If you often find yourself dreaming of what it would be like to live on a farm away from bustling city life then look no further than the latest Story of Seasons. Grab your hoe and let's get tilling!
If you've ever played a Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons game then you'll know just what to expect from Trio of Towns. You choose between playing as a male or female young adult who decides to defy their Dad's wishes and try out farm life. Your Dad reluctantly asks Uncle Frank to take you under his wing and provide you with a small shack and some farm land where you'll continually prove yourself to be capable of running the best farm for miles.
There are actually three villages including Westown (western themed), Lulukoko (tropical themed), and Tsuyukusa (Japanese themed). Your farmland will remain in an area between the three towns but you'll visit the towns often to interact with the locals and their shops as well as forage their unique items and fishing spots. Each town has a distinct style to it and music that changes as you enter and exit each area. I particularly enjoyed interacting with the dozens of animals dotted around such as the bear in Westown and the dancing monkeys and cute turtles in Lulukoko. However, one thing that seems to be missing is a change in scenery as the seasons swap out. Your farm will change but each town will remain pretty much the same with only a few different items to be found. I always looked forward to walking around town when the season changed in previous Story of Seasons games so this was a bit of a letdown.
The trio of towns that you visit each has a rank that can be seen in the menu. One of your goals is to increase your rank with each by completing part-time jobs, shipping goods to the respective town, making relationships with villagers, and making farm circles (buildings or decorations based on a town's theme). Each time you increase a town's rank, you'll unlock more items in the shop and get closer towards making your father happy with your life choice. As you're about to approach reaching a new grade for a town, you'll be asked to fulfill a specific set of requirements in order to unlock the next grade. For example, shipping ten eggs and completing three jobs.
The activities in Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns don't stray far from previous games. You'll till fields to plant and water crops then eventually harvest them, raise livestock and gather milk and wool that can be processed, mine for gems, and fish. Past Story of Seasons games had you fulfilling the odd request for a villager or shipping specific goods but Trio of Towns has a formalized job system where you can talk to a recruiter to take on a long list of tasks. Each task is provided by someone from one of the three towns and upon completing that task, you'll increase your town rank. The jobs include such things as chopping wood, weeding, cultivating crops, brushing animals, and even being a test subject for the doctor (which pays quite handsomely). Occasionally, you'll be given a mystery job and upon completing it, you'll unlock one of many Nintendo character outfits that provide you with special abilities. It was always exciting to see one of these pop up and wonder which outfit I would unlock next.
As far as livestock goes, there are two new animals. I'm still waiting for something more exotic like penguins or giraffes but they decided to stay close to the existing collection of animals by introducing quail and buffalo. A quail is a small bird that lives in harmony with the chickens and provides eggs. Other than its appearance, it's identical to the chickens. Buffalo are housed with the other animals and produce buffalo milk that can be used to create dairy products just like cows.
One unfortunate thing that I noticed was the space needed to care for livestock. The initial coops and barns only house one animal each. When you upgrade them, they can only house four. They take up a lot of space but you won't get a ton of money from housing dozens of animals. Additionally, I found it frustrating when trying to care for my livestock because it doesn't tell you when it's registered you brushing an animal. When you hold down the button to brush, your character just keeps doing it. If you just tap it lightly, it appears as if the animal is content but you'll find that it didn't register in your animal book. It becomes a guessing game as to how much stamina and time you have to spend on this action. It's strange because when you brush animals as part of a job, your character will naturally stop brushing after a few brushes so it feels like a bug that this doesn't happen while on your own farm.
Growing crops has a new level of intricacy with fertilizer playing a much bigger role than in the past. There are many different types that influence the traits of a given crop. You can alter a crop's colour, sweetness, juiciness, and size through applying different fertilizers. By using fertilizers and the seed machine (to produce seeds from already high quality crops), you'll be able to win many harvest and cooking festivals. Speaking of cooking, I find one change quite curious. You can no longer gain stamina by eating your produce because you must make an actual meal (or go to a restaurant) in order to do so. Now, you must keep fully made meals with you at all times or risk fainting and finding yourself at the Doctor's office the next morning. It's possible some of the crops raise your stamina but if that's the case then it must be so slightly that it's worth nowhere near the price of selling it.
For some reason, when the seasons change, your farm becomes a ton of work to till and get ready for planting new crops. I had to replenish my entire stamina bar many times and keep hacking away at dead plants with my sickle which meant lots of meals had to be made for me to keep eating. In the past, this was a fairly simple operation so it confuses me why this changed. Although it's more effort to make a meal in order to replenish stamina, you now have the opportunity to gain special effects when you eat certain meals. For example, you could eat or drink something that makes your stamina replenish over time, allows you to walk faster, or lets you catch rarer fish. This is an interesting addition but frankly, I didn't find myself cooking often. This is partially due to the fact that you have to purchase recipes in order to make anything which is reminiscent of some other Story of Seasons games but I'm still disappointed that there's no way to just play with ingredients and see what I can come up with.
In Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, there are no harvest sprites or fairies asking you to fulfill long-term quests in order to advance the story. Instead, you're given farming tips from your dad. Upon completing a set of them, you'll unlock more areas of your farm and be given more tips to complete. Calling them tips feels a little obnoxious considering you're pretty much forced to complete them in order to gain your dad's approval. At one point, your sister actually visits and stays with you during her school break but with an agenda to report back to dad about how well you're doing. I much prefer stories of long-lost fairies and flowers than proving myself to my father and I hope this attempt at a story isn't repeated in later Story of Seasons games.
The collection of villagers to befriend is diverse, especially as they represent three distinct villages. Courting is basically the same as in previous games where you give items they love daily and talk to them in order to raise your affection level. Once you reach a certain point, you must spend a hefty $150,000 on a necklace to show them that you're serious and eventually you'll get to the point where you'll marry and even have a child. Knowing what each villager likes is a mystery which results in trial and error. This is the same as in other games and it still bothers me. Why can't there be a way to get more information on what they like? There are sometimes vague clues dropped by their family and friends but it's nowhere near enough. Actually getting to the point where you can marry and make friends is almost impossible without a guide. There's also the matter of random events that further your relationship with villagers but knowing when and how to trigger them is a guessing game, too.
One major gripe that I have with Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is the pacing and balance between tasks. For starters, there is clearly way too much emphasis on mining. Essentially, you must save a lot of the gems that you find from mining in order to have a chance of upgrading any equipment. You're forced to focus on your hammer from day one because the only way to get gems is to mine in two mining spots every three days. That's right: you can only mine every three days if you want to acquire gems instead of rocks and glass. Gems aren't only used to upgrade tools, they're also required to make many buildings and machines (makers) on your farm as well as provide serious money from shipping them. You'll find yourself waiting anxiously for the next day that you can mine only to be disappointed that you didn't get the gem you needed in order to upgrade your next tool or purchase the next maker. The fact that mining is such a small task (you literally hit a wall a few times and out comes some gems), this is even more disappointing. In previous games, you dig through floor after floor in a cave smashing rocks and playing something close to a mini-game to collect gems. In this one, it's a dull task that's rarely rewarding and is required in order to accomplish almost anything.
The frustration with its emphasis on mining gems aside, Story of Seasons is still a lot of fun as a cute and leisurely game. However, this sequel took more steps backwards than forwards and I'm hoping it remedies these poor decisions in the next installment.
- + Having three towns to romp around keeps things interesting
- + Two new animals are cute additions
- + Classic enjoyable Story of Seasons formula
- - Unbalanced emphasis on mining causes problems with pacing
- - Befriending villagers is still problematic
- - Odd gameplay decisions make it less fun