Doraemon Story of Seasons Review
Doraemon is a familiar anime character that you’ve definitely seen if you’ve been to an Asian night market, or explored many multicultural centers but if you go to Japan, Doraemon is a bit of an icon. The blue robotic cat is mistaken as multiple interpretations such as a bear, raccoon or a dog and these confusions are expertly addressed in the quirky Nintendo Switch title which is available now.
The game starts with a beautiful cinematic that would’ve felt right at home as part of one of the episodes of the Doraemon anime as Doraemon and Noby join their friends to plant and nourish a strange seed they discover which creates an Elder Tree that creates a storm that sweeps the group away through time and space. These cinematics are brilliantly sprinkled throughout the game as the days go by and the storyline unfolds. This trip has the group in a strange land with people who don’t speak their language, but thankfully Doraemon traversed time and space with translation gummies among other useful tools. Though the game has a lot of setup, which amounts to roughly the first hour of pressing the A button, it pays off as it slowly unfolds when the days of the calendar fall one by one and the seasons change as they do for us.
The primary gameplay of Doraemon Story of Season is farming simulation which will be very comfortable to anyone who’s played a Harvest Moon game and might come off as too easy for Stardew Valley fans. For anyone who hasn’t played a farming simulation game, you’re basically given a dilapidated farm which you have to clean up before you can plant on it. Slowly you chip away at sticks, rocks, boulders and trees to plant crops. You’re able to sell the materials collected from these chores or you can trade the materials for upgrades to your farm from the carpenter and Big G, one of your time travelling friends who acts as the carpenter’s apprentice. This option acts as your first big decision as more money will get you better tools or livestock such as a chicken or a cow, or you can really expand on the farm before populating it. Personally, I sold the initial materials to buy a chicken but I initially made the mistake of breaking things down in my field without looting before falling asleep and all of the materials disappeared. Damn you, Big G!
Fans of the Doraemon Anime and Manga Will Delight in Story of Seasons
One of the primary mechanics that drives the farming in Doraemon Story of Seasons is a stamina meter. Eating and sleeping fill the stamina meter which drains with every swing of a tool, every time you water crops and every time you move chickens. Thankfully, there’s a nap button to help regain stamina, making napping essential at first. After making enough coin you can make a kitchen and cook your crops into stamina gauge-filling delights or you can even purchase meals from a restaurant in town. Another decision comes up when you have to decide whether to cook or sell crops as the better quality the crop, the better the value. Fertilizer is used to raise the quality of crops and the cost of the fertilizer pays off in no time. Livestock needs regular attention and each animal can get sick which requires you to purchase medicine from the clinic to heal them. This is a nice touch but doesn’t work too well as I had a chicken that stayed sick regardless of how much medicine I gave her. The best way to avoid them getting sick is to keep them inside overnight and during nasty weather, but it feels like the first one is destined to get sick regardless.
While cutscenes play out like episodes of a Doraemon anime in Doraemon Story of Seasons, conversation segments play out more like pages of the manga. The character portraits of each personality is animated to reflect their emotions and the frame even shakes gently as they speak, sometimes the whole screen reacts to a collective emotion the group shares. The characters are slightly voice acted in Japanese. Only small words such as “konnichiwa” and “arigato,” are voiced alongside entertaining reactions from Doraemon such as “whoa!” and “huh!” These short voice clips add to the charm of the game and are small, bite sized learning moments that will be particularly helpful to the younger generations playing the game who may not know these essential words. The aesthetics of the game are cute but everything has a slight filter to it as if everything is being played on a piece of parchment that’s faded on the corners. This compliments the game more as the seasons change (one of the titular themes) and the environment reflects that as you’d expect. It feels almost like reading through a storybook about how seasons impact nature and the importance of keeping our world and animals healthy. Similar to Animal Crossing, there’s a bulletin board in town and calendar that include seasonal events and there’s constantly something to do. With the long wait until March, Animal Crossing fans should consider Doraemon Story of Seasons to fill the void in the meantime. All of the visuals come together to create a great package for anime fans whether they’re familiar with Doraemon or they’ve only dabbled in Studio Ghibli movies. It looks great whether you’re playing the game docked or portably and this is definitely appreciated as I’m someone who plays the Switch on the go more than at home. If you purchased a Switch Lite, this is a title that you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing graphical fidelity just because you opted for the portable device
Doraemon Story of Season is Like a Super Anime, Slightly Toned-Down Harvest Moon
Though there are many things to do in Doraemon Story of Season, I feel like it lacks the challenge of some other farming simulator games, but this is reflected in the ESRB rating of E for Everyone rather than E 10+. The game is perfect for its target demographic but for someone who’s already played Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley to death, I wanted some challenge at the end of a few months in-game. I enjoyed fishing, but it was way easier than the fishing in Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon as if I didn’t immediately press the reel button, I still wasn’t punished if I reacted within a few seconds. I like that the game provides many decisions right off the bat but dialogue decisions come down to a yes or no answer which drags down the storytelling which is otherwise great. The story particularly improves when the kids and Doraemon discovered how they ended up in Shizen Town which is a tale unfolded by an alleged Goddess. Any fans of the Doraemon manga and anime should almost certainly purchase this farming simulator for the Nintendo Switch if only for the story. I enjoyed the farming mechanics but got frustrated with my eternally sick chicken, especially as the clinic wasn’t always open for business (like other locations in town). Though this isn’t Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing, it’s a good void filler until New Horizons.
**Switch code was provided by the publisher**
- Cute visuals
- Great story
- No downgrade for portability
- Seasons and events
- Not enough challenge
- Too familiar
- Uncurable Chicken