It seems as though Doraemon and Story of Seasons were a match made in heaven. Sporting a soft canvas aesthetic and a surprisingly poignant atmosphere, Doraemon: Story of Seasons, even from its truncated demo, presented a delightful blend of childlike wonder as well as classic, no-nonsense Story of Seasons gameplay. I was near-instantly drawn into the world of Shizen Town and its inhabitants from the get-go.
I really must compliment the work that Studio Brownies and Bandai Namco have done on the graphics. The entire canvas feel of the artstyle lends itself to the Doraemon artstyle very well, and enhances a storybook aesthetic that was already present. It’s a much-needed change from the previous 3DS entries.
I especially love how houses in town pop in and out depending on the room you’re in. Doraemon: Story of Seasons uses 2D backgrounds with 3D character models rather than the fully 3D houses and towns in the more recent games, but extra care to details, such as extra visual effects like Nobita’s reflection while standing near water, make the game just a joy to look at.
At the same time, the game doesn’t forget that this is an adventure Nobita, Doraemon, and his friends are on. Shizen Town is quite different from other towns in the series in that there is an entire forest and mountain just outside of town, meaning that there’s quite a bit to explore overall. The joy of discovery is fully present, such as walking to the top of the mountain and seeing a breathtaking view of the giant tree below, or clambering into the tree’s roots itself and finding a hidden shrine perpetuated with music out of a Studio Ghibli movie.
All this is framed within gameplay that is likely the most “classic” the BokuMono series has been since the Nintendo DS days. In a recent interview, producer Kouji Nakajima mentioned that he grew up with Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, and it really shows in the overall direction. Rather than gimmicks such as the Grand Bazaar, or only being able to sell your produce on certain days like in Story of Seasons, Doraemon: Story of Seasons goes old-school with the farming – one seed packet per square, a trusty shipping container, and all that. Even mining returns in its full glory, with hidden holes leading to lower levels brimming with rarer ores.
Instead, Doraemon: Story of Seasons opts to add new QoL features on top of the classic gameplay. For example, one complaint in other games is how some events will only occur at certain times, and how sometimes you need to wait for shops to open. In this game, Nobita is able to take a nap anywhere just by pressing the B button, which essentially lets you skip to any hour up until 12am. As another example, your immediate prior actions pop up on the bottom left of the screen just to confirm what actions you’ve taken. Doraemon’s future gadgets also play a role in this QoL update, as they can do things like make crops grow one stage, instantly transport you between two areas via the Anywhere Door, and more.
One thing I was particularly surprised by was how much the game reminded me of Rune Factory, particularly with how events play out. Apart from the same 3D models on 2D background look that Rune Factory is known for, Doraemon: Story of Seasons has a protagonist with a personality, in the form of Nobita. Like him or not, Nobita is rarely a boring character, and his temper tantrums and scenes of kindness and compassion made for story events that were far more interesting than those with the Story of Seasons‘ usual mute protagonist. For those that dislike hearing Nobita’s voice though, there is an option to mute it if you want to.
Furthermore, having main story quests to follow through with gave a tangible objective to the gameplay that wasn’t “earning money”. Sometimes it’s intimidating to play the Story of Seasons series because of how open-ended gameplay can be, and the fact that the game is a linear story is a relief in this regard. Like in Rune Factory, it always feels like you’re working towards something in this regard, and not working purely off self-motivation. Of course, there weren’t that many objectives to achieve as this was a demo, but I see the story being a potentially great motivator for players to do well.
Overall, Doraemon: Story of Seasons, from the demo at least, was something right up my alley. It’s got a linear plot as well as classic gameplay with extra QoL on top, and the visuals and audio are both charming and comfy at the same time. I’m looking forward to picking up Doraemon: Story of Seasons when it releases for the Switch on June 13, 2019 in Japan.
Food for Thought:
There were a few minor gripes with control. Nobita can feel a bit slow, although this will likely be alleviated with horseriding later on as usual. Using the L/R buttons to navigate the menu was also frustrating and slow, and this is before you even upgrade the Backpack.
You can actually zoom out the map you’re on with the right stick. I found this out accidentally, and found it a good way to make sure I was going in the right directioin to where I wanted to go.