Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is actually the third remake of the cutesy GameCube farming sim Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. This PS5 remaster collates the new features added by the PS2 special edition and Another Wonderful Life on the GameCube before bringing the game into the modern day, and it mostly succeeds in being a stand-alone experience, as well as a remake of a classic title.
A Wonderful Life begins as the player inherits an abandoned farm and travels from the city to start a new life. Family friend Takakura has scraped together enough money to provide a small home, a handful of seeds and a cow to get things started. He does a great job at walking players through their first couple of days as a farmer, clearly explaining all of the basics. Beyond that point, though, new features are either hidden behind notes buried in a menu, or they’re left to be discovered through trial and error. This is a strange decision that unintentionally hides some elements, especially for newer players.
Crop growing works very similarly to the original version of the game. Soil fertility, seasons, growth time, and crop watering all need to be managed to stop crops from withering away, although a new fertilizer machine and the ability to sell crops from the start make the process a bit easier. The real fun starts when creating your own crops by combining fruits and vegetables. Hybrid and unusual crops can be sold for higher prices and there are many of them to discover, so players are encouraged to actively experiment to unlock all the rewards the game has to offer.
Several of the livestock processes have also been streamlined, which makes it a smoother overall experience. Cows and goats don’t run out of milk, meaning that it’s less urgent to breed them. Livestock no longer gets sick or dies even if they’re left out in the rain, merely affecting the quality of their byproducts instead. This makes some features like the health bar and fodder redundant, but the whole process is now more relaxing. On the other hand, it’s a little simplistic when compared to games like Stardew Valley or even last year’s Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom, both of which were buoyed by their depth and a wide variety of features.
The difference between A Wonderful Life and other Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons games is the game’s emphasis lies more in building a new life than it does in resurrecting the farm. Marriage is no longer optional and players will have to raise a child into adulthood, making a refreshing change to characters that are usually ignored after a while. The seasons and story chapters have been shortened to make them easier to get invested in. Players can continue for 30 in-game years, but only the most dedicated will put in the hundreds of hours required to come close to that, which results in a game with a decent amount of stuff to do.
This story aspect may not have changed at all, but there’s now a choice to play as a male, female, or non-binary farmer with a small range of appearance options to further customize the character. There is then a choice of eight marriage candidates — four male and four female — regardless of the farmer’s gender. It’s a far cry from the original GameCube version where the male farmer had a choice of three women to marry, women to marry, and this attempt to be more inclusive is great.
As well as running the farm, players can go fishing, cook dishes, and even help out at the nearby archaeological dig. There are also new festivals and requests to complete for bonus rewards. For the most part, each provides a welcome distraction since they change up the game’s routine. The exception is fishing which can become repetitive for those trying to unlock all of the rewards, especially as RNG plays such a large part of the activity.
A Wonderful Life, like any good remake, has plenty of other quality-of-life changes that make it more than a simple repackaging. The graphics have received an overhaul more befitting a PS5 game and there’s now a camera that lets players capture key moments. Several of the characters have changed names or appearances to more closely match the original Japanese version of the game. There are still some minor bugs to be ironed out, such as NPCs preventing interaction with nearby squares at the archaeological dig, but on the whole, the remake is a definitive improvement.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life review: The final verdict
Despite the enforced name change due to issues over the rights to the Harvest Moon name, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has managed to bring the GameCube game kicking and screaming into the modern age. Between the original’s restrictions and the removal of some of the more in-depth features, it doesn’t manage to compete with more modern and intensive farming sims like Stardew Valley. Despite its relative simplicity, though, A Wonderful Life is still a relaxing experience that builds upon the solid foundation of the original and is the most comprehensive version of the GameCube title so far.
Disclaimer: This Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life review is based on a PS5 copy provided by the publisher. Reviewed on version 1.000.000.