Doraemon Story of Seasons Review — Grinding with Doraemon and Friends
Doraemon Story of Seasons is quite disappointing in how incorporates all the flaws the Story of Seasons series eliminated or blunted over the years.
When I first heard about Doraemon Story of Seasons, I definitely thought it’d be a good idea. The game’s atmosphere, music and art direction all mix both the worlds of Doraemon and Story of Seasons in the best way possible. You can tell the developers at Studio Brownies, led by ex-Mana series artist Shinichi Kameoka, did a great job. However, it becomes clear that everything isn’t as much fun anymore once you’ve spent a few hours actually playing the game.
Doraemon Story of Seasons puts players in the shoes of series protagonist Nobita, who is suddenly teleported to another world with his friends. We’ve got Shizuka, who is Nobi’s best friend and also his crush. We also have Suneo, the snobby kid with a good heart. And Gian, who seems to bully Nobita but does think about his friends. The four kids are accompanied by Doraemon, the blue robot cat from the future who holds an infinite amount of magical gadgets in his pocket. The group ends up in the rustic town of Natura, where everyone, kids included, is inclined to work. This is where the Story of Seasons crossover kicks in, with Nobita’s work being to take care of an abandoned farm. The game’s story is pretty good, as certain events I got to see did hint at some pretty deep themes. Doraemon, like every Japanese kids show, always has such themes.
Nearly all the features the Story of Seasons series added through its various entries in 24 years can be found in Doraemon Story of Seasons. Nobita can tidy up the farm, tile its soil, plant some seeds and water them. Nobita can also fish, capture bugs, mine ore, upgrade his tools and farm facilities, raise various animals, or forage in the forest. However, most of these activities aren’t developed as much as in other Story of Seasons games. And seeing we control Nobita instead of a customizable character, certain staples of the Story of Seasons series are also missing like a romance and marriage system.
One particularity in this game, unlike the rest of the Story of Seasons series, is how Nobi can take a nap anytime, anywhere. In other words, you can trade in a selected number of hours for stamina recovery. This is also in line with how Nobi is pretty lazy in the original Doraemon series.
Story of Seasons always had multiple weaknesses inherent to its farming game systems: heavy grinding, repetitiveness, and the feeling that things are moving too slowly. That being said, most of the games managed to blunt these weaknesses by various means. Sadly, Doraemon Story of Seasons fails completely to do so. The game is themed around spending slow living days with Nobita, but all of it is way too slow, grindy, and repetitive, coupled with a big feeling of futility. Instead of relaxation, you’ll only feel frustration in the long run. Multiple questionable gameplay choices make certain elements less enjoyable than in the first Story of Seasons from 1996.
Farming is way too annoying considering you’d even earn more working as a game journalist, and upgrading Nobita’s tools barely makes it any faster. The mine having only nine floors means the materials are less evenly spread out, making it hard to find rare ore even on the ninth floor. This results in a ton of mine grinding, seeing how resource greedy upgrades are. Doraemon Story of Seasons should have also stressed out the importance of stocking gear-shaped junk ore at the beginning of the game. Simple things like checking tomorrow’s weather from your house aren’t possible either. You’ll have to walk all the way up to the bulletin board in town. This leads me to another big problem in the game: Nobita’s dashing speed is incredibly slow.
Being a veteran of the series, I built a stable as soon as possible, which, as expected, unlocked a horse for faster movement. A year in the game is made up of the four seasons, and by the end of Summer, you’ll probably have unlocked Doraemon’s Anywhere Door. It allows you to fast travel, but I honestly doubt most players will have the drive to play this far.
There’s an overall sense of aimlessness in how Doraemon Story of Seasons is built and players don’t get pushed forward with clear goals. The main story deals with how Nobi and friends are looking for a way to get home. To do so, one of their objectives is finding all the gadgets Doraemon lost when they were teleported. Most of these need to be obtained from the various inhabitants of the town, by befriending them. Once you hit the level 3 threshold though, raising the characters’ friendship levels becomes excruciatingly slow. The townspeople’s charisma is very uneven too. Some characters are pretty interesting, like lonewolf fisherwoman Sandy, but there are also characters I still don’t remember the names of after playing for 20 hours. Every single character also has the exact same dialogue lines during any festival of the year.
The sense of aimlessness also stems from how main story events and character-related events are nearly indissociable. You’ll never know if the cutscene you just saw is supposed to be part of the main story, or if it is part of a character’s friendship event. And again, you’ll have no clear indication of what to do next, besides grinding friendship levels, expecting to trigger something new. The best example of this is how I ended up finding a chest I needed to show to a certain character, but I couldn’t trigger any event to ask her to check it, because my friendship level didn’t reach a certain amount yet. Being unable to move the story forward because you need to grind friendship first is extremely annoying.
Certain story events will require you to give an item to a certain character, but the game doesn’t keep track of it in any way. You’ll definitely forget which item it is and who to give it to unless you take screenshots. Some of these storylines will require you to get items you’ll only find much later, or only in a specific season. This includes whiting only being fishable in summer and how you’ll probably leave that poor wounded puppy in the mountains for a whole season until you unlock the Doraemon gadget needed to save him. Because of all these frustrations, I didn’t have the time nor the courage the grind all the way to Doraemon Story of Seasons’ ending.
One of my favorite aspects of the Doraemon franchise isn’t really incorporated in the game’s story either as we directly control Nobita. In the Doraemon series, most stories will have Suneo and Gian bothering Nobita; however, the interesting thing about Doraemon is how Nobita’s problems ultimately come from within himself, teaching the audience they can be their worst enemy. Nobita doesn’t screw up because of Gian bullying him and stealing Doraemon’s gadgets from him, he always plays himself. Either because he’s impatient, greedy, lazy, wants to impress Shizuka, or don’t listen to Doraemon’s instructions. I believe this is what makes Nobita so interesting, so this aspect not being in the game was a disappointment.
Doraemon Story of Seasons is definitely the worst Story of Seasons game I have ever played. If you want your farming fix, you should get the Story of Seasons Friends of Mineral Town remake on Switch. Or grab Rune Factory 4 Special if you’d like well-implemented action RPG elements in your farming life.