Farming sim games have been a hit ever since Harvest Moon was released for the SNES way back in 1996. The colorful visuals, fun music, and unique gameplay served as an escape from modern life to a charming and simple way of living.
Over the years farming sim games seemed to have lost its touch and gradually faded into the background. However, Stardew Valley’s introduction last year has suprisingly sparked an interest once again on a genre that was thought to have played its course.
Stardew Valley for Nintendo Switch, just like the PS4 and XBOX versions, is a direct port from the PC. There are no changes from the original version except for the control scheme. It all boils down to whether you want to play the game using a keyboard and mouse, or using a traditional controller just like the old days of the SNES. It was created by one man developer, Eric Barone, who dedicated 4 years of his life in giving us a nostalgic farming simulator that seemed to have lost its vigor in the past years.
The story of Stardew Valley isn’t new, it’s almost similar to the story of Harvest Moon where your grandfather passes away and leaves you his farm on the country. However, Stardew Valley took this basic premise and placed it on a different lens. Instead of just showing how the player inherited their grandpa’s farm, it highlighted the character’s need for a new life and escape the boring modern life he/she is living. This extra twist in the story makes the game very relatable as most players, including me, play this game to escape the fast paced, chaotic, and sometimes overwhelming real life.
As the player arrive on the farm, it is revealed that it has been neglected for some time. The player now assumes the responsibility of being the farm’s custodian and makes it their objective to revive the farm to how it was in the past.
Although Stardew Valley is often labeled as a farming simulator, the player is not limited to just growing crops and tending to livestock. Players can go fishing, mining, fighting monsters, foraging, meeting villagers, wooing bachelors/bachelorettes, attending festivals, and many more.
The game provides players some objectives to complete, however all of these are optional and the player is not required to complete any goals in this game. It is possible for the player to just spend their whole time pursuing villagers to marry. Unlike in some Harvest Moon games where the player’s progress will determine if he/she stays on the farm, and will be judged by the village after a given number of years.
In terms of gameplay, the main difference between the PC version and the Switch port are the controls. Personally, I’m very happy with the controls in the Switch version because it feels more natural than playing on a PC. Growing up playing the Harvest Moon games, I’ve become accustomed to playing a farming simulator with a console controller rather than a keyboard and mouse.
In the Switch version, you move your character using the left joystick. The left directional buttons allows your character to move at a slower pace. The right joystick is used to move the cursor, which is still included in the Switch port. A button is used to interact with objects and people, Y is to use your tools, B is used to cancel interaction or opens the Menu, and X is to open the Crafting Menu.
Random events also occur so that players can get to know more about the game's NPC villagers. These events further tell the story of the town and its inhabitants. Heart events that occur in the game gives the player a decision, which may lead to the villagers liking you more or less depending on the choice you make. Sometimes the events that happen in the game is just for pure fun, like when the kids attempted to explore the sewers but got scared when they heard a rustling sound inside, which can easily be a scene from IT if you ask me.
The visuals in this game is simple yet charming in so many ways. The 16-bit visual style is reminiscent of games dating back to the glory days of the Super Nintendo. Looking at the graphics of Stardew Valley will make anyone feel nostalgic of the good old days. It may not be the most technologically advanced and mind-blowing graphics, but it is a good game to look at.
A great gameplay plus stunning visuals are big parts that makes a game a success. However, the music and sound effects also plays an important role especially in games such as Stardew Valley. The soundtrack of the game is light and bright that fits perfectly in the environment. I was impressed at how the music keeps me entertained while I tend to my farm or going out and about in the town.
Replay value in a game that technically does not end is tricky to measure. Since players are bound to spend countless hours on a single play through, it is very rare to replay the game from the beginning since progress here is incremental and starting over would also mean starting from scratch again. However, this game still has a good replay value, for whatever its worth, especially for farmers who have gained more experience on their first play through and would like to make changes to better improve their farm.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
The port to the Nintendo Switch is an exact replica of the PC version. However, the only down side that I noticed with this port is that saving is much slower than the original. When I compared the time it takes the game to save, I noticed that the PC version would save the game almost instantly with just two seconds. However, the Switch port would save your progress by twenty two seconds.
Honestly this isn’t a big problem since Nintendo’s Switch has limited specifications as compared to a PC. It is not horribly slow that would take you away from enjoying the game in full. Besides, the loading screen was honest enough that saving would take a longer time, which is not seen in the PC version, but still, it won't hurt to improve this, if it's possible at all, since the game saves automatically every single day in game.
All in all, Stardew Valley for the Nintendo Switch is still a good game. Everything that we loved about the PC version is present here. It may not be a game for everyone, especially if you are not keen on growing crops or tending animals. I believe that the game has found the perfect port since the Switch can let you visit Pelican Town when you're on the go, or in front of the TV sitting on the couch. If you have not played Stardew Valley on the PC or on other consoles, I definitely recommend you to download the game from the Eshop immediately. The stunning visuals, awesome gameplay and creative soundtrack would keep players entertained for a very long time and could possibly rob them of any social life. I know I have.