Developed By: Marvelous Inc.
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: Switch and PC
Reviewed On: Switch
Welcome to the world of Harvest Moon rebranded
Doraemon: Story of Seasons is a farming simulator game merged with a much-beloved Japanese family comedy anime series in Doraemon. The story starts you off with Noby having to do a school project involving a seed that grew and created some type of time wormhole pulling him and his friends into another world. They then dropped into a town called Natura where the mayor enforces everyone to work regardless of age including children (child slavery alert!).
Everyone in the crew except for Noby got accepted into their respective jobs because basically in the anime Noby is a dreamer but is weak, lazy and a crybaby; and most of the time depends on his large time-travelling blue round earless robotic cat friend, Doraemon to help him out of bad situations using exotic futuristic gadgets pulled right out from his bottomless pocket.
If you are unaware of this Japanese anime series, allow me to bring you up into speed on the plot the anime:
- In the beginning, Noby gets into issues with homework or gets himself into trouble.
- Noby cries, begging or bribes with Dorayaki to his robotic cat friend Doraemon for help.
- Doraemon then pulls out a gadget, usually solving the issue on the spot.
- Noby gets greedy, naughty or even clumsy with the gadget.
- Eventually gets into trouble again, affecting everyone’s lives including Noby.
- Doraemon mostly solves the new problems at the end.
- Noby learns his lessons not to be greedy, lazy and etc (You get the gist of it).
Coincidentally leading up to the game’s story, Doraemon (the robotic cat) loses all the gadgets in his bottomless pocket after being transported into the town, forcing the crew to stay a little longer while working there. The best part is that all the gadgets were taken by the inhabitants themselves including the mayor. In order to get back their gadgets, Noby will then have to work hard on the fields gaining money and earning the trust of the townfolks while at the same time finding a way back home.
Graphics are just plain charming
From the very landscapes of the village, forest, mountain and even seashores are all impressively done hand-drawn with detailed watercolour soft strokes aesthetics and good use of pleasant colours that resemble the refined art style of Ragnarok Online. The animated Doraemon characters feel right at home in this game.
As each month passes, the seasons immediately changes from Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter with changing landscapes to suit each season theme with different designs, colour tones, vegetation, and insects.
Adding to the mix are wholesome, charming and adorable CG illustrated scenes such as Noby rescuing a dog or his first moment witnessing a chick hatching.
Much like the CG, the cutscenes are wonderful to behold with the added personalities brought out by Doraemon and friends. This is a winning formula in my book but not all is rosy with there being two minor hiccups in the game which is the top camera fixed isometric view that obscures your view with trees that leaves you blind in certain specific areas for material gathering or insect catching. Hopefully, the developers can address this issue by highlighting the outline of the mentioned materials or insects when they are blocked by the leaves. Another issue I had with this game was the odd dreamy looking white outline screen throughout that looks as though snowflakes are ready to show me how cool this game is, but I do wish it can be removed or customized after a long run.
Noby has been placed on a run-down farm and being forced to use old farming tools to plough, plant, expensively fertilize (40g each), water and harvest. There is also mining and tree cutting to gain more money and materials to better upgrade the expensive facilities, Noby’s stamina, bag space and tools. Players will also maintain Noby’s stamina either by eating or taking a short nap just so that he doesn’t faint and waste the rest of the day being stuck in a clinic.
In addition to that, I always wondered why the dreaming crybaby Noby has a standard of 100 stamina in the game that does not deplete even though he ran around day and night, kept talking to the simple townfolks, harvesting and even fishing (Wish I had that kind of stamina for even talking).
In terms of talking, the NPC townfolks in the game mostly prefer small chat about the weather or just greeting without hinting much of what they like or dislike as a gift. Basically all of them will accept just about anything (some dislike weed) to raise affection.
Speaking of which, I would also need to manage Noby’s time to talk and pass gifts to townfolks just to raise their affection rate. Building their friendships over time will offer you a few more cutscenes, illustrated CG’s, quests and hopefully returning you one of Doraemon’s gadgets as a token of their appreciation.
