Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life director talks remaking the classic almost 20 years later

Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life
(Image credit: Marvelous/XSEED)

Farming sims continue to grow in popularity, with more filling the genre today than you can swing a scythe at. But before there was Stardew Valley or any one of the best farming games we've seen in recent years, there was Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. Released almost two decades ago, the agricultural RPG set down its roots on the PS2 and GameCube, and continues to hold fond memories for many who played it back in the early '00s. I myself grew up getting lost in the original adventure, but I've always wished it was a more open experience in certain ways. 

Now, with the release of Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, developer Marvelous Inc is bringing back the classic farming adventure with some meaningful changes in store. While the remake aims to recapture the beloved classic for returning players, it also introduces improvements and additions to appeal more broadly to modern audiences. As director Rika Hoshina explains, catering to old and new players alike is never a simple task.

"The biggest challenge was balancing my feelings as both a fan and a director, since I was a big fan of the original work myself," Hoshina says. "For example, part of the fun of the original game was the laborious nature of living on a farm. However, when we interviewed recent Story of Seasons players during development, we received some comments that called that sort of gameplay difficult or hard to understand, which helped me understand that not everyone felt the same way about the game as I did. Right up until the very end of development, I was determined to find the right balance between the desire to reproduce the original work as it was and the desire to bring A Wonderful Life to more people."

"You're the main character" 

Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life

(Image credit: Marvelous/XSEED)

Farming sims have come a long way since the original game was released, and if you were to tuck into Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life today, you'd likely find it feels dated - not least in terms of the "laborious nature of living on a farm", which often slowed down the pacing of the game. The original release was also restrictive regarding the appearance of your character and who you could marry in the Forgotten Valley. Instead of being able to choose your own look, you would be locked into playing as a default male farmer who couldn't be customized. You'd then be able to develop a relationship with three different characters who could become your wife. 

Happily, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has made some big and important changes in this respect. Now when you begin the adventure, you can pick from a variety of customization options to create your own character, including choosing male, female, or non-binary pronouns. And regardless of what you select, you'll be able to marry any of the eight bachelors and bachelorettes in the Valley. When it came to bringing the remake to life, bringing in more options and new perspectives was a top priority for the team at Marvelous. 

"From the very beginning of working on this project, I wanted to create a more immersive experience for all players around the world so they could fully enjoy A Wonderful Life," Hoshina says. "The first thing we decided when adding more options for marriage, character customization, and gender was to avoid approaching it solely from a Japan-based perspective. Fortunately, we had plenty of talented team members in our North American and European group companies, with whom we had many discussions as we developed the game."

"As the title of the game suggests, the game is meant to simulate living a wonderful life," Hoshina adds. "Taking part in a simulated life means you’re the main character, and by increasing the number of customization options, we hope that more players will feel as if they are authentically living their own lives on the farm." 

Fresh perspective  

Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life

(Image credit: Marvelous/XSEED)

"We hope that people who played the original game, as well as those who are playing Story of Seasons for the first time, will pick up this title and feel that they have experienced a truly wonderful life!"

Rika Hoshina, director

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life will welcome a new resident by the name of Gordy, and while we'll see all of the old characters returning, some have been redesigned with modern audiences in mind. As Hoshina explains, the decision to do so was to "reflect the changes in society since the release of the original game and better convey their characteristics to players of A Wonderful Life in 2023."

Hoshina adds: "For example, there is a former athlete named Sully who lives in Forgotten Valley. He had a stopwatch in the original game, but we changed it to a smartwatch in the remake. In 2023, it would be more natural for someone who loves exercising to own a more modern device. Although I left many of these changes to our character designer, Igusa Matsuyama, we held discussions with members of our North American and European group companies. There were a lot of factors and changes in social values since the original release that the Japanese development team alone were not able to keep up with, so we searched for the best way to present the appeal of the characters to current players when making our final decisions."

"Therefore, from a development standpoint, we decided not to do a complete redesign, but some residents underwent some adjustments that we determined were necessary to best present them to current players. We hope that the memories you have of the original characters remain the same, and that you will be able to experience deeper interactions with the characters in the remake version." 

A lot of work has also been put into the family side of life in the Forgotten Valley, with more scenes and events to "expand upon both peaceful everyday occurrences as well as more tumultuous times you spend with your family". Alongside festivals that you can attend together, family members will also help out on the farm. As Hoshina highlights, the team put "a lot of effort into enhancing the family dynamic" for the new version of the game. 

Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life

(Image credit: Marvelous/XSEED)

It's fantastic to see the remake bring in some meaningful changes so we can see ourselves reflected in the game and live out a wonderful life of our own. The option to marry anyone of our choosing also makes the fresh take on the farming sim feel far more inclusive than the original. From a personal perspective, nostalgia certainly has a big part to play in my excitement about the release of Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life on June 27. 

But its biggest draw is undoubtedly thanks to the fact that it isn't rigidly sticking to its outdated roots where it matters most. Since the original was held back by the limitations of its hardware, the team at Marvelous saw an opportunity to bring a new version to life that they hope new and returning players can enjoy.

"A Wonderful Life was a title that many fans have been requesting as a remake," Hoshina says. "There were a number of hardware limitations and technical issues at the time of its original release, and the developers saw this as a chance to create a new version of the game without those restrictions. In the end, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the group company team members in North America and Europe, this remake was made possible. We hope that people who played the original game, as well as those who are playing Story of Seasons for the first time, will pick up this title and feel that they have experienced a truly wonderful life!" 

Story of Seasons A Wonderful is coming to PC, Xbox Series X, PS5, and Nintendo Switch on June 27, 2023. Keep track of more exciting releases with our roundup of new games for 2023

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.