“Harvest Moon” has to be one of the least likely video gaming success stories of all time. The original game, released for the Super Nintendo in the 90s, was a role-playing game in which you played a farmer.
That’s right: you had to clear your farm land, grow crops, harvest them, and even raise animals. There was also a small town you could visit to meet new friends and even take a bride.
While this game of small-town farming was modest in scope and scale, it was a pretty big success. There was something fun and addicting about its gameplay that drew players to it.
Several sequels capitalized on this success, but the recent release of “Stardew Valley” may be the closest this game has come to a resurgence. Here’s what you need to know about this incredible game.
What Is Stardew Valley?
“Stardew Valley” is a labor of love from designer “Concerned Ape,” a front for game creator Eric Barone. Barone did everything in this game and released it on Steam and other gaming platforms to little fanfare. Incredibly, it has been a huge success and has even outsold such gaming stalwarts as “Call of Duty.”
It is heavily inspired by “Harvest Moon” and its gameplay, but it expands on it in a variety of subtle ways. For example, it adds a mining dynamic that allows players to explore a randomly generated mine and find raw materials and gifts to give the town residents. It also includes simple combat mechanics that gives players the chance to kill monsters.
It also includes “foraging” which players can use to find a variety of goods in the forest. They can also fish and even work to improve the town by adding new additions and fighting the evil corporate power of Joja. It’s a surprisingly deep game and discussing all it does here would be impossible.
The Dating Dynamic
Beyond farming and mining, players can also spend time getting to know the different residents of the town. Barone did not skimp out on content here, as there are 28 different people with whom you can interact!
These include the friendly mayor Lewis, the grumpy old man George, and various beautiful women (and handsome men) whom you can befriend and even pursue romantically. Everyone in the game is fundamentally bisexual ala “The Sims,” as women can marry women and men can marry men.
The easiest way to date is to give them gifts. You can give each two gifts a week, but you need to understand their tastes and preferences. For example, the homeless Linus prefers food (and little else) while the scientific Maru loves quartz and other elements. Meanwhile, the more girlie Haley loves flowers.
While it is possible to just focus on befriending one person and marrying them, you should also expand and befriend as many people as possible in the town. Why? They will send you gifts and even money in the mail if they like you enough. Socialization is a big deal in this game, so make sure to focus on that element.
Social Commentary Is Also Prevalent
While this game is fun, in that old-school style we love, it also presents a light element of social commentary with Joja. This large corporation is intent on taking over the town and even has a large shopping center which you can attend.
Do you buy a membership with them and pay them money to improve the town or do you go the difficult route and collect items to create bundles to give to the magical creatures in the community center to improve the town?
Pro tip: go the latter route, even if it takes extra time. Joja is essentially the devil in this game and any deal you make with them will blow up in your face.
While this game is less than a year old, it contains the retro gameplay style we love so much here. Indie game makers like Barone are working hard to honor these old styles while also expanding on them in subtle ways. “Stardew Valley” is a must-own game!