March 6, 2017
Not too off-the-beaten-path for the series, this time around your male or female protagonist (who you can customize to a degree and name) desperately wants to become a farmer after visiting a petting farm when they were younger. Now older, an opportunity presents itself when your father, who travels on business, once again is moving the family to another location. So instead of moving, you decide to make your way out to the rural town of Westown to claim your try at farming.
After some tutorials, you eventually get your very own farm and tools, as well as being able to interact and meet with Westown's local residents. But remember the name of the game, Trio of Towns? That comes into play as the game has two gated-off towns, the Asian-inspired Tsuyukusa and the tropical-inspired Lulukoko, that you can't initially access with their own unique residents, bachelors, bachelorettes, livestock, crops, recipes, clothes and even festivals. While some players might dislike the unlocking mechanism in place, in practice it works well as there's more than enough to grasp your mind around with just the single town initially and having everything available to the player would have turned newcomers in particular off.
Of course, for those who are fans of this unique farm simulation genre, you’re likely already aware of another indie game that came out recently called Stardew Valley. While they aim at two different crowds, with the latter being aimed more at the older style of players naturally, there is something regarding its characters that should be mentioned. XSEED Games did a wonderful job with Trio of Towns’s localization, as each location feels unique from one another and the characters have their own personalities.
Where the difference lies is in how the games build out the characters over time. Stardew Valley goes for a more layered approach, while Trio of Towns is more closer to the standard formula you’ve come to expect from the series where they stick to a particular archetype generally. Each approach has their own merits and pitfalls, but it’s a key difference nonetheless.
The core gameplay mechanics, though, are still as solid as ever. After getting access to your farm, you need to start plowing the fields, sowing seeds and watering them to eventually grow crops to sell. The handy 3x3 system for plowing, sowing and watering from the last Story of Seasons returns again here, which makes things much easier and faster. Fertilizer also plays more of a role here, as you can use it to change various traits of the crop such as its color, size, sweetness, etc.
That said, early on you tend to run out of stamina quickly and you don't have many stamina-recovering food items available, so you will need to head to Westown’s local restaurant to refill until you can get enough money and materials to build a kitchen in your farm’s house. Needing to do this also forces the player to head into the towns to meet up with the locals, as you’ll need to go here to do things such as upgrading your tools, or completing part-time jobs which increase your overall rank with said village. Doing so is beneficial, as you unlock new scenes, tasks and items for completing them.
Of course, there’s also livestock to take care of like in past games. Initially you only have enough room for one animal each in the barn and coop, but you can upgrade them over time. The one odd issue I came across is that for the animals that you need to brush, the game doesn't have a reliable indicator to tell you when you’re finished. Surprisingly during an job it does, but outside of this on your farm it doesn’t.
Graphically, it’s very similar to the previous outing but with the major difference being the frame rate. For those who played the original, you’ll know that even in the opening tutorial sequences the game would routinely dip into the lower frames, even with 3D disabled. While there’s occasional bouts in Trio of Towns, it’s not anywhere to the same degree as with the prior entry thankfully. While it would have been nice to seen a graphical boost, fixing the framerate issue (for the most part) is an acceptable compromise. Musically, it’s very similar to the previous game and other games in the franchise in the sense that they’re catchy beats that fit the areas they play in.
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is a refined and enhanced version of the mold that was started out with the original Story of Seasons. It fixes many of the issues in that game while adding some new aspects of its own to the mix, but also adds some flaws unique to this entry alone. I’d like to see a future entry branch out a bit more, but this is a solid base nonetheless outside of some blemishes.