Story of Seasons—formerly known as Harvest Moon— is a franchise I’ve been curious about for a long time, but never played. This is my first exposure to it, and I’m glad to have finally played a game from the series that inspired Stardew Valley. Stardew is one of my all-time favorite games, so it was difficult at first to refrain from judging Story of Seasons based on comparisons. However, as I played more, the tendency to compare the two faded.
Spiritual Content: There is a shrine in town where the player can pray. Eventually a spirit only your character can see makes her home near said shrine, and can offer you blessings to improve your stats.
Aside from the above as well as some mild, cartoon-styled violence from smacking diglett-like enemies with a hammer, there’s nothing else of which to be wary.
This game is rated E for Everyone
The game makes an odd choice at the very beginning. It has you customize your character—and everything you choose apart from your name can be changed later—before even choosing whether the character is a male or female. It’s not until you get to Olive Town after the opening cutscene that you get to choose your gender.
You start out living in a tent, and upgrading to a log cabin requires money and supplies. Over the course of the first couple in-game weeks, the other townsfolk will bring you new tools, such as an ax, a camera, and a hammer. The camera is to take pictures of wild animals for the museum—or really anything you want, up to ten—and the hammer is to smash rocks in the mines. Most of your farming tools can be upgraded for the right price.
The backbone of your tasks is farming. For that you’ll use your hoe on tillable ground, then plant your seeds, and water them. All of this takes stamina, which is represented by hearts reminiscent of Zelda games. Each season—one month spans of twenty-eight days—has its own unique seeds, which you can buy at the general store. Some kinds of seeds grow in multiple seasons.
After growing your crops, you can either keep them—assuming you don’t want to make money—or sell them. The quality of each product is indicated by stars. The lowest quality crops have zero stars, while the highest have ten. The more stars something has, the higher the selling price will be. There is a box near your house in which you put everything you want to sell. There are a limited number of spaces, which can get annoying if you have a particularly productive day. But the feature I appreciate the most is that you can find the amount of money you will receive in the bottom right of the screen while accessing the box. That helped me budget on numerous occasions.
Oftentimes you will need stones to build things. Luckily, there are a few mines on your farm, each with increasing difficulty. It’s highly recommended that you upgrade your hammer before tackling the third. In the mines you will find iron, silver, and gold ore veins, as well as raw gemstones such as diamonds and sapphires. The ore, once refined into ingots, allows for upgrades of and buildings of all kinds. Just be careful of the of the digging enemies. They’ll make short work of your stamina if you’re not paying attention.
Your farm is broken up into a few areas, most of which you have to “unlock.” The first place is inaccessible due to a broken bridge, so you’ll need supplies to fix it. Each area that you need to unlock will require some sort of supplies from the adjacent section. For example, there are several different kinds of logs. A few of them are regular, solid, and supple. Each of them can be converted into their respective kinds of lumber (more on that in a minute), and you will need each kind at some point. I thought it was clever to introduce new types of items in every place.
As you progress, you obtain crafting recipes for various kinds of “makers.” Makers are essential for upgrading your house and tools, as well as constructing buildings on your farm. Each type of maker does exactly what its name implies: the lumber maker turns logs into lumber, the ingot maker turns ore into ingots, and the thread maker turns grass into thread that you can then put into the cloth maker for cloth. There are also makers for animal products. Milk has the most options that I’ve seen, as you can turn it into either yogurt, butter, or cheese, so long as you have the appropriate maker.
Your farm comes with dilapidated buildings, among them a barn and coop. Once you repair them, you can tame the animals that appear on your farm. You have limited slots, however, until you upgrade the buildings. The animals will give you things like eggs, milk, and wool, which you can sell as-is or throw them into a maker. You can also cook with them. Like crops, they are given a star rating to indicate their quality. At times, a particularly happy animal will give you a shiny version of their product. When placed inside a maker, it will produce up to six more products. For example, putting a shiny egg into a mayonnaise maker will produce up to six jars of mayonnaise, as opposed to just one or two.
Life in Olive Town would be boring without other people. Luckily, there are a couple dozen residents to befriend, and even a few to woo and marry. Your friendship level is indicated by hearts, and talking to a person and giving them gifts raises them. When filled, the hearts for marriageable characters are pink, while ineligible ones are orange. Every time you fill a few hearts with someone, you unlock a scene with that person. Typically it’s those scenes that drive a character’s development. There are a couple of characters I find annoying, but I like most of them.
Each month has at least one festival. Spring has an egg hunt, fall a mushroom hunt and a spirit festival, as well as a few others in summer and winter. The egg hunt was a letdown, as you don’t actually hunt for eggs. It’s just a cutscene of your character finding a few. The mushroom hunt, however, was more fun. The spirit festival is intended to be a romantic scene if you have a significant other, where both of you light and release floating lanterns.
There are many different stores. The general store sells seeds and a few other useful items. The animal store is the place to go to buy a pet or livestock. The bistro where you can eat meals to restore your stamina; and there’s a salon where you can change your hair color/style, and have new clothes made.
As you upgrade your house, you’ll be allowed to own a pet. The more times you upgrade, the more pets you’re allowed, up to four. There are various breeds of both dogs and cats from which to choose, and you can have any mixture you want. I was disappointed that of the several breeds, German Shepherd was not included. However, I was able to buy a Siberian Husky, which made up for it. I’ve upgraded my house twice, so I’m currently allowed two pets, both adorable Huskies.
My two primary complaints are the music and the environment. The landscape and trees change little between the seasons, which is really disappointing. Summer and fall are almost identical. I expected more from each season.
The music is my bigger complaint, though. While it’s charming at first, it soon becomes mind-numbingly monotonous. After a while, I just wanted to mute the tv. There are only a couple, very short songs per season, so they loop over and over throughout the in-game day, then they restart the next morning. There really isn’t any variety, and it gets to be downright annoying. In a game like this, with minimal voice acting, the soundtrack should be one of the highest priorities. Unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a good game with glaring flaws. After playing for an extended session, the soundtrack started to distract me from the things I enjoyed, and the minimal changes to the environment just compounded the problem. That said, it’s a nice, relaxing game with charming characters and animals. As long as I have the volume turned down, I can see myself enjoying it a while longer.
The Bottom Line
Though some flaws hold it back from greatness, this is a solid addition to the franchise.