When playing “Doraemon: Story of Seasons,” a sense of wistful nostalgia starts to creep into the cockles of my heart.
It’s probably because it combines two things that I associate with warm, fuzzy feelings from my past. One is the classic Harvest Moon series, which I played many a time as a young dude who got hooked by its fun farming mechanics. The other is Doraemon, who happens to be the favorite character of my Japanese best friend from college. I even remember baking her a birthday cake that I personally decorated to look like Doraemon. Yeah, I actually had a cake-baking phase.
For the uninitiated, Doraemon is a robot cat from the future sent back in time to help a young boy named Nobita Nobi — or Noby in the U.S. cartoon version of the Japanese anime. See, Noby basically ends up as a no-good loser in the future so his descendants decided to send back Doraemon to help straighten him out and hopefully improve their sad lot in life.?
Since the original manga debuted about half a century ago, Doraemon has transformed into a cultural phenomenon in Japan. That didn’t quite translate to the same kind of popularity in the United States, however, which makes the arrival of “Doraemon: Story of Seasons” a treat for fans in the west.
In Story of Seasons, Noby ends up running across a mysterious seed that he and his friends decide to plant as part of a school project. The seed, however, ends up sprouting into an enormous tree that suddenly calls up a powerful storm. As is the case with many of Noby’s plans, one thing leads to another and he, Doraemon and several of his friends get transported to the mysterious fantasy land of Natura. Here, Noby and his pals end up meeting some friendly townsfolk, with the protagonist deciding to try his hand at farming while they figure out how to get back to the modern world. Overall, it’s definitely one of the better narratives in the farming genre, which usually doesn’t focus on storytelling as much.
One of the things I like about Doraemon: Story of Seasons is its charming visuals. The art style just has this dreamy, colorful vibe to it that I just found to be absolutely wonderful. From its artbook look to little touches like cherry blossoms slowly drifting in the air, the game has this calming, ASMR-like vibe to it when combined with its soothing music. It almost feels like I’m meditating while gaming sometimes.
I also like who the game does a great job in incorporating Doraemon characters into the farming series’ familiar formula. Noby and the gang don’t feel out of place once integrated into Natura. It’s like they’ve been designed as fantasy characters all along instead of being forced into the more old-school setting. Most of the characters are also likable, including the diverse cast of kooky residents from the village, which is always a plus.
Getting into the game, however, can be a bit cumbersome at first. In addition to its very slow pace, Doraemon: Story of Seasons also forces you into an incredibly long introductory tutorial that just seems to drag on forever. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I was finally allowed to save. Even after the tutorial, it will take you a while to get rolling in the game. I guess that’s par for the course for the Story of Seasons or Harvest Moon kind of games. But if you’re someone who just wants to get into the action right away, you’ll need to undergo a ton of extra warmups before you can start this particular exercise.
As with every Story of Seasons game, this one provides you with a farm to till and nurture until it provides you with a steady stream of crops. It first starts out as an out-of-shape plot that you have to clear of stones, trees and other things before you can use it. Once you clean it up, though, you can start planting an assortment of veggies that you can then sell for money or keep for yourself as material. Your productivity starts out rather low at first thanks to your use of poor quality tools and Noby’s stamina limitations. As you progress through the game, however, you can upgrade your various options to help increase your bang for the buck so to speak.?
In addition to farming, you can also do a bunch of other stuff such as fishing and gathering all sorts of stuff from the game’s areas. These include insects that you can catch in the field as well as ores and metals from mining areas. The extra options add a nice variety of activities and money-making opportunities to the game so you aren’t limited to farming. At the same time, this also means that you need to be good with time management as you only have a limited amount of time in the day to do what you want. You eventually gain access to upgrades and items that help stretch the day but until then, you’ll need to prioritize tasks.
Time is especially of the essence when you factor in seasons (I mean, the name of the game is Doraemon: Story of Seasons after all). Certain materials, for example, are only available during certain times of the year so you’ll need to be prepared if you want to get that stuff without having to wait for the next year. The in-game calendar also includes festivals that double up as special events so you won’t want to miss those either. While marriage is not an option in this game, it does have a mechanic that allows you to improve your relationship with the various townsfolk. To do this efficiently, it requires you to figure out which items the various residents like.
Although the game’s various slice-of-life mechanics are fun, they also suffer from the same issues of previous games in the series in that they can start feeling repetitive after a while. I haven’t played a farming game in some time and the Doraemon aspect of the game felt new so I found myself enamored by the mechanics at first. Once the sense of newness wore off, though, the rinse-and-repeat nature of the game started to feel like a bit of a grind after extended play. I ended up taking long breaks because I started to feel a bit burnt out. The Doraemon touches do help keep things fresh, including improved access to the robot cat’s various tools as you get farther in the game. Like many games in the genre, however, Doraemon: Story of Seasons requires players to have a certain appreciation for it’s slower and more deliberate gameplay style as it can start feeling like a job at times.
All that being said, Doraemon: Story of Seasons is a welcome entry into the series. The addition of Doraemon characters adds a sense of freshness to the franchise and the game’s charm feels like warm comfort food after a long day at work. If you love the Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon games, you’ll want to give Doraemon: Story of Seasons a shot.
Doraemon and farming? Sign me up! Doraemon: Story of Seasons adds a fresh take on the farming series with the addition of characters from the popular Japanese manga and anime. The introductory tutorial is a bit of a slog and the game admittedly has a slow deliberate pace as do most farming games. Nevertheless, it has lots of stuff for you to do while oozing plenty of charm. Give it a shot if you love Doraemon and farming games to boot.
Rating: 8 out of 10Cost: $49.99, Switchhttps://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/doraemon-story-of-seasons-switch/
Jason Hidalgo covers business?and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews video games as part of his Technobubble?features. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Like this contentSupport local journalism with an?RGJ digital subscription.