One issue I had is with the NPC characters actually giving or wanting to give you something in a cutscene, only to find yourself needing to find the same NPC again in-game just to get the said item.
Strangely the game doesn’t seem to keep track of quest-related gadgets and main quests even though the game has a quest log that keeps tabs on exchanging materials quests with the townsfolk. It is kind of a shame because I find it difficult to keep tabs via mental notes after countless hours of farming or mining where I usually detach myself into a bot farmer. As time passes, I end up writing down small notes myself for the quests so I wouldn’t miss them.
Controls can be at times egregious
Talking to people is as simple as pressing the “A” button but when it comes to talking to animals the button is changed to “X” instead due to the fact that the animal’s “A” button is replaced with giving snacks. At times I took out Noby’s home furniture instead while attempting to talk to my dog sitting next to it with the same “X” button which brings me to my next problem.
Players actually need to correctly move Noby and angle him in the right position just to highlight specific objects to perform specific actions. Sometimes I would end up making mistakes by mining or ploughing in the wrong spots just by moving slightly off-angle. It would be nice if there was a dedicated button to hold Noby into a rotatable position while placing or making an action. A bad aiming Storm Trooper much like myself ends up hugging every object or person before pressing the buttons instead.
Sounds of Music – Soothing to a point that I find myself sleepy
Besides the repeated catchy warm tunes in town, the BGM song on other locations changes with each passing seasons and day/night cycle. The songs presented are pleasant, soothing and catchy just like soft jingle chimes serenading me through the Winter season.
Music video sample’s below is courtesy by Baiduchan, check it out for more music samples:
In terms of voice acting, all characters are voiced with their distinct Japanese catchphrases that sounds appealing to the scene such as what, eh, but and how?. Sound effects of actions from pouring, planting all the way to harvesting may get addictive after a while. Seasoned more with a few lively sounds of birds chirping, flowing water and insects, you get the results of nature brimming life at the comfort of your ears.
What I Liked:
- Pleasant soft BGM music, with seasoned addictive sound effects in any actions you take.
- Watercolour aesthetic background and gameplay graphics. A spice of charming and adorable cut scenes.
- Upgrade and fertilizers are expensive, making it very challenging.
- Doraemon and his friends’ personality mix into a Harvest Moon game.
- Doraemon Gadgets (Unlocks later on)
- Minor but quirky Japanese voice acting catchphrases (Less is more I guess).
- Has simple tutorial sessions.
- Less loading time within around 1-3 seconds depending on the map.
What I Wish Was Improved On:
- Unknown white dreamy layer on the edges of the screen which can get irritating after a while.
- Trees obscure my view without some form of mild transparency or highlight outlines of important materials or insects.
- Main quests are non-trackable in the quest logs, as well as Doraemon’s gadget quests requirements. Making writing notes a necessity.
- No list to keep track of NPC’s preferred gifts to raise better affection/friendship rate.
- On the bed, a short nap and sleep option are next to each other, making a mistake will waste a day away.
- No marriage in this game or dating.
- You must move Noby at the right angle to make certain actions correctly.
- Buttons of interaction and eating are the same. If not angled properly, you may end up eating your goods instead of talking to a person.
- Removing furniture at home and talking to your dog is the same button.
Don’t get me wrong despite all my complaints about the game, it is still a decent game overall with some minor hiccups along the way that needs getting used to. Although it doesn’t have a marriage/dating system, it is still a refined union between two long-standing franchises that can be enjoyed by both Harvest Moon and Doraemon fans alike. Blending the beautiful music, visual aesthetics and pleasing cutscenes, it definitely allowed me to sink in some of those nostalgic adorable moments and therapeutic farming experiences. What I got instead is the refined version of Harvest Moon series with a slight twist of Dorayaki.
Do note that newcomers to the Harvest Moon mechanics may find it very difficult at first to firmly grasp the mechanics due to the brief tutorials taught. Bear in mind to either experiment around, write notes, ask friends or do check up online for guides to gain a better understanding.