A week or two has passed since Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town made its way to PC via Steam. But, of course, we already reviewed the Nintendo Switch version. Still, I chose to embrace the opportunity to check out the PC version. And although I have over 30 hours into the game, I can say that this is the weakest entry of the entire Story of Seasons/Harvest Moon franchise.
Even though the title introduced many welcome changes in quality of life, corners were cut, and removing specific features makes the experience incomplete. Additionally, despite various patches being released to help mitigate the criticism over the past couple of months, there are still several missed opportunities that Story of Seasons: Piooners of Olive Town could’ve been honed in on to make this entry stand out more. Seeing as future patches are very unlikely, the question stands: How can the sequel be better?
The first aspect I’m sure frustrated many players is the markers. Not only do they take an obnoxious amount of space on your farm, but there are fifteen types of them, which means your farm will be cluttered by these placements alarmingly quickly.
In addition, even with the update adding the option to queue up to 10 items in a single maker, it’s rather cumbersome going through every type of maker to begin making the items you want. Furthermore, some makers have questionable time limitations. For example, the seed, sapling, and spore machines all take an entire in-game day to produce a single seed, and you can only make them produce one type of seed per maker.
I vastly prefer the Craft Buildings from the previous Story of Seasons titles. Sure, they also took a considerable amount of space to be placed. Still, a single building managed to encompass two to three different machines inside it and allowed for queueing of multiple types of items at once, making them highly efficient. Additionally, each of the queues took reasonable amounts of time to get completed.
The second aspect that bummed me out was the dialogue. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town has got to be the game with the blandest dialogue variety I’ve ever read. Even after getting married, I noticed little to no change in my partner’s dialogue, extending to the townspeople. Aside from the “congratulations on your marriage” message that plays out once, or maybe when there’s a festival coming soon, nothing significant changes as the days pass.
Yes, the marriage events are pretty cute and are as mushy as they’ve always been. Plus, the occasional “I love you” is still as adorable as ever, but that’s it. There’s nothing much else to say about it. Further unique dialogue and acknowledgment from the NPCs on topics such as the current weather, the season would’ve aided in more immersive experiences from player to player.
That being said, I give my props to XSEED’s translation team for the same-sex marriage system implementation. In Japan, this “same-sex system” present in both Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town and Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was named the “Best Friends System,” and “marriage” was the “best friends ceremony.” The fact that it’s translated with proper terms for same-sex couples is a great addition that gives players more freedom of choice. I would love to see this system being implemented in future Story of Seasons games, as it allows players not to be needlessly and arbitrarily limited by gender.
The lack of 2D character portraits is also one of the design decisions that, while not bothering me too much at first, negatively stood out to me in the end. I do hope the next title includes the 2D portraits once again. They had various expressions instead of the stale 3D models.
While one could argue that the 2D sprite artwork was created due to graphical or time constraints, they were still undeniably charming. And I mean, nobody seemed to hate them outright, so why completely alter something no one had any qualms with? It’s like the old saying goes. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This might sound like a selfish request, but I would like the developers to bring back a particular feature from Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the last game published by Natsume, before Marvelous switched publishing to their in-house subsidiary XSEED.
In A New Beginning, you could give an item known as a Royal Jelly to the Harvest Sprite Alice shortly after your child reached a specific growth state. By doing so, Alice would turn your child into a teenager for 30 days. This change allowed for more unique events and dialogue, and you could also ask your child to help you with some farm chores once certain conditions were met.
The next point on my list is the farm layout. Now, the layout is not terrible per se. It looks way more spacious than previous titles, but when you stop to take a look at it, the design feels pretty awkward — both symmetrically and collision-wise.
Not only that, but the amount of debris that spawns on a day-to-day basis makes it almost impossible for players to adequately decorate their farm without jumping through several hoops. You can create satisfactory layouts, but the amount of work it takes for it is pretty unreasonable. I acknowledge that the main reason for so many trees and grass to spawn is so you can obtain the necessary materials and increase your skill levels, but seeing that your hard work just gets undone from one day to the next is just frustrating.
Another element from previous games that I would like to see back is the Farm Circles from Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns. By positioning buildings in specific combinations and manners at a fixed distance from each other, the mix would give bonus buffs, ranging from improving the status of your crops to your animals’ byproduct quality. This granted them a different and unique purpose rather than simply being decorations.
Finally, and this is by far the most mind-boggling removal, in my opinion, is the removal of iconic festivals from the series. The Harvest, Animal, Cooking and even Fashion contests were removed in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. This makes it utterly pointless to raise your animals’ friendship or even attempt to obtain high-quality crops to compete for the best. While there is the achievement of shipping a top-quality vegetable and one that requests you to collect a certain amount of items from your animals, the festivals made previous titles of the series feel competitive. Without those, the whole “farming experience” feels dry and lacking.
Moreover, the majority of the festivals in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town severely underperform. Most of them are short cutscenes or a brief, 2-minute minigame. Further, if you bought the Expansion Pass and happened to marry any of the extra marriage candidates (Neil, Felicia, Raeger, Iris, Ludus, Lilie) and attempt to spend any of the romance festivals with them (i.e., Spirit Festival), you just…can’t.
The DLC characters do not appear in the festival plaza at all, which begs the question: Why sell DLC with extra marriage candidates if they cannot partake with you in special festival events? This makes the DLC a pointless addition, as previous titles in the series featured returning characters with proper implementation at no extra cost.
All in all, I understand that the possible reason the series has seen a sudden decline was due to a change in the staff members. It might’ve been their attempt to try out something new or to give the series a breath of fresh air, but they ultimately ended straying too far off from what made the series so beloved.
This is undoubtedly a case similar to how the Mario Party series has seen a decline in popularity after development switched to NDCube. However, I certainly have high hopes, and I hope that the new staff will take this feedback and make a possible sequel to the series genuinely shine.
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