A farming simulator with an RPG twist, Doraemon: Story of Seasons combines popular anime Doraemon with the Story of Seasons game series, formerly known as Harvest Moon.
The Doraemon characters are faithfully recreated, adding a nice twist on the tried and tested Story of Seasons formula. The game is slow in places and removes a couple of Story of Seasons staples, such as romance, due to the crossover, but fans of the anime, in particular, will likely enjoy this experience.
A Story Of Slowness
When you first begin the game, you'll be thrown into what feels like an episode of the Doraemon anime as our band of characters are sent hurtling through the air in a storm, Wizard of Oz-style.
As someone who has never watched the anime, I was intrigued by the characters, especially Doraemon himself. However, I was slightly disappointed that I had to play as Noby, as being a farming expert blue robot cat held much more appeal.
This introduction is heavy on the RPG elements, and it is long. Don't start the game until you've got a good chunk of time to spend on the setup. You don't even see your farm until you're almost an hour in and you've watched all your companions get jobs (even Doraemon) before your host "remembers" that he just happens to have another run down farm you could help at.
To be fair, to the game it introduces concepts one at a time and helps you really understand the different elements of its features. For younger players especially, this is a great way of slowly building up to what ends up being reasonably in-depth farming, collecting, and exploration mechanics.
As you progress, the same format is used to explain new features as they are unlocked, although, thankfully, many characters will give you an option to skip their tutorial if you wish.
The game's controls are the main area in which it could use some adjustments. I played the PC version, which feels both familiar and incredibly clunky at the same time. While standard WASD controls are used for movement, players are then often forced to use the arrow keys to adjust their angle, in order to be able to interact properly with people or objects.
This can get frustrating quickly, especially once your farm has grown and you are trying to plant, water, or harvest larger numbers of crops. I'm unsure as to if this element may be better on the Switch, but I doubt it, as much of it appears related to angles.
I got better at working out the correct angle to get the ground to highlight over time, but it's a learning curve that I could have happily lived without.
Exploration Leads To Expansion
The game has not only a focus on farming, but also one on exploration, collecting, and interacting. A huge part of its narrative involves getting to know the local townspeople, exploring the area, and finding harvestables to sell.
There are several different areas to discover, with the menus holding a basic map that tells you how they connect together. Uncovering these areas, learning their secrets, and meeting their inhabitants is essential in order to unlock more of the game's features.
For example, early on you can visit and interact with the lumberjack, who is close by. He will give you a chair for free. He'll also give you a lesson on how to put a chair on the floor, should you so desire.
Once this is done, placing and making furniture will be unlocked as a feature. This same format is then repeated for other gameplay elements including fishing, keeping livestock, and even mining. It's a nice way of introducing new aspects of play, and if you haven't visited someone with a feature to unlock at the point the game expects, they will pop over to your farm and prompt you to pay them a visit.
There is a lot to explore in this game, but it naturally guides you through some of it, making it a great choice for younger players especially. If you enjoy Story of Seasons and early Harvest Moon games, then there is enough familiarity to keep you engaged.
The game features growing crops, raising livestock, gathering materials, and town festivals, while later gameplay also includes quests. As expected, there are also randomly opening stores to buy supplies from, people to meet and engage with, and daily tasks to complete to keep your farm running.
The decent-sized map and increasingly complex mechanics will keep your interest, assuming you play long enough to unlock them all. Over time these features will include the ability to clear, decorate, and generally customize your farm and its buildings, making it truly feel like your own.
The main difference in this installment is the inclusion of Doraemon's characters and the heavier emphasis on character interaction, story development, and relationships outside of romance. The romance elements appear to have been removed from this installment, which I believe is to keep true to the Doraemon storyline since your character clearly loves Sue, who appears to have friend-zoned him.
It's A Looker
The game's visuals are one of the highlights of the title. Beautifully drawn, the cut scenes do feel like they are bringing you into the anime, one frame at a time. Each part of the story ups the RPG element and adds to the overall narrative of what this (slightly odd) town is all about.
My only slight complaint was that the actual characters are not really animated. Expressions are limited as emotions are conveyed solely through the stills of each character as they "speak."
The music relaxing enough it is repetitive, and personally, I turned it off after a short while. Since there are no character voices, it didn't feel like I was missing out.
This title is definitely one which will likely appeal to fans of both Story of Seasons and Doraemon. It offers a good range of tasks to do and people to meet, so if you can cope with the (very) slow pace, then it's a very relaxing game to play.
A PC copy of Doraemon: Story of Seasons was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Doraemon: Story of Seasons is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.