You could be forgiven for being a little confused over the March farm-life game releases. Harvest Moon: One World released on 2nd March 2021, but isn’t really a Harvest Moon game in the traditional sense. Meanwhile, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town released today (23rd March 2021) and has the old Harvest Moon format, but a completely different title. Well, there’s a good reason for that. The two companies that used to make the game split, and since then there have been two separate franchises. Story of Seasons by XSeedchanged its name, but is the old Harvest Moon formula. Meanwhile, the new Harvest Moon games from Natsume keep the name, but have a different gaming style.
So, if you’re a fan of the old Harvest Moon games, then Story of Seasons is the one you should be looking at. Maybe you’ve never played before, and are wondering whether this new game is worth it? Well, prepare to have your questions answered in our Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town review!
The game starts with a young girl or boy (the choice is yours) moving to the quaint Olive Town. There, you set out on your dream of restoring your grandfather’s ranch, and becoming a farmer! You’ll also try to help put Olive Town on the map, and attract more tourists.
Olive Town may be quite small, but it’s populated with a whole host of lively characters. The first person you meet is Victor, the town mayor. He’s very passionate about improving the town, and requests your assistance when it comes to making important decisions, and constructing new buildings.
You’ll also meet the adorable and elusive sprites! These are cute little creatures that represent different elements of nature. They are usually invisible to humans, but you’re able to see and interact with them. You can visit their worlds, and even play mini games with them.
Throughout the game, you learn more about the mysteries of Olive Town. You’ll trigger cutscenes showing fascinating new additions to the lore. These are spread out, and so you’ll discover more cutscenes the more days you play the game. In-game days aren’t based on real time, and instead progress based on how long you spend playing. Each game day lasts roughly 25 minutes, depending what time you choose to go to bed.
The gameplay is exceptionally relaxing, without crossing the line into boring. It’s not demanding on your skills as a gamer, and instead you’re able to play at your own pace. You start each day waking up in your bed on your farm, and then it’s entirely up to you how you spend the day. You can focus on things around your farm, such as planting seeds, tending to animals, and upgrading your skills. Otherwise, you can head into town to meet other characters and go to the shops. Be aware that most shops don’t open till 9am though, so you’ll have a couple of hours between waking up and being able to go shopping.
Your movement speed is decent, however there’s no run button, so you can’t go any faster. The regular pace isn’t slow by any means, but it still would have been nice to have the option for extra speed. The controls work really smoothly, and it’s easy to direct your character. However, it can sometimes be tricky to select the correct space when using a skill. For example, if you’re trying to water a plant, the distance you have to be from it feels inconsistent. Sometimes you’ll have to be standing far back from the space you want to select, other times you need to be almost on top of it.
You can increase your gameplay efficiency with upgrades. You start off with two rows of inventory space, but you can increase this to four rows. You’re also able to upgrade all of your basic tools, so that they complete their tasks more quickly. So if you upgrade your hammer, you can break rocks with less hits. You’re also able to do damage in several spaces, rather than just the one in front of you. There are 4 upgrades available for each tool, and each time it becomes more expensive and requires rarer materials.
Crafting and New Areas
You’re also able to use materials that you find to craft new items. The crafting menu is found on the menu screen, so you don’t need to go to a specific place to craft something. This is super convenient, because it means you can craft things as you need them. All you need to do is make sure that you have all the required items in your inventory. You can also craft ‘makers’ which turn raw materials into other crafting materials. So you could make a lumber maker to turn wood into lumber, which is used in many projects.
You can also use your crafting materials to unlock new areas of your farm. This will involve repairing dilapidated structures such as coops, barns, and bridges. You’ll then be able to diversify your skills, and do things such as raising new animals. The new areas also mean you’ll have access to better raw materials, such as stronger logs, and rarer metals.
The difficulty to unlock the new areas increases as time goes on. The very first upgrade is your coop, which can be unlocked first day if you manage your energy well. However, the more areas you discover, the more materials you’ll need. You can also unlock the new areas by buying them, but the cost is often very expensive. It feels more rewarding when you earn the new area by collecting enough materials.
