Let me get something off my chest before I start. I don’t have a clue what Doraemon is. Haven’t the foggiest. From some highly involved and strenuous research, the likes of which could only be conducted by one that has spent six years studying for an assortment of degrees and only a single visit to Wikipedia, I confess that I still don’t know what the Hell Doraemon is. I think it’s a robot cat from the future who goes on adventures with some shithead kid and his group of friends who constantly complain that their robot cat from the future isn’t cool enough but I’m essentially basing that on a lot of very heated Reddit threads from a community that seems just a little too…dedicated to their fandom. I’m glad I’ve been upfront about this, feels good to get such a weight off my shoulders because now I can actually spend the majority of this review talking about how much I adore Story of Seasons, this game included, for one very specific reason:
It’s Harvest Moon.
And I mean that both figuratively and literally. For those of you that may not keep up with the vibrant farming simulator scene, Harvest Moon changed its name to Story of Seasons. With that comes everything you’d expect from a game in the lineage of the Harvest Moon franchise: A run-down farm, an abundance of crops that need watering, a charming village populated by pleasant characters and just not enough hours in the day. It’s the series main hook at this point, and even this latest title doesn’t stray too far from the addictive gameplay loop the series has become renowned for. I think there are two reasons for this: One is that outside of Stardew Valley, very few games have successful captured idyllic, picturesque village life quite like Story of Seasons and the other is that it still manages to be arguably the cosiest, comfortable gaming experience available on the market.
Doraemon Story of Seasons plays almost identically to other games in the long-running role-playing lineage except it’s flavoured just a little differently this time. Having been swooshed away by some kind of temporal storm, Noby, his friends and his robot cat from the future end up in a town that unabashedly implements outright child labour to keep everything running on schedule. The player character, Noby, is utterly disheartened to find that he can’t be put to work at the blacksmith or carpenter’s shop and is instead gifted an entire farm to manage by himself. Look, what the game lacks in logic it makes up for with charm and warm fuzzy feelings of accomplishment pulled in upon shipping a huge container of strawberries. Keep in mind that there’s a robot cat from the future that everyone takes at face value, so giving a child an entire form is probably not out of the question in the expanded Doraeverse.
I’ve always appreciated the Story of Season’s games for their use of mechanical limitations and this Doraemon iteration is no different. You’ll be presented with an abundance of activities outside of farming; fishing for the catch of the day, mining for valuable resources, catching bugs with your handy net, there’s a veritable mountain of ways you could spend your day Story of Seasons, but you only have so much energy and so many hours. While many probably find these limitations stifling, I’ve always enjoyed them; they allow for a level of organisation and planning that is rarely encountered in other games. There’s something satisfying about starting an in-game day with a set goal in mind and completing it with time to spare; in many ways it feels like the sincerest approach to role-playing. Rather than worrying about skill points and ability checks, you have to play with the most universally understandable restraint of time and energy.
Despite the lack of changes to the core gameplay loop, Doraemon Story of Seasons still manages to be utterly satisfying in every way. Purchasing new buildings for my farm, upgrading tools and becoming friends with the town’s colourful characters never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s a low stakes game which isn’t a slight to the experience at all; Story of Seasons is built to make you feel like you’re achieving something, that you’re always working towards a goal but it’s never placing pressure on you to get there in a rush. It shows you what you can earn, tells you how to do it and lets you decide how best to approach it. As paradoxical as it may sound, there’s a unique freedom that can only be discovered through restriction; working within boundaries to consistently expand those boundaries. It’s fulfilling and even if it can sometimes take a while, you know that you earned it.
As I said, I don’t much care for Doraemon. I suppose if you do, you’ll find something more to appreciate about the characters being supplanted into a farming role-playing game, but to me they merely served as standard NPCs in a game that draws a great deal from the animation style of the source material. It looks gorgeous with water-colour environments elevating the charm on display to the next level. That’s what Doraemon Story of Seasons does so elegantly: Charm. From the cute town events, special in-game holidays and developing relationships with the villages, the game world feels alive. It’s something Story of Seasons and classic Harvest Moon games have always been so good at: The world never exists for you. You’re a visitor in this snug little town that feels like it continues on its routines even when you’re not playing.
It goes without saying that I adored this game. The Story of Seasons games have always spoken to me in a way that few other games have. While I do concede that this latest iteration does feel a touch too similar to older games, that didn’t stop me from sinking into a rhythm and getting lost within my farm. It’s a relaxing, idyllic and utterly peaceful game built for players that just need a break from the stresses of life. Also, did I mention that this one has a robot cat from the future in it?
Last Updated: October 15, 2019