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Review: Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life

As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life offers a slightly different take on the well-worn farming sim genre. As a new resident of the Forgotten Valley, you’re still here to revitalize an old farm and socialize with the townsfolk, but it’s that second aspect that takes a central role here. The point of your new life in this hamlet isn’t to save a farm or to stop the development of a theme park…

You’re here to make a life for yourself, one that is filled with love, family, and friends.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life (PC, PS5, Switch [reviewed], Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Marvelous
Publisher: Xseed Games

Released: June 27, 2023
MSRP: $49.99

A Wonderful Life is one Story of Seasons title that genuinely lives up to its name. Prior games in the series — and when I say prior, I mean those before the release of the original version of this game back on the GameCube in 2003 — put the focus squarely on farming, with making friends and courtship positioned as side activities to keep players busy between harvests. In A Wonderful Life, those elements are the core of the experience. Yes, you’ll still spend roughly half your time tending to crops and livestock as you would in any other Story of Seasons game, (and the farming system can get somewhat deep with hybrid crops and animal husbandry to consider), but nothing you do on this farm matters if you go home to an empty house and an empty bed at the end of the day.

It’s your activities outside your farm that make the difference in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Meeting people, making friends, falling in love; these have (mostly) always been elements of the franchise, but here, whether or not you’ve had a life well-lived will be determined by your success in these areas.

The story of A Wonderful Life is divided into several periods of your farmer’s life. You’ll start the first year single and hopefully ready to mingle as you’ll need to be married to one of the eight eligible townsfolk—same-sex relationships are an option here as is the option to make your farmer non-binary—by the end of winter or it’s on to the end credits roll. From there, you and your companion will have a child, and the next several chapters will focus on how well you do as a parent, as a partner, and as a member of the community. As your child grows into an adult, you and your spouse will grow old. People in the town will age as well. Some will die. People will move, and others will make a new start in the Forgotten Valley.

I’ve played plenty of games in the Story of Seasons franchise over the past decade, but not one of them handles all of the stuff outside your farm as well as A Wonderful Life does.

Life on the farm is pretty par for the course. To accommodate the structure of the game’s story, each season in A Wonderful Life lasts just 10 days. For some crops, that might mean you get one shot at growing it a season. For players who like to maximize their farm’s potential, there are hybrid fruits and vegetables to discover, several different breeds of cows, each with their own milk, and machines that can help guarantee high-quality crops. With the available arable land being as small as it is, tending to your farm will likely only take up a few hours each day. That leaves plenty of time to go fishing, help out at the archaeology site, complete various requests, participate in some mini-games, or try to strengthen your relationships with the people around town.

Or you can spend that time shaping your child into the adult they will become. In your role as a parent, you can help dictate your child’s future, directing them toward one of several interests that may ultimately become their vocation. I’m not entirely sure how much of a difference it makes between which path your kid takes, but the destination didn’t matter that much to me. It was the journey that won me over, all those nights spent playing with my daughter, buying her toys, and watching her grow from a toddler to a tween to an adult.

I don’t have kids in real life. And, I’m not entirely sure if I want them. But seeing my virtual daughter grow into a young woman was something special to experience. In those moments, when time would jump ahead and I’d see how my rearing impacted her growth, I felt this sense of accomplishment no other Story of Seasons game has given me.

If you’re already sold on Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life as a fan of the original and are just wondering how this remaster holds up, know that this is an exceptional version of the game. The Forgotten Valley looks wonderful in HD, it runs pretty much flawlessly on Switch, I appreciate most of the new character designs, and Marvelous has added enough new elements, including new hybrid crops, new recipes, and a new bachelor in Gordy, to make this a return visit well worth making if you’ve played it before.

Just don’t expect certain elements, like animal husbandry, to have the depth they once did as a lot of the processes have been streamlined. For those who didn’t give it a try on the GameCube or PlayStation 2, the easiest way to decide if this is right for you is to ask yourself how important you consider farming in your farming sims. If there is one complaint I have that isn’t just nitpicking, it’s that the audio isn’t up to par with the rest of the presentation.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a remarkable experience. It takes the classic farming formula and gives it a purpose beyond just seeing how many S-ranked tomatoes you can grow. With its focus on family, legacy, and living a good life, this is a farming sim where what you do away from the fields is as important as what you do when you’re tilling that land. It’s a game that encourages a healthy work-life balance, and there is no better lesson we need in our modern era than that.

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