Doraemon: Story of Seasons (Switch) Review
I’ve never been a big farming life sim player. I’ve been in the circles where Harvest Moon is discussed in hushed, reverent tones for years. I’ve seen the frenzied discussion and debate over whether the ‘new’ Harvest Moon or the original creators’ new Story of Seasons series is better. I played some Stardew Valley when it first came out, I’ll give you that much. But I came in with largely fresh eyes to Doraemon: Story of Seasons, free of an old farmhands’ expectations, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s charming and a lovely little world to spend some time in.
Oh yes, and there’s a robot cat from the future. This is quite literally the first piece of Doraemon media I’ve consumed as I don’t think the franchise has gained too much mainstream traction outside Japan. A lot of knowledge is assumed about it, but I didn’t find it too confronting – the general gist is that you, playing as Doraemon’s friend Noby, are transported back in time/somewhere in space as a result of planting a weird tree. In the town you find yourself in, the law mandates you work on a farm, while trying to get Doraemon’s gadgets back so you can time travel back home. You just have to accept that this weird blue cat is around and has weird technology powers as the concepts really aren’t introduced to you… but past that, it’s a cute concept with a fun narrative drive. The story unfolds in a fairly linear fashion – you’ll rely on building your farm in order to build relationships with the other villagers in order to unlock story beats.
That sentence perhaps doesn’t quite reflect the sheer number of interconnected systems there are, though. There’s farming, which is your standard till the soil, plant seeds, water and harvest system. There’s livestock farming, managing your feeds and activities for your animals. You’ll also be able to upgrade your farm with more buildings, which requires harvesting wood and stone from trees and boulders… then venturing away from your farm to go mining and foraging in the surrounding areas, which will you net the things you also need for upgrading your tools and cooking meals respectively. The town of Natura also has shops for your farming supplies, medicine, which you’ll need the money earned from ALL of the above to buy. On top of all this, there’s secrets and objectives in all the areas to expand your horizons even further.
It’s a completely packed game, and on top of this each in-game day gives you a stamina meter, which is spent by using any tools like a watering can or pickaxe. The stamina system is more forgiving than say, Stardew Valley, you’ll often find that just watering your crops leaves you nearly spent and requiring food or a nap. So then, this is your core gameplay loop, but of course you’ll need to get gifts for villagers and participate in town events like horse races or little mini-celebrations to build your friendship. There’s no marriage, as you are a child, but you’ll need to take notes on people’s favourite hobbies and interests to max out your friendship and get them to help you with your gadget-collecting ultimate objective.
Wow, are you exhausted yet? The tutorial for all of this is over an hour long of pretty much just pressing A, and it’s all thrown at you right at the beginning followed by your immediate abandonment to your own devices. It’s intimidating, and it took me a good while to feel like I was playing it ‘right’. Once you get into your rhythm though it’s enchanting, and it felt so peaceful and nice to be a part of in a way that reminded me strongly of Animal Crossing. It’s such a combination of everything – the lush, painterly visuals and strong art design. The mellow, magical music. The cute and cheery character design, with villagers that are simple to understand at first but reveal hidden depths as you become better friends and progress the story. Ruining the atmosphere is intensely annoying voice work (your character makes an odd, high pitched grunt every time they do almost anything) but thankfully you can turn it off, like I did ten whole seconds in, and enjoy the lovely sound design for the rest of the game.
As much as I loved the core loop, though, there runs the risk of everything feeling a little repetitive. There are events to work towards such as harvest festivals, and story beats every so often to alleviate the repetition, but most days will be largely the same busywork. If you aren’t a fan of slowly building up a farm from scratch this isn’t for you. I also had some issues with a lot of the missions – nearly every one is based around ‘finding’ Doraemon’s gadgets, but no amount of exploration or searching makes this happen. At one point, in order to rescue a dog, Doraemon needed his Super Gloves to move a boulder.
The dialogue literally read ‘Let’s split up and find those gloves!’ but the solution was actually to, over a number of weeks, improve your relationship with specific characters, followed by a cutscene triggering in a particular area. This solution is absolutely in no way communicated to you. It was definitely a little frustrating at times. The pacing is also absolutely glacial – like I said earlier, the tutorial is an hour-long with minimal interaction, and even 10+ hours in you’ll barely be scratching the surface of character relationships and farm optimisation. Get yourself in for the long haul.
Doraemon: Story of Seasons is a pleasant, relaxing little game. It’s got some flaws that stop it from reaching the state of farming zen it comes so close to, but with piles of charm and some cute storytelling, it’s easy to lose hours upon hours to this lovely slice of rural life.
+ Beautiful environments
+ Well-executed farming
+ Charming writing
- Annoying voice work
- Confusing quests