Many farming sim fans would easily point to Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life as one of the very best games in the genre. Originally released on the GameCube, A Wonderful Life was one of the first to put a stronger focus on story and characters, being not just about farming, but about, well, a wonderful life.
After many years, the game has finally been remade for modern audiences and consoles with a new art style and a new name. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life (Story of Seasons being the new moniker used for the Japanese games series that originated Harvest Moon) seeks to capture the magic of the original, with a bright and colourful world to explore and plenty of animals to snuggle.
Like almost every farming sim, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life begins with the player character being left a few acres of farmland from their father, and moving from the big city to a small country town. I was pleased to find that the character creation options are very inclusive. There is no ‘gender’ option, there are several face types to choose from and at the end, you choose your pronouns, but there is no indication that one face type must be ‘female’ or ‘male’. The game also follows in Harvestella’s footsteps and allows players to choose they/them pronouns for their character, which is always a welcome sight. Since the original was made 20 years ago, there are also several quality-of-life improvements that have been made to improve the general gameplay of A Wonderful Life.
For example, any items that are collected out in the game’s world can be picked up seamlessly with no reason to put the first item away before picking up another. It also allows you to plant a whole square of seeds at a time, instead of needing to plant each one by one. While these small changes do a lot to bring the game to modern standards, there is still much more work that could have been done.
Buying items from merchants in the game is frustrating, as only one kind of item can be bought at a time. After you purchase items, you then have to initiate the shop menu again in order to buy another kind of item. This is a system that has been out of vogue for years now, and definitely not something that you would expect to see on a game released for Nintendo Switch.
There has also been a large change to the visual style of the game, and I’m not sure if this is for the better. Most of the recent Story of Seasons games have made use of the same art style, it’s a very round, soft, and bright aesthetic that is as friendly as it is boring. There was a certain moodiness to the original title that is completely lost in this shift, and it makes A Wonderful Life feel the exact same as the newer releases.
Another upside to the remake is that like with most newer games in the genre, romance options are not limited. All characters are playersexual. This is always good to see (though the bar is a little low), but I think it is especially important in A Wonderful Life as so much of the game after the first year focuses on the player’s marriage and the raising of their child. Allowing players the freedom to pursue a relationship with whichever character they want, gives greater opportunities for them to relate to and imagine sharing the wonderful life that their character is living.
Whether the positive changes to the original will be enough to make the remake worth playing is entirely up to you. It certainly takes some steps towards modernising the entry, but the steps are few and it’s taken a long time to get here.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life will be available to purchase on Nintendo Switch as of June 27, 2023.