Preview: Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns looks more promising than Harvest Moon

Though I can appreciate some of the improvements that are coming to Harvest Moon with the next installment, Skytree Village, I doubt I'll play that game. Now Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, on the other hand, I'm certain I'll play. That's partially because, as the true successor to the Harvest Moon series (despite the branding confusion), it features a bit more in terms of polish and gameplay advancements. After playing the game for myself, as well as playing the last Story of Seasons a whole bunch, I can say I like what's there so far, and I want to see more.

A Diverse Landscape

As its title suggests, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns will feature three different in-game towns for you to visit. Each town is thematically different — you've got a Western town, an Asian town, and a tropical town. The change in scenery between towns is pretty great, and it'll ensure that players don't get bored looking at the same kinds of areas. I walked around the Western and tropical towns for a while, and I was glad to see that they were massively different.

In addition to all of the theme-driven diversity, the game is just really nice-looking. Graphically it looks a lot like the previous entry, which is to say it's filled with cutesy characters and colorful charm. That's not a bad thing, though, as anyone who enjoys these games will tell you. And thanks to the different locales, the scenery benefits from even more color variety. Compared to the upcoming Harvest Moon, which looks a bit bland and uninteresting, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is a lot nicer to look at.

As you've come to expect from farming RPGs, there are seasonal festivals to look forward to, different tasks for you to complete, loads of agricultural work for you to get into, and a few pets for you to take in. This time around, you'll encounter roughly 20 varieties of dogs and cats. As a dog lover myself, I can't wait to see what furry critters I come across.

The actual farming is typical Story of Seasons fare. You can till and fertilize land, plant, water, and raise crops, and then harvest the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. All of these actions use up stamina, so it's best to work wisely and call it a day when your meter drops significantly. Like in the previous game, you'll be able to sell, trade, and ship your crops to other towns. Doing so will not only help you prosper by bringing in cash, but the towns will also grow and improve, unlocking new scenarios for you to experience.

Family and Friends

The original Story of Seasons wasn't exactly under-populated, but this next entry will include even more NPCs — about 45 — for you to interact with. Marvelous seems to want to create a more lively environment this time around, which is why relatives will play a more important role. Don't be surprised if you're going on about your day and your character's mom and sister drop by for a visit. I personally dig this concept, and it's going to be fun seeing what kinds of scenarios family visits trigger.

Just like the player character has relatives, so will NPCs. So if you're trying to win the heart of a particular marriage candidate, be aware that he or she will also have an extended family for you to deal with. Yes, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns will include one of the more awkward parts of real-life dating. How these interactions will play out is still a mystery, but hopefully it makes for some comedic moments and conversations — not to mention some uncomfortable situations — between characters.

While playing the Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns demo, I asked about the possibility of same-sex courting. I was informed that this installment won't include that feature. At the very least, however, players will be able to create their characters using male or female clothing and hair options regardless of gender. That's a step up compared to the next Harvest Moon, which doesn't allow anything of the sort. An XSEED Games rep did tell me that while this entry doesn't feature same-sex relationships, the company is “getting there” and hopes to incorporate such an element down the road.

Farming RPGs Are Fun, Dude

I enjoy epic RPG quests, running and gunning action, massive action-adventure outings, and rad platforming romps, but I also like a good farming sim. I thoroughly enjoyed Story of Seasons, and this forthcoming installment seems like a worthy follow-up. The inclusion of three unique towns, more NPCs, and that familiar farming gameplay are all things I'm looking forward to. After spending time with both this game and Harvest Moon: Skytree Village at E3, I can tell you with utmost certainty that I'll be picking up Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns.

Admittedly, the openness and leniency of Stardew Valley kind of spoiled me. I don't know that Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns will be as geared toward player discovery as that wonderful farming adventure was. And given that this game will include a seven-day tutorial just like its predecessor, I'm a bit worried that the initial moments will be too restrictive. I sincerely hope this tutorial isn't as dreadfully lengthy as the previous one.

Minor gripes aside, I'm still pretty stoked to get to play another one of these games for hours on end. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is coming to the 3DS sometime in 2017.