Farming, 22nd Century Style

HIGH: A perfect mix of Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley.

LOW: The first hour is an absolute chore.

WTF: How does Doraemon fit a door into his pockets?

Learning about various pop culture touchstones has been one of the most fascinating parts of living in Asia for the past five years, and maybe the most surprising of which has been seeing the incredible reach of a robotic blue cat from the 22nd century named Doraemon.

While probably recognizable to the nerdy crowd in the West, I don’t think people realize that Fujiko F. Fujio’s creation is basically Asia’s equivalent of Mickey Mouse. That little furball is everywhere. Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, it doesn’t matter — he is beloved by potentially billions, so it turns out that putting him in a farming sim was a stroke of genius on Bandai Namco’s part. Who knew?

It begins innocently enough. Doraemon is hanging out with his human buddy and all-around good boy Noby when they stumble upon a strange seed. Eventually a storm comes in and sends them to an alternate dimension. While dimensional travel would usually be easy for Doraemon, he’s lost all of his gadgets, so Noby & friends have to find them if they hope to make it back home. In the meantime, Noby will be harvesting a lot of turnips.

D:SoS definitely skews towards a younger crowd and the cheerful, light tone will appeal to the desired demographic, but there are a surprising amount of cutscenes. The game starts with nearly 45 minutes‘ worth of them, and they’re more prevalent than one would think in a title of this sort. I like the tale they’re telling, but at certain points I did want slightly less of it, and i’m pretty sure eight-year-olds would agree. Still, it’s got lots of heart and expertly translated, so outside of the sludgy first hour it isn’t that noticeable.

Once Noby has a hoe in hand and is ready to get cracking on his farm, players will fall into the routine of watering crops, taking care of their animals, saving up for a new pickaxe or an addition to their house, and occasionally helping Doraemon find a gadget.

There are also various festivals and minigames for the player to participate in, a mine where players can dig for ore and fossils, and the world surrounding the town of Natura is littered with little secrets to discover and quests to partake in.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a standard farming sim, but there are some smart quality-of-life improvements thrown in, such as Noby’s ability to plop down just about anywhere to take a nap for a few hours to regain some stamina, and early on players will unlock Doraemon’s signature ‘Anywhere Door’, which allows for fast travel to various locations.

Furthermore, while something like Stardew Valley was a PC-first title that never felt exactly right on a controller, Story Of Seasons was made with one in mind, leading to a game that feels better to play, although sometimes it’s a struggle to get Noby on the exact pixel necessary when aiming for a specific patch of dirt or the right tree to to cut down.

I’m certain many players with farm sim experience have found there are always small issues to be resolved with any of them, but Doraemon: Story Of Seasons represents a great blend of what’s out there. There’s the core objective of finding the gadgets necessary to get back home, but it definitely has a laid-back vibe, which I think Stardew Valley fans will appreciate. At the same time, Story Of Seasons fans looking for a more structured, narrative-focused, objective-based game will find that here as well.

‘Pleasant’ is a great word to describe Doraemon: Story Of Seasons, and that translates to presentation as well. The world of Natura is beautifully animated with gorgeous 2D watercolor backgrounds that mesh well with the cutesy, retro-anime design of the characters. There’s an entire village of great, diverse NPC’s to befriend and interact with, and while the dialogue isn’t fully voiced, the original cast of the show in Japan have come in to record various grunts and giggles to accompany the emotion of each speech bubble. All of this is accompanied by a score that matches the tone perfectly and provides a soothing background for all that harvesting.

Doraemon: Story Of Seasons is one of the nicest surprises of the year. I wasn’t expecting a non-Stardew Valley farming sim to grab me like it did, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it from a Doraemon game, but here we are. On top of a great evolution in the farming RPG genre, it’s also a fantastic use of a coveted license. Stardew Valley 2 is probably a long way off, but the people that gave Eric Barone most of his ideas have just given us a substitute worthy of both franchises.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Brownies & Marvelous and published by Namco Bandai. It is currently available on Switch and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch  Approximately 38 hours of play were devoted to the game, and the main quest was completed along with one calendar year of farming.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E For Everyone and features Comic Mischief. Given the kid-friendly nature of the license, parents can rest easy knowing this is a title that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind options

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game’s story and tutorials are told entirely by text and presented in large, clear font but with no way to resize or recolor it. The game features no necessary audio cues and players should be able to complete it without issue.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. The game features no in game control layout. Players control Noby with the left analog stick, can zoom the camera in and out with the right stick, select various tools or items with the L and R buttons, check their inventory and status with the – button, take a nap with the B button, and interact with the A button.

Jarrod Johnston
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