One of the coolest features in Pioneers of Olive Town is that there are so many different skills for you to learn and improve. You gain levels the more you participate in them, and you get benefits as you rank up. The higher your level in a skill, the more efficient you are at using that skill.
Many of the skills in the game are related to your farm. You have Logging, which is about chopping the trees that grow on your land. There’s also Mining, which you improve by breaking rocks, or going down into the mines. There are skills directly related to farming aspects like planting and harvesting crops, or tending to your animals, as well as a separate skill called Orcharding which is specifically related to harvesting fruit from trees.
Some skills involve your interactions with others. You can improve Friendship by talking with the characters you meet in the town. As you level this up, it becomes easier to build relationships with them, and your friendliness will rise faster. You can even get pets in this game, and there’s a skill for interacting with your pets. Pretty much anything you can do in the game, there’s a skill for. The more you play, the higher your skill levels rise, and the easier the game becomes.
As with many farm-life games, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is very much about your relationships. You can get to know that townsfolk by talking to them and giving them gifts. You can track your friendships from the main menu. You’ll see more hearts next to characters that you have a stronger bond with. Regular characters have orange hearts, and marriage candidates have pink hearts. You’re conveniently able to access a map in the main menu that shows where each character is at any given point in time.
There are 10 characters in the town who are eligible to marry, 5 boys and 5 girls. You can give them gifts to make them like you more, and at certain milestones you unlock heart events. These are short cutscenes involving yourself and the other character. The heart events are a way of learning more about a character’s personality, and deciding who you want to marry. The girls have a lot more variety in looks and personality, whereas the boys are overall quite similar. Same-sex marriage is possible in this game, which is excellent news for fans from the LGBTQ+ community.
Having plenty of people milling about the town helps make the game feel more real. You can really immerse yourself into life in Olive Town, as you get to know all the residents. There are children, adults, and even elderly people, as well as tourists who visit the town. Altogether, they give the game more personality, so it’s not just you wandering around alone on a farm.
Audio and Visuals
One of the most stunning aspects of the game is the graphics. The game feels vibrant and adorable, with an almost chibi-like design for the characters. The colours used are bold and cheerful, and fit will with the upbeat vibe of the game. The design of the game is very elegant, and it’s simple but effective. The makers can look a little unappealing, but most of the graphics are pleasant to look at.
The customisation options are decent too. When you first start the game, you can choose your outward appearance from a number of preset options. You can customise things like your hair, skin, and eye colour, as well as things like your stance and voice. You’re also able to unlock a salon in the town after you donate the materials. This allows you to select new clothing options, which adds a fun and colourful new element to the game.
The audio is also superb. The tunes are whimsical, and work as the perfect background music. It allows you to focus on what you’re doing in the game, without being distracted by the music. However, you can still enjoy the pleasant tones of the music; it’s very calming and enjoyable to listen to.
The sound effects are well designed, and are a great volume compared to the music. So, when you’re chopping down trees, you can hear the axe against the trunk, without it being too loud. It all blends into one seamless harmony, and captivates your soul as you flow along with the game.
Overall, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a delight to play! The gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from a farm-life sim, without feeling overly repetitive. The graphics are charming and detailed, and the music is heart-warming. The story develops smoothly the more you play, and most of the characters have unique personalities. There are a few areas where the game could improve, but for the most part this is an excellent game. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.
You can pick up your copy from Amazon here (affiliate link).
Summary: Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a delightful addition to the farm-life sim genre, and is sure to satisfy fans of the franchise. The gameplay is smooth and relaxing, without venturing into boredom territory, and the graphics are vibrant and playful. The characters of the town are full of charming personality, even though some of the marriage candidates leave a bit to be desired. Overall, this is a fantastic game, and well worth a purchase.
Genres: Life sim, farm-life sim, rpg
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Review Version)
Developer: Marvelous Interactive Inc.
Publishers: XSEED Games, Marvelous Interactive Inc.
Initial Release Date: March 23rd 2021
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Reader Rating0 Votes
Plenty of gameplay options so you can choose how to spend your in-game days
Vibrant and colourful graphics
Uplifting and relaxing music
Intriguing storyline that fleshes out as you play the game
Some of the items have an unappealing design
The male marriage candidates are too similar to each other