Title: Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Release Date: November 2, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Simulation, Farming
The Story of Seasons series has been around for quite a long time and has long been considered the pioneer of the farming game genre, despite its somewhat convoluted story here in the West. And I always enjoyed its calm and pleasant atmosphere. But what happens when you take that and then merge it with one of Japan’s most iconic series of all time? That’s what we’ll be checking out today with the release of Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom.
This is a stand-alone sequel to the first Doraemon Story of Seasons game, released in 2019, as a collaboration between Marvelous and Bandai Namco, with the latter strongly pushing the Doraemon brand in the Western territory.
Despite that, it’s hard to compare it with the main series since, aside from the characters, it’s otherwise a tale of its own because, for the majority of the time, you’ll be playing as his friend Noby, with Doraemon himself taking a backseat, only appearing during cutscenes, or if you enable a certain mode, but more on that later.
The story starts when Noby and his friends all run away from home after a disagreement with their parents. Noby suggests that they should travel to another world beyond the stars. And so, with the help of Doraemon, they take off in a rocket straight to a planet that looks very much like Earth, where they meet a young boy named Lumis. After treating his wounds, he introduces them to an old run-down farm that his late father used to take care of.
Unfortunately, things don’t go so well for the quintet, as the Queen of the kingdom summons them. She confiscates Doraemon’s Gadgets because of their potential “threat” to the kingdom, which regrettably includes the spaceship required to return to their home planet. In an attempt to regain the Queen’s trust, you’ll have to revive the farm and get friendly with the townspeople so that Her Highness, in all her mercy, returns all your stuff.
Regarding the gameplay, well… its Story of Seasons. There’s not much to say here. This might sound negative, but it’s just like how the series has always presented itself. You have the farming chores, which are watering your crops, taking care of your animals, and shipping your products, and alongside all of that, you have mining, fishing, and catching bugs. I will say, though, I was happily surprised that certain elements that have been omitted in the latest mainline titles nowadays are back. In particular, bug catching, which we haven’t seen since Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns.
Compared to the first game, a couple of quality-of-life improvements were made, with one of the significant changes being adding a To-Do List, letting you know what you need to do next to progress the story. Further, the Bulletin Board and menus will now properly give you the business hours of vital stores and event start times, allowing for easier time management. The art style also remains the classic watercolor style painting, but I found the typography choices this time around much better when looking at screenshots of its predecessor.
However, not everything is roses and butterflies, especially regarding the in-game map, which is initially very confusing. Since it uses a fixed perspective, some of the paths in-game don’t quite look like how they do on the map, so it might take a while for you to understand where each path leads.
Moreover, there’s also the frustration you get with your pitiful 10-item slot bag, which will fill up alarmingly quickly. Of course, both of those points can be mitigated later, with the former having an unlockable Doraemon gadget that helps and the latter being upgradeable by spending a pretty penny at the General Store. Still, it will make the early game a bit frustrating at first.
It’s worth noting that although the To-Do List is now an option, the world is your oyster. There are no time limits or deadlines to add unneeded pressure. You can spend your days idly for as long as you need without worrying about requirements or a looming bad ending over your head if you take too long, adding to the quaint and chill nature that the Story of Seasons titles never failed to deliver.
Another nifty addition is the offline multiplayer mode. Connecting two controllers allows a second player to control Doraemon while you control Noby. This allows for greater efficiency in doing farm tasks, but what’s worth noting is that Noby and Doraemon share stamina. So while you can get tasks done far quicker with a second player, you both need to consider that factor unless you want to both end up in the clinic from exhaustion.
Time flows a bit differently when compared to its predecessor. Initially, one second would equate to one in-game minute, but in Friends of the Great Kingdom, that was slowed down to two seconds per in-game minute instead. As a result, you’ll undoubtedly have a lot of free time in the game’s early stages, with your bottleneck being only your stamina and the aforementioned tiny bag at first. Thankfully, as you upgrade your tools and sell crops, you’ll mostly be able to mitigate those issues.
Additionally, once you get to a farther point in the game, you can see how Doraemon’s gadgets change the gameplay flow. For example, you get the Anywhere Door, which you can use to warp anywhere within the map, a Rain Cloud that will water the crops for you, and even a flute that will adapt Nobito to swim underwater, broadening the number of places you can explore. With various gadgets to obtain, it puts the whole fact that Doraemon has “a Gadget for about everything,” as seen in his cartoons.
Due to the collaborative nature, another feature from the mainline games is absent: Romance. Or at least, not in a sense you might’ve been used to if you’ve played any Story of Seasons game. But that works to its advantage because not everyone is hyper-focused on romance. Not to mention that would not work considering the youthful protagonist. However, you can befriend the townspeople and enjoy festivals together relatively easily. Before I had even reached the 15th day of Spring, Lumis was almost on his way to a green heart, and I didn’t even give him that many gifts.
Doraemon Story of Seasons: Friends of the Great Kingdom is an excellent sequel to an already delightful game, taking what its predecessor already did marvelously and improving on it even further with more locations to explore. Even if you don’t know a single shred of the Doraemon series (don’t worry, I don’t either!), you can still enjoy the cute interactions between Noby and his friends since it’s fundamentally Story of Seasons, but with a couple of tweaks and enhancements to fit the aesthetic.
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