E3 2014: Hands-on with Story of Seasons, Xseed's 3DS farming sim

New moon

E3 2014: Hands-on with Story of Seasons, Xseed's 3DS farming sim
| Story of Seasons

So, quick background time.

Back in the fall, an article in Famitsu magazine announced a new Harvest Moon game for the 3DS.

That game's coming to North America as Story of Seasons, while Natsume's developed a new entry to the Harvest Moon franchise entitled Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley.

Natsume was nice enough to walk us through what we can expect from The Lost Valley, so we decided to stop by Xseed's booth at E3 to see what Story of Seasons had to offer.

Right off the bat, Story of Seasons looks like the spiritual heir to Harvest Moon: A New Beginning - but there are plenty of little enhancements that help it stand out.

The first enhancement we noticed were the graphics - it looks different from previous Harvest Moon games, in all the right ways.

Its camera angle's received a bit of a readjustment, and everything's in a nice, sharp focus. Xseed was also quick to point out that the 3D effects had undergone a good amount of polish, and from what we saw of Story of Seasons, its visual depth - both with 3D on and off - looked incredibly natural and pleasing.

But that's just the beginning of the changes in Story of Seasons. For starters, you're not the only farmer in town this time around - you'll have rivals.

These rivals won't come and burn your crops in the dead of night, but they will challenge you at the market by showing off better crops at lower prices.

Thankfully, Story of Seasons brings out a streamlined farming interface for you to manage your fields with - harvesting and planting is now done at a field level, and you can water your plants on the go.

This last bit might seem like a relatively minor enhancement, but it's indicative of the approach Story of Seasons takes towards a player's time.

Rather than stand at each field and water each plant individually, you can now "water as you go" - perhaps on your way to a date with that NPC you've got your eye on.

Whatever, we're not judging - but the ability to multitask is absolutely welcome, and a wonderful way to blend the two halves (farming and dating) that Story of Seasons offers to players.

Another nice little enhancement come in your character's ability to jump.

Don't expect robust platforming action from this mechanic, however since it's mainly included as a convenience.

Lead producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto explained that he included the jump feature to help players navigate the landscape of the town more naturally. Now instead of having to run around a small incline or fence, you can simply vault over it and be on your way.

"Think about it," Hashimoto began.

"When you go down a flight of steps, you don't take every single stair. It's the same with jumping here."

While Story of Seasons is undeniably more convenient and accessible to players on the go, it still maintains a firm focus on planting and harvesting - but even this system's been overhauled.

You’ll now receive NPC feedback cards when you ship your harvested goods or items off to sell, for example.

If your turnips are especially delicious, or your fabric leads to the launch of a fashion craze, you'll get a postcard back from the purchasing NPCs asking for more.

Another nice touch is the fact that the trading station's now connected directly to your closet and refrigerator - so there's no need to lug your items from home to sell them.

Add to this a franchise-first official collaboration with Nintendo that lets you grow iconic Mushrooms, Super Stars, or Fire Flowers - and you'll find a lot to like about the new farming system.

You'll also find a lot of help from friends and passersby players in StreetPass.

You'll be able to visit a friend's farm and help them with chores around the field and, similarly, they can pop over to your farm and lend a hand or a hoe as needed.

Hashimoto assured us that this isn't required to experience everything that Story of Seasons has to offer, but he also pointed out that having friends help is an invaluable way to grow some particularly difficult crops.

In sum, Story of Seasons introduces a host of changes to the farming sim formula - some big, some minor - while maintaining everything about the genre that's made it so popular to date.

We don't have a firm release date for Story of Seasons just yet, but Xseed reckons it'll launch in North America some time this winter.