Title: Doraemon Story of Seasons
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: October 11th, 2019
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Instantly there was something incredibly charming about the world of Doraemon Story of Seasons. From the vibrant color palette to the charming character designs, it was a world filled with charm and wonder. Doraemon is a crossover of the popular Japanese manga and the Story of Seasons video game series. With an increasingly popular trend of farming simulation games in the market, Doraemon Story of Seasons has a lot to make itself prominent within the genre. While Doraemon Story of Seasons doesn’t ultimately succeed in bringing anything new to the table or differentiates itself from other popular farming sims such as Stardew Valley, it does bring a charming adventure, backed by a cute story to suck you into its world.
Doraemon Story of Seasons is based around a group of friends and a robot cat, who can travel in time. Even without any prior knowledge of the series, it was a welcoming opening point, with a cast of instantly likable and relatable characters. The story follows the group of friends who are transported into a town known as Shizen Town, which is a land filled with honest hard workers who farm, smith, and cook to keep the cogs of this tranquil, peaceful town running. With no ability to return home, Doraemon and friends throw themselves into the community, working alongside and living with its citizens.
You play as Nobita, or known to his friends as “Noby”. As the rest of your friends find their place in the world within the games opening hours, Noby is at a loose end, until he’s gifted a plot of land and a home, with the condition that he involves himself with farming and assisting the locals.
The story of Doraemon Story of Seasons is a basic affair, but a loveable set of characters helps distinguish itself. There’s no character creator and you are forced to insert yourself into the shoes of Noby. It can be a little disconnecting, especially at first for those not well versed in the manga. But it slowly becomes apparent what Noby’s place is in the world.
And when I say slow — I mean slow.
The opening hours of Doraemon Story of Seasons are quite simply, boring. It helps to immerse yourself with these characters but plays more akin to a visual novel, rather than a game, with little to no input given to the player besides the occasional tap of a button to open the next text box.
The tutorial for the game doesn’t even start to over an hour in. It would be fine if the story was engaging at this point, but nothing really happens besides meeting the local citizens of Shizen Town. Once you’re past this point, you then have to slog through another hour or so of tutorials. It’s a tough entry barrier that could repel players who are well versed in the genre and players who already know these characters will find nothing compelling to keep them invested.
Abruptly, the tutorial ends and you’re given free reigns to the rest of the game. It’s jarring and even after hours or text and tutorials make you feel un-equipped to make your place in this world. The plot that was built up for over the first few hours is put to one side and the game takes over. It’s a strange transition once you do find your footing, the world of Doraemon Story of Seasons opens up to you.
Like other games of the genre, the aim is to build up your farm, form relationships and involve yourself with the small population of Shizen Town. Becoming invested in the town’s culture is one of the main pulls for Doraemon Story of Seasons. By building relationships, you unlock quests, which is the main incentive for those trying to grasp any sort of plot in this game. This can be done by completing tasks, bringing them gifts and getting to know them. Nothing particularly exciting, but the family-friendly vibes of the characters is hard not to be charmed by, despite its ever-increasing cheesiness.
Farming will take up a lot of your time, and make the bulk of your income. Your plot of land will become your own home as you spend hours planting, watering and harvesting the perfect crops. Hours because the game doesn’t make any of this accessible. Picking and inventory management are incredibly slow and clunky. Having to nurture a large block of land can be a chore — which is what real-life farming is for. But this isn’t real life and this isn’t fun. Accompanying this is one of the most irritating sound effects ever, which repeats for every single item gathered. It’s a shame, as all the elements are there, they’re just not concocted in the right manner.
Thankfully, this is the only real downbeat mechanic in the game. What works best about Doraemon Story of Seasons is the world. Involving yourself in the town’s life, visiting shops and partaking in activities is its strongest card. An in-game calendar pinpoints specific to monthly events that range from horse races to a shooting mini-game tournament. These are what give Doraemon Story of Seasons an identity and a chance to bond with its delightful array of characters.
Exploring the world is also a treat due to the varied map locations. Every area is segmented from one another and given an extra level of detail and craft. It can be relaxing to spend time just conversing with characters and exploring the world. Being able to fish, mine and venture into the land is an addictive gameplay loop. In-game days are fairly lengthy, providing you the opportunity to commit to an assortment of tasks without ever feeling rushed.
What also enhances this gameplay loop is the promise of upgrades. Gathering materials becomes a collect-a-thon as you work to source materials to further increase your tools. This is where Doraemon Story of Seasons shines and shows the longevity of the game. You can also gather animals for your farm — which is super cute!
Looking into Doraemon Story of Seasons is like losing yourself in a painting. Each frame is crafted with a beautiful watercolor aesthetic and is honestly one of the most beautiful games of 2019. Combined with its larger-than-life manga character, everything blends together with such an ease that it’s surprising more games haven’t utilized this art style more. Its visuals are there to be savored and appreciated, making it one of the prettiest simulation games on the market.
Verdict: While it doesn’t push the genre forward, Doraemon Story of Seasons gets quite a lot right. Unfortunately, it’s let down by some dull farming mechanics and slow plodding. The world is a beautiful vista of artistic beauty, and it’s characters are inviting, with a nuanced charm. If all of these elements game together more fluently, Doraemon Story of Seasons could have been something special. As it stands, it misses the mark of reaching those heights.
- Beautiful, watercolor art-style
- Vibrant and charming characters
- Addictive gameplay loops
- Extremely slow-paced
- The farming system is the weakest element
- It doesn't push the genre forward