Game Reviewby Jean-Karlo Lemus,
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life
After toiling away in the city, you finally decide to move to the old farm in the Forgotten Valley. In no time at all, you have crops to raise, cattle to tend to, and a whole village of people to befriend—or maybe even fall in love with! The seminal farm-sim game returns—its time to relearn why it's 'A Wonderful Life' after all!
Back before the Harvest Moon games had their complicated split, A Wonderful Life and its subsequent distaff counterpartAnother Wonderful Life became the introduction for many a farm-sim fan to the genre. While it wasn't too different or innovative with regards to the typical farm-sim formula, it was the one with the tightest narrative: a heartwarming story of leaving the city to live off the land, falling in love, and starting a family with someone you met in town, watching your couple grow old together as the leaves turned on the trees. Just in time for the 20th anniversary, we have Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, an updated remaster of that beloved game. Does it live up to its predecessor's memory?
First, the game has combined both versions of the game, mixing all eligible bachelors and bachelorettes into one game. It's also added a pair of new potential paramours for a full round of eight. In a much-anticipated update, same-sex marriages are now possible, allowing female player-characters to marry the bachelorettes and male characters to marry the bachelors. As a part of character creation, it's also possible to create a character that uses non-binary pronouns. Old fans could have only dreamed of these updates when the original A Wonderful Life buzzed away in our GameCubes. With that said, longtime fans might be taken aback by some minor name changes included with the new translation: the evocative “Forget-Me-Not Valley” is now named “The Forgotten Valley,” most notably. At the same time, some of the characters, like Muffy or Marlin, have now been renamed Milly and Matthew.
Long-time players might also be surprised by some of the differences with the tools; where once upon a time, you could buy better tools from the ledger as soon as you arrived in town, now tools are gated elsewhere, forcing you to spend some time with hard labor as you tend to your crops. About those crops: because A Wonderful Life is a remake of an older title, you will miss out on some of the updates that you might have gotten used to in more recent titles like Pioneers of Olive Town—so you can't arrange your farm as you'd like. Much of your progress is as in the original: you start with two plots of land with differing soil quality and a single cow for milking. Planting crops demands you pay attention to the season, as certain crops are only viable in certain seasons. Also, each “season” only lasts ten in-game days. There are tons of strategies here, from fertilizing your crop to improve their quality; combining crop strains to make new “mutant” crops; and maximizing your space between regular crops and the space-hogging trees (which, conversely, don't need to be watered to maintain growth). There are, however, some minor updates, like bells outside of the animal coops to facilitate bringing them out to the yard to forage or back indoors. A new camera has also been added so that you can take snapshots of your favorite moments and characters more easily. As always, it's satisfying to fall into the routine in-game: wake up in the morning, tend to the crops, mind the animals, then find something to do in town.
And, as usual, there's plenty to do in town. There is a wealth of lovable weirdos in town; if you've played A Wonderful Life before, you've come to know and love characters like the Fireworks twins, the local mad scientist, or the kindly elderly couple. If you haven't, you get to enjoy making friends with these colorful characters. And there are plenty of reasons to become good friends with the locals, as your relationship with them can affect how your child grows in the future. Many of your neighbors have fun minigames, too, which are always worth the time.
It's here that we come to the prominent feature of the game; A Wonderful Life leans into the whole “life” angle, so much so that the game makes it imperative for you to get married at the end of the first year. Your child will vary depending on who you marry, and their path in life is affected by the friends you make in town and how close you allow them to be with your family. This part of your life also expands the game, as it involves adding tons of new mini-games, like cooking for your family or needing to buy them sundries to keep them happy. As a child, this part of the game is fun play: letting youths play “House” and try to see what life is like with the local tomboy or guitarist. As an adult, this part of the game hits differently; there's a wistfulness to playing a game about growing old with your beloved and watching your child set off on their journey.
A Wonderful Life gets a “B” because the raw gameplay is, admittedly, a bit repetitive. It's a little hard to come back to it without all of the quality-of-life improvements we'd seen in later Story of Seasons games, like being able to arrange your farm to your liking. It also puts you through a ton of waiting just because—you can give your beloved a Blue Flower as early as Summer, but your wedding will not happen until the end of the first year. But—this is still a phenomenal remake of a beloved cult classic. Tons of effort went into this game with the knowledge that this is a very beloved game; I think it's fair to say that they managed it. Whether you're a returning fan or a Johnny-come-lately who's never visited the Forgotten Valley before, stop by the farm and stay a while. It might be a simple life, but it's a wonderful life.
Overall : B
Graphics : B
Sound/Music : B-
Gameplay : B
Presentation : A
+ It's the Wonderful Life you know and love; lots of minor improvements; basic story still tugs the heartstrings
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