When Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life was first announced back in September 2022, I literally cried. Yes, I am that pathetic. For years, I’d wanted a remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life as the original on the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2 was my most-played childhood game by a large margin. And finally, my wish has come true. But does it hold up? Here are my thoughts.
The Start of A Wonderful Life in Forgotten Valley
Unlike the original Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, where you could only play as a boy named Mark, Story of Seasons takes a new route by allowing you to choose between a female or male-presenting character. You can customize your avatar with a selection of skin tones, eye shapes, and hairstyles, though don’t expect anything too fancy; it is limited but gets the job done. You’re also able to name them whatever you’d like and choose your pronouns.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is set in Forgotten Valley (Forget-Me-Not Valley was a better name, but whatever) and keeps the same story as the original: you move from the city to take on your late father’s farm with his old friend Takakura. Once you’ve made your character, you get a dog, a barn, a coop, and a set of starter tools to kick off your new farming adventure before being introduced to the townsfolk.
Many of the characters in the game have been renamed from the original, with some—like Marlin and Cody, now Matthew and Gordy—receiving complete redesigns and new identities. This isn’t as impactful as I thought it would be, as a self-admitted purist who expected to go in hating the character changes. If anything, they’re better (especially in Cody/Gordy’s case, most definitely needed). I will admit that I am confused about some of the name swaps. Why is Muffy now Molly, and why is Celia called Cecilia, for example? Hardly important, though.
Townsfolk Are Your Friends
As you navigate your new farming life, you’ll spend your days interacting with many different people in Forgotten Valley, whether it’s to buy seeds at Vesta’s Farm, fulfill their requests, or play the Territory Capture minigame with the twins. There are festivals that you can attend (don’t forget to bring an offering!) and events that give you a deeper insight into each character, especially if you work on building friendships.
“Two years in, I found myself caring about each and every character and looked forward to our daily interactions… After I’d taken care of my farm first, of course.“
Like in other Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon games, you increase your friendship with a villager by giving them gifts. Each person has specific favorites and may even gift you something in return if you raise your closeness enough. For example, I got a record by befriending Mukumuku and another by winning Territory Capture 10 times.
Each character has their own backstory and unique personality, and it really feels like you’re genuinely becoming friends with them. Two years in, I found myself caring about each and every character and looked forward to our daily interactions… After I’d taken care of my farm first, of course.
Farming Feels Like… Farming (the Grindy Kind)
As you ship off your crops and make money by selling random items to Van, the creepy traveling merchant who, 20 years later, still gives me “hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife” vibes, you build up your farm with new facilities and animals. They’re quite expensive, so don’t expect to be cranking out tons of money within the first couple of years, at least. Like the original, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life expects you to take things slow and really take your time working for the gold you earn, whether planting seeds, going fishing, or turning milk into butter.
I like this, personally, because it feels rewarding when your hard work pays off, and you’re finally able to buy a new thing for your farm. It really gives the sense of “I earned this.” But I can completely understand why this might turn some players off who are used to quicker payoffs in similar games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. Patience is key and is well rewarded here, but you do need a lot of it.
The game does give you somewhat of a helping hand, though. As you progress, you gain access to new tools that can work your fields quicker, giving you more time and energy to focus on other ways to generate cash flow. Still, managing your time well is essential, especially since you’re expected to marry in the first year and must find space in your schedule to court one of Forgotten Valley’s suitors to kick off Chapter 2.
Romance Isn’t Dead Here
There are eight marriage candidates in Forgotten Valley, and unlike the original, you can marry whomever you want, regardless of gender. I was torn between Cecilia and Molly because they’re the most nostalgic for me, though I ultimately went with Molly in the end. I was tempted to go with Rock for the laughs because he ends up being an utter jerk later on (if you know, you know), but I decided I wanted to actually enjoy my playthrough. We dislike Rock in this house.
As you raise your relationship with a potential love interest throughout Chapter 1, you get a handful of events that teach you more about that person. I learned that Molly is from the city, moving to the valley after being tired of living a busy life and being hounded by friends asking her when she’s going to settle down, which made me see her vulnerable side and appreciate her more. When I proposed with a Blue Feather, I was surprised to see her say yes after I’d bombarded her with the same gift every day for almost a whole year but we stan an appreciative queen.
“I went out of my way to give gifts to my wife and daughter each day, looking forward to their grateful reactions and the warm feeling that, hell yeah, I am the provider, and they need me just as much as I need them.”
At the start of Chapter 2, Molly moved into the farm, and we had a daughter named Daisy, who is a toddler at this point. Your child’s gender and appearance will vary depending on which lover you chose and whether your character is male or female-presenting. As the months and years go by, you’ll directly influence your child’s career path by giving them particular toys, taking them to certain places, and more.
Having your own family unit gives you that parental feeling of protection. You have a child that is relying on you! Hurt my family, and I’ll hurt you, punk. I went out of my way to give gifts to my wife and daughter each day, looking forward to their grateful reactions and the warm feeling that, hell yeah, I am the provider, and they need me just as much as I need them.
Nostalgia Runs Rampant in Forgotten Valley
As a whole, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life feels very nostalgic to me. It’s like coming home after a period of being away and seeing your family again… Even if they have different names and don’t remember you. I remember, and that’s what’s important.
I was very glad to see that they kept almost every feature of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life in, even down to the archeology dig site, cooking, and a certain tragic event, which I won’t spoil but prepare by having tissues on hand. As I mentioned above, the Territory Capture minigame comes back, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. I used to love absolutely smoking that dude as a kid and spent way too much time in the remake doing the same thing, purely for the satisfaction.
There are new features too, such as the Camera. I was so excited when I saw this in my tools menu, but using the Photo Mode was a total letdown because, while you can take some cool shots, I could not find a way to view my photos in full afterward or save them to my hard drive. Instead, you can only flick through your album and see each of your photographs on the page on a smaller scale. It instantly killed it for me, and I didn’t touch the Camera again afterward. If I take a picture that I love, I want to be able to show it off! (I did find a workaround by being quick to the draw with my print screen button to take a screenshot in the split second before UI appeared on screen, but not ideal at all).
Otherwise, the new events, tools, fish, and more added in the remake make the game feel new, even to veteran players like me who played the original to death. For newcomers, the fresh additions will only lead to a great gameplay experience, and I’m honestly jealous of those getting to feel the joy of A Wonderful Life for the very first time.
At the time of writing, I’m 20 hours in and in year three, and I love it just as much as I did in the first couple of hours. I’ve got no plans on stopping my playthrough any time soon. In fact, let’s end this here because my cows need milking and I’ve got watermelons to harvest.
STORY OF SEASONS: A WONDERFUL LIFE
● Progression feels rewarding.
● Building relationships with townsfolk is meaningful.
● You directly influence your child’s career path.
● Slower-paced than other farming games (I personally like this, but it’s not for everybody).
● Photo Mode is a letdown.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC using ASUS ROG Ally.