Ludus is best boi in Trio of Towns
Image: Marvelous XSEED

Welcome to the latest instalment in our nostalgia-inducing column, Memory Pak, where we're going to be doing a deep-dive into some of the most memorable moments in gaming – good and bad. Today is the five-year anniversary of the release of Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns in Europe, and Kate has some fond memories of a certain character...

I've played almost every Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons game, and what I've learned from those hundreds of hours of playtime is that all of them, like any good boyband, have one standout marriage candidate.

My all-time favourites of the series still hold a place in my heart: Story of Seasons' Raeger, a sweet and handsome chef; A New Beginning's shy assistant to the prince, Sanjay; and Will, the polite gentleman who lives on a boat in Sunshine Islands. I guess you could say I like the nice guys, which is a bit boring of me.

But of all of these, my number one will always be the muscular, blue-haired carpenter Ludus from Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns — a game which I bought exactly five years ago today when it was released in Europe.

Ludus is best boi in Trio of Towns
This is Ludus in his wedding garb, which does not involve wearing a shirt — Image: Marvelous XSEED

As is traditional in all Story of Seasons games, Trio of Towns has its marriage candidates appear slowly as you develop your farm and your friendships. Usually, the later characters are more interesting than the ones available from the start, and Trio of Towns' harder-to-get romantic prospects include a pink-haired festival host, a man who is always inside of a dog mascot costume, and a literal god.

he's not even hard to woo — his preferred gifts include literal twigs

Ludus — a blue-haired resident of Lulukoko, a Hawaiian-themed tropical beach town — is not one of these hard-to-get spouses. He appears at the start of the player's third week in the game, as part of their introduction to Lulukoko, and he's not even hard to woo — his preferred gifts include literal twigs.

Nevertheless, although he may not be flashy or rare, Ludus is the best partner in the game. He's calm and gentle, but his romantic scenes betray a passionate, affectionate side to him; he cares for everyone in his small town, and eventually, your kids; and to top it all off, he's attractive. For me, it's rare that I find characters attractive in a Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons game, because the character portraits usually end up being "cute anime boy" or "angry dad" (which is certainly some people's thing, but not mine), or even some combination of the two.

Ludus, in contrast, does not look like a child. Or a dad. He looks age-appropriate, and he's got that sort of smouldery, looking-up-from-under-his-eyebrows thing going on. His cutscenes early on often revolve around him secretly thinking you're cute, and getting a little flustered if you show interest, because he's trying to hide his own feelings in order to not make you uncomfortable. What a gentleman!

It's hard to portray romance and affection in dialogue that is constrained by a number of factors

I actually do a fair bit of video game writing myself, outside of my job here at Nintendo Life — and one of my current projects involves writing dates for dateable characters in a farm and life sim. So it may not be much of a surprise that I think about this kind of writing a lot. It's hard to portray romance and affection in dialogue that is constrained by a number of factors, not least of which is the size of the text box. It's even harder to build up a portrait of an entire relationship in just a handful of cutscenes — of course, everyone wants to add more writing, but it's not feasible on a deadline!

Ludus' personality-filled, sweet-yet-shy cutscenes convey a lot with a little, which is the goal of any writer with limited resources. He is able to tell you about his insecurities and fears, his passions, and his pre-existing relationships all at once. He messes up by letting those insecurities get to him, and trying to hide his feelings, but it all works out in the end — and he works through it with you. Best of all, he's a total flirt, which is something you don't get to see much in these pretty PG games.

Ludus is best boi in Trio of Towns
This is my own 3DS, and my own Ludus — Image: Kate Gray

It helps that Trio of Towns is also just better written than many other Story of Seasons games. Its characters have motives, flaws, and complications to them, and their friendship and romance scenes are genuine and heartwarming. Very few Story of Seasons games actually make me feel like an important part of a town's ecosystem, because I'm usually just "the farm weirdo", siloed off from the rest of town, or the person that literally builds everyone else's houses and keeps the economy going for no thanks whatsoever.

But in Trio of Towns, the three titular towns exist before you even get there, and they're doing just fine without your help. In fact, in a rare Story of Seasons twist, you actually have living parents who move away without you, rather than having a dead relative gift you a farm, and your goal is to prove to your parents that farming is a viable career choice. Sure, you can help those towns flourish by revitalising the economy, but that's mostly just so you can buy more stuff from their shops. It's a shame that no Story of Seasons game since has succeeded in doing things differently.

Ludus is best boi in Trio of Towns
Look what they've done to my boy — Image: Marvelous XSEED

Ludus was actually resurrected for the Pioneers of Olive Town DLC, which makes it an excellent point of comparison — is he anything like the original? And how have things changed between the two games?

[ToT] proved that the series could be brilliant and surprising, including nods to its history and players' expectations without being weighed down by tradition

Well, his 3D model is certainly more detailed, but players seem to think he's a bit of a disappointment, especially because he lives on an island with only three other people. As Reddit user Tobegi on a discussion about his return puts it, "Ludus shines only when surrounded by his community." He's also not as flirty, and has only short romantic cutscenes in contrast to Ludus from Trio's much more lengthy cutscenes. In short, he's a bit flatter, and a lot less loveable.

I know I harp on about the failures of the Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons games a lot, but it's because of games like Trio of Towns — games that proved that the series could be brilliant and surprising, including nods to its history and players' expectations without being weighed down by tradition.

Ludus is best boi in Trio of Towns
I know how you feel, Ludus — Image: Kate Gray

It's been a long time since I've cared about one of the bachelors in the way that I did about Ludus five years ago — and while a not-insignificant part of that is down to the latest game, Pioneers of Olive Town, doing away with the emotive character portraits in favour of 3D models, I imagine that it's also down to the usual culprits of reduced budget and tighter deadlines. As I said before — it's hard to make something great when you're under the pressures of time and money.

It feels like a fairly massive step from the immersive, vibrant world of Trio of Towns in 2017 to the pared-back Pioneers of Olive Town in 2021, but remakes aside, that's what the Story of Seasons series has looked like for the past five years — and the next game, A Wonderful Life, is also a remake, this time of the beloved GameCube game. Don't get me wrong — this next remake looks pretty good, and A Wonderful Life was a really lovely game, but I have to wonder what was lost after Trio of Towns... and whether it can ever come back.

Do you agree that Ludus is best boy? What was the last Story of Seasons bachelor or bachelorette that you really liked? Tell us all your farmy/romantic thoughts in the comments below!