I played the original farming sim Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life on my GameCube religiously as an 11-year-old. I don’t know why I was so drawn to it as a kid. I had no interest in farming in real life, but somehow was transfixed by it in a video game. I married the girl next door Celia, and we raised a son and grew old together in the small town of Forget-Me-Not Valley. It was a special game to me then, but 19 years have passed since, and as a 30-year-old who came out as gay only a few years after playing A Wonderful Life, that original game has a cloud hanging over it for me. The old game feels like an alternate timeline of a Wonderful Life I might have had if I hadn’t come to terms with who I was a few years after I initially played it. I will always have love for that game, but the life it proposed doesn’t sound too wonderful to me now.
Revisiting Harvest Moon as Story of Seasons shows how much the series has grown
I’ve been playing Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, the modernized remake coming to PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on June 27, and even after nearly 20 years, I’m surprised at how well I still remember Forget-Me-Not Valley (now called Forgotten Valley, but it’s hardly the only thing that has been renamed). Like muscle memory, I navigate the small town, stopping by Vesta’s farm to pick up seeds, stop by the dig site to dig up valuable items, and go fishing on the beach. Even if names have changed, this is the town I spent a hundred hours in as a child, and it’s nostalgic to see old friends again. But there’s something new here that makes the entire trip back to Forgotten Valley feel special in a way the original Harvest Moon game doesn’t: I have a husband now.
Gordy is a strong, silent type. He’s an artist who specializes in sculpture and can often be found in his trailer toiling away at his next piece, but each time I ask him on a date his stoic demeanor melts away into someone sweet and bashful. It was quick, but A Wonderful Life dictates you must get engaged within the first in-game year, so I presented Gordy with a blue feather as a proposal, and after a talk on the beach, we decided to spend this wonderful life together.
That’s where I’m at right now in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Gordy and I have been married for a few years, and we have an adorable son we named August who takes after his Papa Gordy and wants to be an artist. We live on my farm and tend the crops and animals together. I pass by Cecilia, as she’s called in the remake, with a knowing smile and wave to a life I’m no longer living. Instead, I have a life with a family that looks like one I might have one day.
The Wonderful Life remake lets queer players be who they want to be
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life makes a farming sim classic long-beloved to queer people representative of them. There’s same-sex marriage, yes, but it also is flexible in gender identity. Character creation is completely unrestricted, letting you choose your features, hairstyles, outfits, and pronouns completely independent of each other. No romance is gated by gender, so you’re free to create the life and family you want, rather than one shackled by the same restrictions of a 20-year-old game.
My only complaint on this front is that, while you can choose between he, she, or they pronouns regardless of what your character’s form looks like, you can’t change these after you start the game. I’d like to see developer Marvelous change this in a future update, as some of us are still figuring out who we are and what words fit how we see ourselves. Right now, I’m rocking a slicked-over hairstyle, and at any moment, I’m able to go to my bedroom mirror and change my hairstyle and outfit. If I felt so compelled, I could wear the skirt/jeans combo originally worn by the female protagonist in Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life or wear her ponytail hairstyle. But the pronouns are the only part that I can’t change on the fly, which seems out of sync with the rest of the game’s customization options.
In this remake/remaster-driven market, I’m always on the lookout for how old games can be made modern and inclusive to queer people. For every Final Fantasy VII Remake, which made Honey Bee Inn into a queer space led by a confident queer man, there’s a Mass Effect: Legendary Edition that maintains the first two games’ heteronormative status quo. Despite one notable oversight, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life falls firmly into the former camp, and it feels almost healing to return to this game and experience it how that 11-year-old gay kid should have on his GameCube. He might not have known any differently, but both he and the world are older, wiser, and thanks to this remake, can live a life worth calling wonderful in Forgotten Valley.