Stardew Valley is a story of hard work, determination, and the grit that made this country great. And by country I mean a small farming community that is nestled into mountainous forested coastal region that has a desert that can be reached by bus. It’s inhabited by a cast of colorful, if private, people enjoying life. That includes a Henry David Thoreau-esque hobo, two old guys who live in a cottage next to a mine filled with monsters, and a wizard.
From Starbound Publisher Chucklefish Games and developer Concernedape, comes an undying love letter to Natsume (now Marvelous) games Rune Factory and Harvest Moon series. There is not a game I played on the PlayStation more than Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. Not my 100+ hour Final Fantasy VII playthrough, not my Street Fighter Alpha 3 binge, or even my all endings obsession on the Chrono Trigger PlayStation release. I beat Harvest Moon Back to Nature. That means I spent time to befriend the majority of villagers, improve my farm, got married and had a kid. It was the game that made me feel connected to my mother’s father, a man who died ten days after I was born, whose family had been farmers in upstate New York. The Szabo farm was long gone by the time I was born, but there in Mineral Town on my little memory card it is immortalized as an agricultural power house till the end of days.
I still name my dog Maximus, my horse Kaizer, and my animals dumb pun names (Bach, Bachbach, Baaaaaaaach; UdderlyRidiculous, etc.). Here in Stardew Valley I pay homage to those same traditions. In almost every way Stardew Valley is better than the Harvest Moon games, combining excavation with dungeon crawling, greater diversity of wild resource gathering, and the ability to generate income via alternative means if farming just isn’t your thing.
There is no defined class, profession, or designation that might prevent you from indulging in your desired path towards financial glory. Mine own was through the mine, where I completed the 120 levels of it’s perilous caverns. I was obsessed, as I danced around enemies, beating them to death with my club. I refused to let my filled rucksack force me to eject before reaching the breaking point, where an elevator ding let me know I had reached a check point. I was lucky enough to have planted an assortment of the crops of the Spring season, storing them for what I assumed would be a kitchen. How little did I know that those assortment of vegetables would aide me in ending the might of the JojoMart conglomerate that threatened to destroy the local market.
I married in the first year, and now have a son. Penny, the local school teacher (of sorts) whose kindness and good nature won me over after a short period of trying to woo the girls. Even when I gave her a barely passable gift that she didn’t outright hate, she still thanked me and told me “this looks special” with a warm smile on her face. So I gave her diamonds. In Stardew Valley, everyone loves diamonds. I had a large assortment of them as I saved each one with the expectation of a diamond set of tools. Then after realizing my error, I sold most of them and gave the rest to Penny and a few others. Then came the bouquet of flowers to go steady, and then some weird guy on the beach gave me a necklace. Stardew Valley is weird, man.
I married Penny, and then realized I married into having the bus driver as my mother-in-law. I was sure she’d be in a better mood after I repaired the bus with the help of the spirit oozes…or she could just bitch and moan about having to eat frozen dinners. She’s warmed up to me a bit, but it’s safe to say I’m not a fan of the woman. Recently, now that my own courtship has concluded, I’m set on setting up my BFF, Clint. The blacksmith. We’re tight. He’s got feelings for someone in town, and I hope that by befriending both of them, they’ll get together. Concernedape, double dates with friends that are couples should be a thing. I know you’re reading this. Well, I hope you are so I can share how great this game is. Well, you built it, so I’m sure you know.
I can only sing enough praises about this game for so long. I have to talk about the negative. Blessed are we that there are only a few. Minor things, that can easily be ignored, but problems none the less. The controls could be tighter, some of the portraits could be better. Maru’s portrait in particular stands out. Now since we’re talking PC games, the latter can be modded, but there seems to be a little of this everywhere. Little things that keep it from being that 100% immersion perfection. But it’s flaws are superficial, and hardly any blemish on what can be considered to be a new masterpiece, carefully wrapped in a beautiful love letter to a niche genre that is still loved today.
PROS: A perfect take on what made the classic Natsume games great, It’s music is original and enchanting, It boasts a great cast of villagers to make up your neighbors, Has a relatively deep crafting system, and dungeon exploration is based on randomly generated areas, so each adventure through is never the same.
CONS: Some characters are left wanting for more detail and interactive story telling, the controls could be tighter, especially when it comes to precise farming, some character portraits don’t keep in the same feeling as the rest of them.
VERDICT: While not a perfect game, it reached for the moon, got there, and made a farm on it. 4.7/5