s narrative is surprisingly extensive, spanning several decades as your character grows up alongside the farm and even passes the torch on to their offspring. There is a wide cast of quirky NPCs that all have their own little stories to share and of note is that these will grow old as the story progresses. The story spans six chapters and shapes itself according to your actions, so the way things play out is a highly personal experience. Of course, the story still starts in the same way for everyone: your beloved father has passed away and left you his farm. Together with Takakura, an old friend of your dear old dad, you aim to turn the quaint little farm into a budding center of agriculture. You’ll make friends along the way and perhaps even find true love.


The anime-esque visuals aren’t necessarily impressive but anyone familiar with the original release of this game will appreciate just how much polish things have gotten. Character models have been lovingly remade, and the rather drab color scheme of the original has been replaced with bright, saturated colors. The game exudes a cozy atmosphere thanks to how cutesy everything looks.


The same cozy atmosphere that the visuals evoke has seeped through to A Wonderful Life’s audioscape, with soothing sound effects. The original didn’t have anything to offer in terms of voice acting, and A Wonderful Life is no different, unfortunately. Luckily, the plethora of animal noises and other sound effects work in tandem with the music to bring the world audibly to life. Just like the visuals, the familiar tunes have been reworked for this modern remake, to great effect.


As this is a full-on remake of the classic Gamecube title and not just an HD remaster, A Wonderful Life is filled to the brim with QoL updates, while sticking to the core experience that made the fanbase fall in love with it in the first place. As such, the game includes everything you’d expect from a farming sim, from raising a menagerie of farm animals to growing crops and even cooking meals. The gameplay loop is as straightforward as it gets with a game like this. Starting out with a humble plot of land, you’ll try to make money from your honest work. Of course, you have limited stamina and there is only so much you can cram in a single day, so carefully planning your tasks is the key to success. Money that you earn can be reinvested in your budding farm, allowing you to buy better equipment, larger animals, and different crops. These in turn will help you make even more money, rinse and repeat. There’s more to the game than just this cycle, of course, with an utterly charming town filled with equally charming NPCs waiting to be discovered… and some even hoping to obtain your hand in marriage!

Apart from the aforementioned new localization and audiovisual overhauls, noticeable QoL changes were made to the gameplay as well. Of note is that you can play the game not just as a male or female farmer, but as a non-binary character as well, with they/them pronouns. This ties into modern sensibilities of course, and in a similar mindset, some of the more insensitive features of the original game have been overhauled too. While this may not sit too well with purists, it makes sense for the current-day gaming audience that Marvelous wants to appeal to. Other changes are more subtle, but also more welcome. The UI has been given a makeover and has become way more intuitive in the process, for example, and there are too many smaller, user-friendly adjustments to list. As a whole, A Wonderful Life is a more streamlined and newcomer-friendly title. Apart from the story-driven nature, and the decade-spanning timeline, however, A Wonderful Life is about as run-of-the-mill as it gets when it comes to farming sims, probably owing to its two-decade-old legacy.

That said, there are a couple of things where more improvements would have been welcome, and even a particularly egregious change that made the game worse. For one, A Wonderful Life missed the opportunity to overcome the obtuseness that plagued the original game. Unless you’re returning from the GCN title, and even then there are two decades in between, chances are you’ll need to look up a guide to figure some things out, like when specific goods are available or that you need to choose your partner before the end of year one. The closest thing the game has to a guide are the notes left by Takakura but they only cover the basics. More advanced mechanics are subtly hinted at but not outright explained. Because of this, it’s easy to miss some of the game’s better features simply because the game doesn’t point you in the right direction. The other change has to do with the way things were rebalanced. Most of the essential tools that you use to build up your farm have received a massive price increase, meaning that you’ll have to put in a lot more work, and time, to get a hold of these. This pads out the game’s runtime, but not in a good way.

In fact, if there is one area where A Wonderful Life is showing its true age, it’s with the game’s pacing. When you’re remaking a beloved classic, it’s always a difficult exercise to decide how true the game should stay to the original. That being said, over the last two decades farming sims have evolved, and compared to games like Stardew Valley or My Time at Portia, A Wonderful Life can feel sluggish, especially early on. This is one of those titles that rewards players for sticking with it, but that can feel like a chore at times. That’s a bit ironic of course, given that this is a title about farm work. Still, if you’ve been playing more modern farm sims, you’ll definitely miss having access to equipment that automatically deals with some of the more tedious tasks that you’ll be doing manually. Of course, farming sims are slow-paced titles by design, and if you approach A Wonderful Life with the right mindset, it’s a lovely game to unwind with after a busy day.

Playing through the story once will take roughly forty hours, but the game’s choice-driven nature encourages replaying it. You’ll be getting plenty of bang for your buck if this kind of game is your cup of tea. Still, after having spent some time with A Wonderful Life, we’re wondering who this game really is for. Purists returning to relive their original experience will be left disappointed by the rebalanced economy, which drastically alters the sense of progress. Meanwhile, newcomers have plenty of other, better farming simulators to choose from, even within the same series. There is of course something that can be said for preserving the spirit of a bona fide classic, but A Wonderful Life differs a bit too much from its ancestor to make the argument for game preservation.


In a vacuum, A Wonderful Life’s core gameplay has aged rather well. Two decades in, the core experience is still enjoyable, even though the changes to the in-game economy drastically change up the flow of the game. The QoL improvements and audiovisual overhaul are welcome additions that help modernize the experience somewhat. However, A Wonderful Life faces stiff competition from the plethora of more modern farming sims out there, including its sister games from the same series.

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