Developed By: Marvelous
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Doraemon: Story of Seasons paints a more artistic and nostalgic value to the farming Sim genre that has been dominated by the likes of Harvest Moon and more recently, Stardew Valley. Those games bring similar patterns of gameplay but the most important thing is how well they output a farming Sim experience.
Doraemon: Story of Seasons is no different from those titles. It ticks all the boxes of what a farming Sim is and a little more. With characters coming from the iconic cartoon series dating back to the ’70s, players who have enjoyed the series previously will be happy to see familiar faces brought back to the game. Doraemon has appeared in everything, from commercials, tv shows, and game shows. He shares an iconic status that is said to be on par with Godzilla himself!
As familiar to tv series watchers, a character that shares the mainstage with Doraemon is Noby (also known as Nobita for some). He will be the main protagonist in this game, as to how he was in the hit tv series. Teaming up with Doraemon, Noby is always up to some shenanigans involving his friends or his family. Being the time-traveling robot that he is, Doraemon will always have a trick up his sleeve, or in his case, his pouch, to magically conjure any gadget to solve a problem at any given time.
Natura, a parallel world where children work
Story of Seasons gives out the same vibe as to how an unfortunate situation hits them in the tv show. Noby and the gang are transported to a place called Natura, after a thunderous storm sends them flying into a wormhole. Doraemon loses all of his cool gadgets in the process, leaving the gang stumped on finding a way back home. They soon stumble upon a rustic town nearby and are greeted by its inhabitants. The gang soon find out that the rules of Natura is that everyone has to work, even the children in the town. So as kids do, Noby and the gang go around to look for jobs they can fill as Doraemon tracks down his gadgets one by one in hopes to find something that can bring them back to their world.
There is a lot to do in Natura that mostly revolve around the villagers and their relationship to Noby. Giving them gifts, interacting with them, receiving items from them are just some of the things players can expect to explore, and from those actions, build a better relationship with them. Noby is soon tasked to salvage a farm nearby with some tools at his disposal, living off the many amenities nearby and caring for animals as the game progresses., while the rest of the gang have obtained jobs nearby in logging camps, a general store and a restaurant.
Noby can tidy up the farm, tile its soil, plant some seeds, and water them. Fishing, capture bugs, mine ore, upgrading tools, and farm facilities are also a neat feature in the game that allows for better quality of life experience. Selling your produce from the farm gains you coins that you can trade for more farming materials, house and equipment upgrades, and much more.
With all the farming and animal tending in the game, players will have to keep an eye on their Stamina bar that depletes with every heavy action (mining, cutting down trees, breaking rocks) that can impact the day-to-day tasks. Napping and sleeping replenishes the Stamina bar, with the latter filling it back up to full, given that Noby will rest throughout the day, which takes us to how time works in the game. An hour in the game equals a minute in our time. Some actions take longer to do like upgrading the animal shacks, Noby’s home and etc. The in-game season also plays a big role as to which seed is best planted and harvested. With a season taking as long 10 real hours to go by, players are in for slow grind to achieve a “somewhat” pleasing result.
This game can be excruciating slow. Reaching the first playable sequence of the game already took almost an hour. With numerous dialogues being thrown on the screen, with every character responding individually to every action taken, it can take a while to progress and move on to another situation. The in-game mechanics also seem heavy and slow, as players are introduced to scrappy beginner tools to start their farming life. Seeing how resources are spread across the map like wildfire, harvesting them for later use such as upgrading and selling would sound like a task that won’t take too long. That is until players find out that upgrading anything in the game isn’t going to be cheap and selling your 1-star beginner produce isn’t going to produce many coins for them either. Daunting, to say the least, but for players who can wade through the pace of the game and are patient about it, I can say it would be worthwhile to see the fruits of the player’s labour later on.
Sound bites in the game also tend to be overused at some point. Character dialogues and responses all seem to repeat from time to time. The overuse issue tends to give off an un-natural vibe to NPC’s and even Noby at times, removing the authenticity of a character’s response to a specific situation/mission/task.
The fine-tuning needed to control Noby’s movement in the game is also pretty annoying, needing to face exactly where players want Noby to take action. Like for instance, plowing a specific plot of land may sometimes be tricky as players need to line Noby up properly for the plot to be highlighted. Tree’s that can’t be cut down also serves as a nuisance in the game as it can get in the way of players trying to plant/harvest something directly behind the tree. Introducing a kind of partial “see-through” mechanism for obscure items in the game.
The artistic style of the game would be its redeeming savior. Doraemon: Story of Seasons captivates its players by being a beautiful game and exploring Natura and its surrounding areas is just as enjoyable as other elements in the game. It feels like there is a distinct personality to it, expressed in picture-perfect look comparing itself to the actual cartoon back in the day, which is pulled off perfectly. When you mix in the addition of the day and night cycle and the multitude of seasons, the game goes from plain-looking to legitimately be one of the charming-looking games for the PS4. While it might not be technically impressive, the game’s art style is beautiful and brings that unique Doraemon personality to the game in the process.
As an add on, the music in the game deserves a good thumbs up, which is rare in this genre of a game. They do get repetitive at times, but players can choose to listen to the game’s audio and lay back and relax, as the tunes are very pleasant in general.
Passing time shouldn’t be a chore
The grind in this game isn’t for many players who have the patience of a toddler, where the game can act like its putting players to work, rather than giving them a game to play. With the lack of mini-games and extensive interactions in the game (except during the festivals that occur depending on the season), waiting things out in the game can be draggy and slow. For players who are looking to find relaxation in this kind of game, they might instead find frustration in the long run.
There’s also no clear path to take for the main storyline, as you get thrown into the fray as a wood-be farmer, responsible for fending for yourself. There doesn’t seem to be a proper goal for Noby to follow with the widespread of NPC’s that each have their own task for players to take on. None making it too obvious as a main story arc, which leaves players finding out for themselves if they are on the main questline or not. The main story revolves around the gang looking for a way to go home, but it sometimes just feels like the gang is set in just staying in Natura and abandoning the lives they left behind in their own world.
What I Liked
- A joy to look at the “watercolour” look of the game, resembling the cartoon series!
- Natura Town gives off this comfy, “rustic home” vibe
- Excellent and soothing in-game music
What I Disliked
- A lot of quality of life issues that impact gameplay
- Game feels like excessive work at times
- Slow-paced takes a lot of time to achieve a certain goal
Doraemon: Story of Seasons carries a lot with the license and legacy but unfortunately it’s charm cannot push this game through the tedious and uninspiring game design it ultimately ends up being. There is work to be done before Doraemon: Story of Seasons joins the alumni of beloved farming simulators. The well-established characters and artistically beautiful environments paying homage to the cartoon is a +1 in our books but charm can only go so far.