Soapbox features allow our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random topics they’ve been chewing on. Today, Kate isn’t impressed with what she’s seen from Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life so far…
My very first Harvest Moon game was A Wonderful Life on GameCube, which is lucky because it’s one of the best. I’m not saying this just because I’m basically a nerd donut filled with yummy nostalgia jam, but because it really was a weird Game. There were characters who died. It had a full life cycle where you could live 30 years and then pass your farm on to your child. There’s a talking plant, a yeti, and a mysterious homeless man who sometimes robs your farm unless you train your dog to chase it.
It is not the only strange game in the history of the series. Harvest Moon DS was full of weird things, like the mermaid who lived in a mad scientist’s basement, or the fact that you had to murder your own animals to marry the witch princess. Friends of Mineral Town lets you marry a pond monster. Even as recently as Trio of Towns there was the possibility of marrying Woofio, a large dog mascot, and you are informed at some point that there is no one actually on the inside the suit, and it’s actually a human being who has been cursed by a forest spirit.
In later games, this characteristic weirdness slowly faded away. Pioneers of Olive Town, the latest game, is full of pretty annoying normal people, and while you can dress up as a cat or a buffalo any day if you want, that’s about as funky as things get.
Unfortunately, it looks like Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life might be heading in the same direction, which is getting on the train to Normie Town. We haven’t seen much of the game yet, it’s true, but we’ve been treated to plenty of character redesigns, and…well, they speak for themselves, really:
To address a potential elephant in the room: Cody (now named Gordy) was in desperate need of a redesign, as his original design was quite breed insensitive. But they took the complete opposite direction, turning him from a punk-looking muscle guy into someone who looks like he’ll sulk if you beat him at a football game.
And Gustava? He used to be this weird, pointy hippie with disconcertingly opaque sunglasses. Now it looks like an oat milk latte version of John Lennon without any sense of fashion. At least the glasses are still annoying, just in a cult leader way rather than a “guy who grows his own mushrooms, if you know what I mean.”
Don’t get me wrong, these character designs aren’t bad on their own. But compared to the originals, they look so sanitized, and the same. The characters don’t have the cartoonish, memorable nature they had in the original GameCube, and while they’re now much more realistic, they’re also a bit more innocuous. boring.
But I think my heart breaks the most for Nami. In the original game, he’s a quiet, aloof tomboy who leaves town at the end of freshman year unless you marry him. She is difficult to convince, because she is independent and distant, and because she stands aside; but that’s part of the reason why I like it so much. The other singles, Celia and Muffy (now named Cecilia and Molly), are both friendly and warm to you from the start, but Nami is her own person, and unlike the other two girls, she’s not particularly feminine in her presentation, preferring to wear Converse and flannel.
She’s still pretty gender-ambiguous in the remake, which I appreciate, but now she’s in makeup. It seems silly to be sad, and it seems like it doesn’t matter. Of course, androgynous and masking people can wear makeup; I do all the time! But this thin line of baby pink lip gloss is bigger than it looks.
Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons have always been slow when it comes to incremental additions to their games, dragging their feet in admitting that perhaps you can play as a girl and perhaps you can marry a person of the same sex. In the early 2000s, Nami — an androgynous character who doesn’t particularly care about the player, follows her own schedule, and is reluctant to open up to anyone — felt special, especially among the more celibate. typical.
It’s probably not too surprising to hear that a lot of people who enjoy farming games and life simulations are queer women like me, and although I very doubt that Nami (or Celia or Muffy) was ever made for this demographic, they nonetheless have their fans in the queer community, and Nami – even accidentally – is a character coded queer. LGBTQ+ gamers have always found ways to find their own stories in games, even if they’re forced to play as straight men over and over again, and marrying Nami was one of them.
Look, for the record, I went with Celia, because I was a kid and she was the easiest to woo, but Nami felt like a representation of what a woman could be – a representation I didn’t. haven’t seen much elsewhere.
Maybe Nami’s childishness was part of the reason A Wonderful Life was so weird. At the time, it felt like Harvest Moon wasn’t afraid to be a little different, because it was in a category of its own. It wasn’t competing with anything, or vying for new players with a shiny new feature. He wasn’t afraid to have characters that maybe weren’t typical. For players like me, we were weird and what we wanted was weird.
But when one door closes, another opens. For the first time in Harvest Moon history, players will be able to select “non-binary” as their protagonist’s gender, as confirmed by XSEED themselves. And you can marry whoever you want, which means same-sex marriage is possible again. So, I can forgive them for giving Nami lip gloss, and I can even forgive them for making Gustafa a boring hipster, because player representation is the kind of progress that really matters.
Also, if I’m being totally honest… Nami is still hot.
Do you agree with us that the character redesigns in A Wonderful Life are a bit boring? Are you still going to marry Nami? Tell us in the comments!