Nostalgia takes on new meaning in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. The game, which depicts a farmer’s journey through the many points in their life, grabs at heartstrings and harmoniously folds emotional moments together to create a layered cake of memories. For those who played the original title in 2003, returning to Forgotten Valley is that much more special, and makes the journey a rewarding and thoughtful adventure.
A Wonderful Life has taken all the best aspects of the original game, updating them with quality-of-life improvements that make farming, animal care, relationships, and exploration more enjoyable. The game’s excellent progression is one of the best in recent years, ensuring players have a goal no matter what chapter of life they are in.
The only downside to Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is that players will bump into some poorly patched social dynamics that savor of the franchise’s earlier inclination towards male players. These moments, while small, might be glaring and intrusive to modern audiences.
- Developer: Marvelous/XSEED
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox, and PlayStation
- Price: $49.99 USD
- Release Date: June 27, 2023
A Wonderful Life Let’s You Truly Make Your Character Shine
Getting started in A Wonderful Life, players will have the opportunity to build a character from a selection of different features. This includes body shape, hairstyles, and skin shades. The opportunity to customize characters has been a key feature in recent Story of Seasons games but is a revolutionary inclusion in A Wonderful Life’s remake.
In the original game, players were only able to play as a male character with a set appearance, while in Another Wonderful Life, only a female character could be selected. This not only created an isolated experience for the players but seriously limited the connection to the playable character.
The best feature in the character creation for A Wonderful Life is the ability to select pronouns. For the first time in a Story of Seasons game, I was able to select the non-binary pronoun option. This is something I have personally dreamed about for over ten years, and finally being able to select and play with a character that I identify with made this title an emotionally touching journey. The inclusion is such a small detail, but completely changed the type of experience I was able to achieve while playing through the game.
A Full Life to Live in Forgotten Valley
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is made up of a simple storyline. Players move to the town of Forgotten Valley to take over an inherited property. Throughout many chapters, their character will age and experience different milestones in life. This includes getting married, having a child, raising that child, building a prosperous farm, and eventually passing away.
The chapters all vary in length, with the first only lasting a single year and others including multiple years. Unlike other Story of Seasons games, the months of these years are only 10 days in length, requiring players to carefully manage their time.
Additionally, certain outcomes are predetermined. Players will have to marry if they want to continue past the first year, and having a child is also required and happens through a time skip montage, instead of through choices made with a partner after marriage. While this linear progression might seem a bit jarring in comparison to many other freedom-of-choice farming sims, it does put a unique spin on A Wonderful Life that allows it to stand out against other similar titles.
Streamlined Upgrades Are Simple & Refreshing
Most farming sim fans are more than familiar with the long and tedious grind that can be tool, facility, and building upgrades. A Wonderful Life revives an easier system that makes the process of improving a farmstead much less of a trial.
Most improvements are achieved via shop purchases, including tools from Van’s shop and facility upgrades from the farmstead ledger. Players only need to save enough money, and then they can snatch up what they need without hours of rock, ore, and wood collection. While many of the upgrades are expensive, the lack of other needed materials allows players to focus on their farm work, without the stress of maintaining trees or hunting down rocks to smash with a hammer.
Additionally, home upgrades happen free-of-charge at chapter points, with the first unlocking after getting married at the end of Chapter 1. This auto-upgrade is likely my favorite thing, as home upgrades in Pioneers of Olive Town were a miserable and lengthy process that felt more like a punishment than an achievement.
A Wonderful Life’s Marriage System Needs Polish
In an unfortunate turn of fate, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life’s dating and marriage system lacks depth, dragging some of the worst tropes along from the original game. While players can marry any male or female candidate in Forgotten Valley, the personalities of both are stunted, with glaring tropes and outdated social issues plaguing personalities.
For example, I chose to peruse Nami, as she was originally the hardest character to marry in the original game. Romancing her was shockingly easy. I brought her a Milky Soup every day and we were engaged halfway through summer of year one. However, I often felt guilty when romancing her, as her dialogue didn’t change as you got closer to her, and she seemed uninterested in my attempts to become closer to her.
In the original A Wonderful Life game, Nami’s future is entirely dependent on the main character choosing her to marry, a disturbing situation that either guilts the player for abandoning her by forcing her to leave town if her relationship points aren’t high enough, or encouraging the player to marry her so she has a secure future. In the remake, players will see a similar story unfold.
For example, when you marry Nami, the owners of the Inn will give the main character a “talking to”, informing them that she is like a child to them and that they are giving her away. Even more upsettingly, after starting Chapter 2, Nami’s common dialogue includes speaking about how she never imagined settling down on a farm, and that her younger self would be surprised to learn she’d taken that path. At no point does Nami feel like she enjoys her life on the farm, and I often felt I was holding her captive.
In addition to this, other problematic themes in A Wonderful Life include Cecelia and Matt’s relationship, where Matt becomes possessive and jealous of the main character if they begin showing interest in Cecelia. If you don’t romance her, Matt will confess that he doesn’t think he loves her as a sister, but as a potential romantic partner. After watching his brooding and unpleasant behavior, I was left feeling terrible for Cecilia and wished she could get away from him.
Adding Molly, who is often mistreated by boyfriends, and Lumina, who has virtually no personality, to the mix doesn’t improve the overall feeling that the characters and their personalities suffered from dated source material.
Unfortunately, the male love interests in A Wonderful Life aren’t much better, with Gustafa acting as the standout character. Cody takes the place of Nami as hardest character to romance. This is both in game difficulty, and overall personality, as talking to him is an unpleasant, grating experience that doesn’t feel remotely rewarding.
Unfortunately, marriage isn’t a smooth ride either. Once players are married to their partner, daily conversations dry up to one or two lines of repeated dialogue, making interactions empty. For a game about life, love, and marriage, the lack of fulfillment in the mechanic is truly upsetting.
Hybrid Crops and Diverse Animals Make Farming Amazing
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life does an amazing job of revisiting the hybrid crop system that was unique to the original game. Players start with a handful of basic crops and fruit trees. After Chapter 2, Vinnie the talking plant arrives to swallow up seeds and spit out hybrid options for players to grow. This process mashes tomatoes with strawberries or grapes with apples for durable plants that grow in multiple seasons.
Additionally, players have the opportunity to raise a wide variety of livestock, including chickens, sheep, goats, ducks, and multiple species of cows. A Wonderful Life also keeps the male and female animal options, allowing players to naturally breed animals together when both sexes are owned at the same time. The only downside to this mechanic is the limited space, as the fully upgraded barn and coop only hold 16 animals each, and additional facilities cannot be built.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life revives an original farming sim with faithful, thoughtful detail. The main mechanics are solid, the progression is enjoyable, and there is always something to do. It is a real shame the relationship mechanics didn’t feel more satisfying, as they are such a big part of the game, but all other aspects of the title are top-tier.
A Wonderful Life is an amazing pick for those who love Story of Seasons, want to revisit a nostalgic location, or just pick up something new. With its unique mechanics and endearing setting, it is hard not to want to keep playing for hours at a time – especially with so many hybrid crops to discover and adorable chickens to snuggle.
|+ Hybrid Crops are an amazing mechanic that adds depth to the game|
|+ I’ve never wanted to own so many cows|
|+ There is always something to work toward no matter how deep into the game you are|
|– The romance options are very empty|
|– Some social tropes from 2003 don’t work well|
Gamepur team received a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.