Story of Seasons is what resulted after a spat between two warring video game publishers fought over popular IP Harvest Moon. I covered the history of this in my Harvest Moon review, so now I have a chance to see how the other half lives in Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns. Is a farming game just a farming game? Or is it a version of Animal Crossing with humans in it? Grab the scythe on the way out to reap what I’ve sown in this review.

In Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, you take the role of a young girl or boy who wants to prove to an overbearing parent that you can make it in life as a farmer. Yes, this is really how it starts, and before you start the game you’re treated to almost 15 minutes of cutscene and dialog to rationalize why you’re out in the sticks. In any event, you’re sent to live in pastoral bliss with your uncle Frank, who bequeaths to you a piece of land that you can grow and develop as you wish. Initially, you’ll be able to visit the main town of the game, but as you progress through the game, the other two towns will open, each one with its own character and culture.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is, at heart, a farming life sim with a romanticized idea of what farming is actually about. You’re free to do any number of things throughout the day, within limits. Those limits are usually “time”, “energy”, and “money”. So it’s like real life in that respect. You can regenerate the second by eating food, but money must be made by growing and selling stuff, foraging or fishing, or by doing odd jobs around town. The jobs can range anywhere from brushing cows to weeding grass to delivering parcels for others, shipping certain types of goods, or even being a guinea pig for the local doctor. Yes, I’m completely serious about this. You can elect, in exchange for money, to take part in drug trials at your own peril. I’m not sure whether the doctor has a license to experiment on the villagers, but it certainly adds a dark undertone to what is otherwise a very happy, chirpy game.

Farm life sims like this are difficult to categorize in terms of fun, because the pace isn’t going to drive gameplay. This is a game about long-term rewards, which is what farming is. It will take ages to build enough capital to even start making the most basic of changes to your farm. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to make a quick buck if you’re willing to forage between periods where your crops are still growing.

The three towns in the game have their own character, and it’s not a case of “one is much like the other”. It isn’t, and it’s clear from the graphical style, the inhabitants, and the range of goods sold that they’re all their own separate places. For example, the first place you have access to from the start, Westown, is very much a wild-west styled place; by contrast, the second place, Lulukoko, is like a Hawaiian village. You’ll have to traipse back and forth between the three locations to be able to accomplish all you need to.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns has its share of annoyances, though, and the biggest one is that you can’t skip or speed up dialog or cutscenes. And given how much of the early game is just you passively waiting for things to get started, it can get a bit much for the impatient. Thankfully, once things get started, you’ll seldom encounter ridiculous quantities of dialog. Most other minor annoyances work themselves out once you start upgrading everything. It’s just getting the cash and resources to do so that can make things a bit of a grind.

The game is certainly a different kind of beast to Harvest Moon. I like that looking after crops and livestock is less effort, and that there’s an entire community already in place. The place feels lived in and vivid, and not some plot of virtual land that you just happen across. However, I do feel that by reducing everything to a skill-less “press A to look after cows!” sort of formula, you lose something. A little challenge here and there would have been appreciated. As it is, though, the challenge is in fulfilling obligations to people and obtaining the maximum reward for the least effort. So, once again, a lot like life. Are we all REALLY sure we’re not living in a sim?