Way back in 2002 I became hopelessly addicted to a new kind of non-game where everyday was different from the last and revolved around task and time management. That game was Animal Crossing for the GameCube. It was my first exposure to a more relaxed genre of gaming; one that I found the more time and creativity I put into it, the more I got out of it. In all those years I never touched a Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons title. They always seemed a little boring and I’m not really into farming simulators. But, when XSEED reached out with a copy of Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns for review, I figured I’d give it a go. It’s not like I’ve had a good Animal Crossing lately to occupy my time.
Right off the bat the game begins rather dramatically with your father announcing to your family that he got a new job in a far away place and that we’re going to move. Being just old enough, you decide to stay behind and become a farmer. Your father is very upset with your decision to go into farming. He thinks it’s a waste of time, and putting in all of the hard work that a farm entails doesn’t make anyone rich. You are adamant though, so he gives in and sends you to your Uncle who can teach you the ins and outs of farming.
From the get-go the game is very text heavy and right away some of the pauses in speech and slow animations turned me off. It was just moving way too slow for my taste. Luckily you can speed up the text, but the animations seem to not be albe to be skipped. I don’t need little music notes appearing above someone’s head for a few seconds before they speak to me to relay they’re happy. This could be achieved better and more easily through text.
So, after a lengthy and slow beginning and then a bunch of tutorials, you will eventually find yourself on a plot of land that you can begin to build your farming empire. You are given some basic tools to till the soil, water the crops, and cut down trees. You start off with a paltry sum of money, and really the first thing you’ll want to do is head to the small town’s business center and buy some vegetable seeds at the market. This will allow you to begin raising some crops so you can begin earning some money. Unlike Animal Crossing, Story of Seasons doesn’t rely on real-world time. That’s a good thing, because your crops take time to grow before they’re ready to harvest. You have direct control over when you hit the hay (go to bed), so you could theoretically throw some seeds down, water them, and then go to bed. Rinse and repeat for the next few days and you’ll quickly have some stuff to sell.
Of course, this is a reductive way of playing the game, and you won’t find much enjoyment out of keeping up with that sort of repetition. Luckily there are many other ways to earn an income. You can take on part-time jobs, which range from fetch quests to deliveries to sending out specific requested items, like flowers or milk. Speaking of milk, you’ll want to get a chicken and a cow as soon as you can to start populating your farm. Of course this becomes a cycle unto itself, as once you finally have some livestock you have to keep them alive! That means you’ll need to buy feed (or grow it), feed them daily, brush them/pick them up every day (so they love you more and provide you with better “product”), and milk them or grab the eggs every morning. The more crops you get, the more you have to water and tend to them too. As you can probably tell, the game does fill up with stuff to do rather quickly. Most of it is rather repetitive, but I didn’t find myself hating the tasks, and later in the game you get other tools and things to help out.
Like in Animal Crossing, one of my favorite things to do in Story of Seasons is go fishing. In fact, the process is almost identical here. Equip the fishing pole, go to any body of water and cast away! Fish-shaped shadows will be in the water and as they nibble on the line, the bobber will dance around the water. When it gets fully submerged you hit the “A” button and keep holding it until you get your reward! This could be any sort of fish or if you’re unlucky some junk. It’s a fun way to pass time if you’ve run all of your errands and are caught up on the day’s work.
Part of the appeal to these games is the relationships you form with other characters. At the start of the game you choose to be a boy or a girl. As you play you’ll meet a host of characters and you can romance the ones you’re interested in by giving them gifts or just by always chatting them up. Eventually you can even get married and enjoy life on the farm together. The game does not allow for same-sex marriage, although you can cross-dress to your heart’s content. The developers have hinted that they are going to try and incorporate this in a future release, but there isn’t a clear timeline at this point.
When I first began playing Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, despite the amount of tutorials and exposition, I soon found myself wondering what I should be spending my time each day doing. I would often finish up my chores fairly early and had no idea what else there was to do. If you run into this issue, I recommend just going to sleep in the game and advancing it forward a day.
As it turns out, the game doles out new characters, events, and gameplay mechanics slowly. For example, you won’t unlock the ability to visit other peoples’ games via Wi-Fi until about a week into the game’s calendar. It’s an interesting choice, especially because sometimes the game tells you how to do something before you can do it. A good example of this is when you find stones. You can pick them up and in the description it tells you that you can smash them with a hammer. Guess what? You don’t have a hammer, nor can you buy one at the beginning of the game.
Another example is that as I was running around mashing the “A” button as descriptions popped up on the screen, I found out that I could pick up insects. Great! But, what are they used for? I went into my inventory and couldn’t find them anywhere. I looked and looked and had no idea what they were used for. It turns out that after you collect 100 of them a character will reward you for your work with a random item. So, yes, it’s probably worth your time to collect the bugs, but it’s not nearly as rewarding as something like Animal Crossing, which takes effort and skill to capture them. It really seems like an odd thing to have in the game and not really that exciting.
As you progress through the days and weeks and months, the weather will change, seasons will come and go, and special events will take place. Eventually the game will allow access to the other two towns, each with its own set of different shops and unique characters, which opens up more gameplay options. This helps to keep the game fresh and it feels like something new is just around the corner, if you just grind enough to get there.
Presentation is par for the course here. The graphics are serviceable with bright colors and nice anime-style portraits for many of the characters. The 3D effect adds depth to the game, but it really doesn’t enhance the visuals in any meaningful way. The game’s music is also okay, but borders on annoying at times. It’s got a sort of southern twang to some of the tracks and a “country” sound to the instrumentation, but it’s nothing extraordinary. There’s no voice acting here, it’s all text, which is fine for a game like this.
In the end I wasn’t really won over by Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns. I can see its appeal and can understand how some people could really get into this game. For me, the tasks became too repetitive too quickly and the game moved too slowly for my tastes. The writing lacks the charm and sophistication of Animal Crossing, and I feel a little more humor would go a long way here. In some ways I feel the game takes too long to really get going and even then it can be a bit of a slog. It didn’t capture or keep my attention for hours at a time like Animal Crossing does. Still, there’s something here that’s enjoyable in small bursts, and if you’ve enjoyed previous games in the series and the Harvest Moon games, I imagine you’d probably feel right at home with this title.
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns Review
Final Thoughts: GOOD
While Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns didn’t exactly light my world on fire, I can still say it’s a good experience for those looking for this type of game. It’s not going to convert me into a farming simulator maniac, but I can see its appeal.