Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life review – Simple bliss

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a sleek and simple remaster of a farming simulator classic.
story of seasons a wonderful life review

One day, we will die. All of us. One school of thought laments this fact; another celebrates it. Because we know we’ll die one day, moments become more precious. Time is finite, and that makes everything, and everyone, feel more special. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life understands this, in a way many modern life simulators don’t. Its primary hook is centred on the act of living, and eventually, dying. It understands the ‘between’ is what makes the journey worthwhile.

To get so existential over a simple life simulator, first launched as Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for Nintendo GameCube in 2004, feels silly. But A Wonderful Life invites this introspective with its calming, slow story about collecting life’s many ‘Wonders’, learning to open yourself up to love, and rearing a child amongst a wholesome community.

As the game opens, you meet a man named Takakura, who was formerly friends with your father when he lived in the Forgotten Valley. While the game doesn’t explicitly reference his death, your father is treated as an unseen, spiritual figure – a symbol of Takakura’s unrealised dreams of running a successful farm. Following in his footsteps, you begin a similar journey.

First steps

Read: Marvelous announces multiplayer Story of Seasons game

Takakura gifts you a cow, plots of land, and a hope for more – and then the wide world of A Wonderful Life is open to your whims. As you familiarise yourself with your new farmland, you’ll develop a routine – wake up early in the morning, plant or water crops, let your farm animals out to pasture, refill their feeds, and tend to their needs.

>story of seasons a wonderful life
Screenshot: GamesHub

Those familiar with modern farm simulators will understand this routine immediately – after all, games like Stardew Valley owe a lot to Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons. To plant crops, you’ll hoe a field, bury seeds, and water them every day. Once they’ve matured, you can drop their fruits or vegetables in a deposit box, slowly earning a profit for your farm.

You’ll also spend your time snuggling and feeding cute animals, ensuring they’re as healthy as possible, to milk or shear them for profit, or nab their eggs for breeding or selling.

When you’re not tending to your farm, you’ll head into town to meet your neighbours, romance your beau, and potentially uncover a range of small, quirky plot lines. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is not narratively dense. The action is largely player-driven, and you’ll spend your days choosing how to to live your life, with freedom and peace at your fingertips.

But as you travel through town, you’ll stumble onto unique cutscenes that reveal more about your neighbours and their quiet little dramas. You’ll meet Molly, one of the baristas at the Cafe Bluebird, and learn about her past as city slicker.

>story of seasons a wonderful life
Screenshot: GamesHub

You’ll meet Gordy, and eventually crack his tough and shy exterior to discover a deep thinker and tinkerer. You’ll also meet Nami, the quiet and sarcastic loner, and Rock, the work-hating idealist. Then there’s guitarist Gustafa, the reserved Lumina, and the charming Cecilia. Each townsperson has their own approach to conversation, and require different gifts to ply their friendship.

While much of their dialogue is simplistic – this is, after all, a faithful remaster of a GameCube classic – they become more intrinsically part of your day as you advance your farm, and slowly build a thriving community business. Particularly once you find your beau, and begin a quiet, sweet romance.

Middle age

story of seasons a wonderful life game
Screenshot: GamesHub

At the end of the game’s first year, in which you’ll come to understand seasonal crops and the most effective ways of raising and breeding animals, you’ll meet a love interest, and either propose or be proposed to – with a delightful cutscene affirming your love.

Time then passes, and by the dawn of the ‘second’ year – in the game’s timeline, this accounts for many years – you’re living happily with your spouse. Your home has been expanded, your partner looks older, and most importantly, you have a child you love dearly.

This moment passes in the blink of an eye. It’s well earned, after hours of planting crops and toiling by the sea, or in mines, or in barnyards, but at the same time, the time skip happens so suddenly you’ll start thinking about the very nature of your ‘wonderful’ life.

As you gaze upon your new child – in my case, a son – you’ll realise how different and rare the world of Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life really is.

In your typical life simulator, there is a sense of forever. Your character is trapped in an hourglass world. One day it might rain, but though years advance, characters rarely age. The clock ticks, but time is stopped.

Not so in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.

>story of seasons a wonderful life
Screenshot: GamesHub

Old age

After the dawn of the game’s second year, you’ll journey through a weathered version of the Forgotten Valley. Everyone around you has visibly grown older. Lumina wears her hair short. Molly has crinkles around her eyes. These are subtle, cosmetic changes, but give the sense of time advancing.

And with time advancing comes the impetus to make the most of your days. With this ageing, you’re given a sense of finiteness that makes even the game’s relatively repetitive farming mechanics feel more weighty.

You want to reach for more Wonders and discover more secrets before the creeping ‘end’, not simply skipping days to pass time, but investing in the moment and making sure everyone around you knows you care. You want to gift flowers to your neighbours. Give them crops for soup, or dishes for a feast.

This feeling is compounded as you grow older. Your child doesn’t remain a baby forever – and in fact, playing the full scope of the game will see your child age to adulthood, and eventually leave the family farm to start their own Wonderful Life.

Before they leave, you can spend your time playing with them, teaching them life skills, and introducing them to their fellow townsfolk, but just knowing they leave makes every moment feel more precious. And that’s what makes this Story of Seasons tale such a timeless one.

While it is a simple farming simulator at its core, it’s also profound in its design, leaning heavily into a quiet philosophy that lends the action a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s a wonderful exploration of living, and while silly and simple at times, it understands exactly why the smaller moments are so precious.

Four stars: ★★★★

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Marvelous Games
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: 27 June 2023

05/17/2024 02:36 pm GMT

The Nintendo Switch version of Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.