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Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

Score: 89%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Strategy/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is the latest in a popular genre of farming/romance games. If running a farm while looking for romance sounds familiar, thatís because Story of Seasons is the original name for the game known in the Western market as Harvest Moon.

Though the gameís roots are in classic 2D graphics, Trio of Towns has 3D characters, plants, and animals. There are illustrated anime style portraits for some of the more important townsfolk (mainly the romance-able kind). Itís a little funny, since the game never really takes advantage of the 3D engine (it rarely shows you the map from any other angle), and for all intents and purposes, it could just be a sprite-based game. Perhaps it helps out with the 3D gameplay, but alas, I always have to turn that off since my eyes donít see simulated 3D that well anyway.

As for the music, I found myself turning that down too. Donít get me wrong, itís super upbeat - itís pleasant. Itís just so sugary and sweet and repetitive that I couldnít take too much of it. There are different background tracks for different towns and different events, but itís still all done in the same style.


Gameplay:

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is farming, social skills, and a whole bunch of anything else you can fit into a day of game time. You start by selecting your character, male or female, and taking on the big step of leaving your family to start your farm. On a typical morning, you might water your crops and milk your cows. However, if you know you need to make a long trek to a store when it opens, you might shuffle your schedule and do that first, since your crops might be able to wait. Likewise, when your day ends and your chores are done, itís a good idea to go fishing, pick wild herbs, cut lumber for later use, or give gifts to townsfolk or the special someone you have your eye on. Lazing your days away gets you nowhere, but working hard on your relationships and your finances day by day, a bit at a time, will leave you with a successful farm. Sleep, repeat, and start over again the next day.

Some of your time can be spent improving relationships with townsfolk and potential love interests. An excellent memory is required, or at least a notepad, if you want to remember what gifts make each person happy. Youíll also want to remember what time of day stores open, deliveries are picked up, and where people like to hang out. Luckily, the mini-map helps with much of this, showing you where people are by name in real time.

The name of the game is Trio of Towns, so Iíd be remiss without mentioning the different towns. Eventually 3 towns will be available for doing trading, exploring, and other fun events. Westown is where you begin: a dusty old American Western town with super-American animals such as bald eagles and bears. Lulukoko is the next town to open up, which is a little tropical paradise complete with peacocks and old ruins. There seems to be a Hawaiian influence here, but it veers off that path into some sort of island fantasy I canít place. Then thereís Tsuyukusa, a very Japanese town complete with its own fox goddess. You can buy and forage for unique items in each town such as bamboo and seashells. And of course, there are interesting people waiting for you in each new area.

Naturally, it wouldnít be Story of Seasons without some extras. You can get a kitchen and combine your farm products to make delicious dishes. You can buy a faithful pet to help out on the farm. You can work hard to produce the finest crops, dairy, and other products to show off at the fair and there are also mysterious goddesses that will accept your gifts. Who knows what will come of that? Further in the game, you can get all sorts of labor saving devices and upgrades, which youíll need if you ever want your farm to expand past what you can water with your piddling watering can.

The dialogue, while as wholesome as you would expect from a game like this, is still a little dull. The exchanges will go something like, "Did you like X? Oh, thatís great, so do I! I hope we see each other again. Farms are great!" Okay, not exactly, but you get the idea. Itís all very literal, very straightforward, with very little flavor (even when the "fiery" characters are introduced).

Agonizing tutorials are one of the worst parts of Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns. Really, the hand-holding and walls of text are extreme. There are necessary pieces of information in these tutorials; for example, chickens only lay eggs when they are left indoors. So youíll want to go through those tutorials, as painful and drawn out as they are.

While there is a multiplayer system, I unfortunately could not find anyone hosting a game. But the wireless play is local or over the internet, and offers a chance to share gifts with friends or exchange your items for the possibility of a rare item in return.


Difficulty:

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns isnít a particularly difficult game and it doesnít have an ending, per se. Itís just a game of building and building your farm to your heartís content. You can get married, which is possibly the goal of the game, but you can keep playing. And in theory, if you are a terrible farmer and you just donít understand that crops need water (Idiocracy style) for a few months, you could still gather up items like branches and flowers, sell them, and buy seeds and start over.

The goals of this game are essentially whatever you want them to be. Want to get married? Find out what your beau likes, talk to them, give them gifts as much as you can. Want to win the Harvest Festival? Water your crops, take extra care of your animals, save your best product to show off there. There is a definite message in these types of games and that is that you can always try again, do something different, and try to be better next time.


Game Mechanics:

Iím just gonna say what everyoneís thinking: getting those damn cows out of the barn sucks. Seriously, why are they so difficult to control, and why do I have to push them? Can I please invent a halter? A cowbell? Please, please, anything. (Yes, you can get a pet to help with herding, but the basic mechanics shouldnít be this frustrating). And can we please have a better gifting system? I often found myself holding a gift, and then trying to physically corner my love interest so I could give it to him (if they move at all, you may end up throwing your gift instead of handing it to the person). This seems a little aggressive for what should be a friendly gesture, and a simple "Give gift?" option might have made this easier.

And although some tasks are much easier than they were back in the beginnings of this series (you can pull a whole field of crops at once now, for example), this game does hold on to a lot of those "traditional" JRPG conventions. Unskippable cutscenes, pages of text that donít really drive any kind of story or provide better instruction, a rigid compass-direction control system: itís all stuff that could have been improved or done away with, given the influence of modern games.

But other than that, the game controls perfectly fine. Itís not a game that requires any particular dexterity (other than the cow wrangling and the aggressive gifting).

The appeal of Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is the appeal of a productive, happy day. Plan your day out, get work done, and squeeze in some well-earned rest. Each day, you get a little hint of progress such as a sprout in the field or finer quality eggs from your chicken. At the end of a long season, you can celebrate a successful harvest at the local festival. If farm work is a fantasy for urban folks, Story of Seasons embodies that fantasy perfectly. This Story of Seasons has plenty to do and discover. Despite it clinging to game conventions of the long lost past, itís still a satisfying way to dream about small town life.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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