Four score and seven years ago, in 2016, an indie farming game named Stardew Valley was released on Steam that became a bonafide cultural phenomenon that never really went away. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably played it. And you know who else seems to have played it? Somebody on the Bokujou Monogatari production team.
This is not by any stretch a bad thing. Stardew Valley is an excellent game that a lot of people really like and made a whole bunch of money (presumably. I don’t care enough to look it up. Google is free), and Marvelous would’ve been dumb not to take some cues. And this game takes a lot of cues, even aside from the look and function of the toolbar. From the crafting system to the addition of a museum to one of the bachelors being basically just Blond Sebastian, Stardew Valley‘s influence is as much over this game as early BokuMono‘s influence is on Stardew Valley. It’s really sweet and cute.
Also sweet and cute? Most every goddamn other thing about this game.
I say “most”, of course, because this game is kinda sorta slightly very much about colonialism.
It’s the kind and gentle fantasy kind of colonialism where the place they were settling just happened to be uninhabited despite being in a fertile area that isn’t shown to be particularly difficult to get to, but “pioneers” is a loaded term associated with quite a lot of extremely not cute things like genocide and slavery. This isn’t the first time the series has had a resettlement theme, but in Island of Happiness it’s explained that the original inhabitants abandoned the place fairly recently due to extreme weather conditions. No such explanation is given here, which may or may not work to it’s detriment depending on how much thought the player puts into the basic premise (which, to be fair, most probably won’t, since this- like all BokuMono plots- is mostly an excuse), but it certainly doesn’t help. There is a character wandering around known only as Spirit that only you can see and whose designs have a vaguely indigenous flair, but it’s assumed that she’s the area’s resident Harvest Goddess and not the ghost of someone who used to live there.
That’s really the biggest point against the game. Aside from that, the only other real negatives (that aren’t mild nitpicks) is an occasional lag that can be a bit scary at times, though the worst thing that ever happened to me from it was getting momentarily disconnected from the internet; the characters don’t have much to say from day to day, to the point where I didn’t really get a feel for most of their personalities until I started triggering cutscenes; and the Egg Hunt festival was extremely underwhelming, since you don’t get to actually Hunt any Eggs. Instead, it’s just a cutscene of your character being excited to see eggs sitting out in obvious places around town.
There have been some grumbles about the removal of character portraits when talking, but I can’t really complain about that, if only because I’ve been thinking privately they should phase out portraits in favor of more expressive models pretty much since Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade did it really well.
Aside from that, the game is very, very good. It’s pretty, the characters (once you get to know them) are a likeable and eclectic lot, and the gameplay is just the right combination of relaxing and habit-forming. Progression can be as quick or slow as you like. I was able to end my first day with a chicken coop and had gotten through the first barrier by the second or third week of Spring, but didn’t get through the second until near the end of Summer because I wanted to slow down and upgrade everything I could before moving on to a new area.
But now it’s time to get to the part everyone really cares about: the marriage candidates. And more specifically, which one have I chosen to be my waifu?
Well, all the bachelorettes were taken out of the running right of the bat because I’m gay, and one of the bachelors was disqualified because his name is Jack and no I will not elaborate on why that is a deal breaker. I eventually narrowed it down to Ralph or Damon and was leaning toward Damon, only to settle on Iori because his first Heart Event made me laugh out loud and I have a policy of marrying candidates that make me laugh. Also apparently there’s a ninja trying to kill him or something and I need to know why.
Overall, this is a strong entry in the BokuMono franchise. All the entries since the hilariously-in-hindsight named A New Beginning have done a good job of building upon and improving from the previous one and this is no exception. I recommend it not only to Story of Seasons fans, but also anyone who likes Stardew Valley, or just chill, relaxing and/or cute games in general. Now look at all these other screenshots I took and couldn’t fit into the body of the review.