Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns Review
Story of Seasons comes from a bit of a confusing place for fans of the long-running farming sim. At its core, it is Harvest Moon. However, due to Natsume still holding the rights to the name ‘Harvest Moon’, the series found a new title in Story of Seasons. This isn’t the first game under that heading, but confusion in rebranding has lingered for some time. Make no mistake, Story of Seasons continues to serve the games before it well. A Trio of Towns will certainly resonate with fans of the older Harvest Moon titles, but now that it’s no longer the only adorable farming simulation game, it maybe a bit of a tougher sell.
Long gone are the days of inheriting grandpa’s estate. Now, you’re a young adult who’s dream is to become a successful farmer. Your mother supports that ambition, but your father melts down. Regardless, you eventually gain their blessing and begin work alongside your Uncle Frank in Westown. The story, as typical of the series, is lacking. However, this introduction at least gave the game a little more personality than previous entries. If anything, it’s nice to see the player avatar have some sort of extended family outside of whoever they decide to incessantly shower with gifts for months.
While the introduction to the game is a fresh surprise when contrasted against the old, Trio of Towns immediately dips off and begins to drag its feet for the first hour or so. Tutorials can be nice, and I can appreciate something with so many features guiding me by the hand. But, Trio of Towns really hits the brakes hard and makes it quite difficult to engage with when what I really wanted to do was was use the auto scroll feature for progressing the dialogue. I never did, out of fear I would miss something, but in hindsight I could’ve gotten away with it.
Trio of Towns is going to waste a lot of time explaining every tiny detail to you, but it eventually does find its footing again and fall into the more familiar, dutiful pace of previous entries. In fact, the game continues to make a few quality of life improvements I’ve enjoyed. It’s the tiny details, like not having to till every individual patch of land to plant crops, that make me appreciate the direction the series has taken more.
These small improvements are peppered through Story of Seasons. Instead of feeling the pressure to exclusively earn money through my farming skills, there’s a part-time job system to pick up the slack. I spent far more time on this in the beginning of the game than on farming. The resulting surplus of funds after a few weeks of doing this made stocking up on seeds easier than previous games, and enough left over to begin raising animals.
After the lengthy opening, Trio of Towns can be a treat. It’s accommodating to both new and old players. The difficulty settings are a newer change and become quite apparent when the game finally relinquishes the reins. The difference in the two modes is just enough that I feel like my options are ‘new and casual’ or ‘old Harvest Moon’.
Perhaps one of the more unique aspects of the game is in its namesake. Think Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns, but better. Story of Seasons puts you in a prime location between Westown, Lulukoko Village, and Tsuyukusa Town. Westown is where you’ll begin, and I found myself neglecting relationships there the most (probably from the earlier tutorial bitterness). Yet I enjoyed the distinct individuality each location offered. These locations aren’t copy and pasted designs that felt boring and similar. They were unique towns, each with their own culture and population that held a different set of standards.
My favorite of these locations ended up being the last, Tsuyukusa. It’s where I found a Trio of Town’s most eligible bachelor, and it was hands-down the best design of the three. Each town has their own festivals, products, etc. Incorporated into this was the town rank system, which to the surprise of no one, I catered to Tsuyukusa and worked to unlock everything I could in my favorite village.
This network of towns is the core of the newest Story of Seasons. You determine the destination of the products from your farm at the shipping bin. In previous games, this was always a no-brainer, and I could dump my absurd stack of turnips into the bin and move on. Trio of Towns asks you consider this a little more carefully. Shipping things you've grown and gathered is a great way to increase a town's rank, but also not the only way. I made sure to participate in every town festival I could, and tried to plan out my purchases from certain towns to give them a boost. The ultimate goal of this is to max the rank of all three towns out.
Outside of obsessively trying to woo my new Story of Seasons beau I did grow tired of this installment faster than I have with previous Harvest Moon games. On one end, this is a routine I’ve experienced for nearly 20 years, and I love going back to something so familiar. But there’s also this feeling that Story of Seasons hasn’t done enough to keep it fresh.
It’s a difficult formula to solve, and while I enjoy Story of Seasons now, I worry about it stagnating. If you strip away some of these smaller changes, it really does feel like just another Harvest Moon. I sank nearly 60 hours into Trio of Towns and felt satisfied with how things wrapped up, but there’s strong competition for the game now that didn’t exist just a few years ago. In that climate, it’s hard to love Harvest Moon, or Story of Seasons, as much as I did before.
Regardless, Trio of Towns is an installment that does justice to the legacy of the series, and hopefully one that's on the road of better things to come. I loved the characters, and the art style certainly ranks up there as one of my favorites yet. The tell-tale sign I enjoyed any Harvest Moon game is that I’ll pick it back up after months of neglecting my farm. I think I can safely say, Trio of Towns will be one I revisit. With planned DLC, recipes to be made, and the overwhelming need to pet every dog in this game, I’ll be back to it soon.