By Jenae R / October 25th, 2017
Opinions stated are those of the author and do not reflect upon oprainfall as a whole.
Stardew Valley is a farming game with many similarities to Harvest Moon. That’s no surprise considering Eric Barone, the creator himself, has stated that he is a huge Harvest Moon fan and since he couldn’t find a suitable substitute for PC, he made his own. You can find that here in his interview with PC Gamer. For future reference, be aware that when I refer to Harvest Moon from here on out, I am only referencing the original Bokujō Monogatari games, thus including Story of Seasons (the new western title under XSEED) and Rune Factory (their spin-off fantasy/farming series). I will not be talking about Natsume’s continuation of the series and attempts to make their own games. I have only recently finally had the joy of trying out and playing through Stardew Valley for the first time. I don’t PC game all that often myself and was waiting to own a console I could play it on. Before playing Stardew Valley I had played multiple Harvest Moon games. Among them are Sunshine Islands, Grand Bazaar, Tale of Two Towns, A New Beginning, Story of Seasons, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, Rune Factory 4 and a small bit of Magical Melody, Animal Parade and Harvest Moon 64. As I previously stated there are obviously various similarities between Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley but these are the top 5 things I think Stardew Valley very much improved upon.
There are a couple of mechanics in Stardew Valley that I personally used or noticed and found to be a welcome addition. Crafting for instance; I like being able to quickly craft my own makers in SV with merely a few simple but understandable material requirements. Aside from A New Beginning & the first Story of Seasons, I would have to pay an NPC to do it in other games as well as pony up a lot more materials. Not only that, but they give you some useful new options, like sprinklers, which will automatically water a certain amount of crops for you every day. Some Harvest Moon games have an easier way to water such as in A New Beginning where you can unlock the geyser to water crops in its range. Yet not many HM games give you an auto watering system and entries that do, usually take a while to unlock. The second mechanical aspect I noticed while playing and appreciate in Stardew Valley, is the real time to game time ratio. From what I counted, it seems to be a standard 10 real life seconds per 10 game minutes amount. Older HM titles up until newer ones as recent as Sunshine Islands, would give you a crazy quick game clock that was more like 5 real seconds per 10 game minutes. Animal Parade was the only entry released during those years that was an exception to this. This was especially a pain in Sunshine Islands on account of all the islands you had to travel to for daily tasks. Unlocking a teleport item was something for much later in game, which I never did unlock when I played. The fact that Stardew Valley keeps a reasonable game time ratio has been perfect.
Pressure To Do Varying Tasks
On the topic of a reasonable game time ratio, one of my favorite improvements in Stardew Valley has to be the lack of constant pressure to do everything, during each and every game day. This pressure to do everything possible in Harvest Moon had me getting burnt out much quicker. I find that Stardew Valley is different in that it’s only as tedious as you make it. Because of the decent time ratio I’m not overly rushed on time, no NPCs tell me I have to do something, no NPCs have complained to me about how I haven’t talked to them in however long and the game isn’t crammed with as much stuff to make and do as newer 3DS exclusive HM titles. You can do whatever you want in SV. I only started off with a nice small section of crops and I didn’t feel pressured to talk to every NPC daily in fear of their hearts dropping should I not. Well other than Shane, my Stardew hubby, who did lose a heart at one point. Though after some research I found it’s not hard to prevent that, only really requiring one or two gifts a week and talking to them regularly in the morning before you go off to do whatever else. So for the most part, Stardew Valley doesn’t pressure you whatsoever. I haven’t even purchased any animals yet because crops are always the less tedious option in most farming games. No NPC in the game will insist and try to push animals upon you. The only one forced upon you is a cat or dog which doesn’t actually require any taking care of. Oh and because of the fact that this is one of those games where you can only save when you go to bed at night, not whenever you want, I find it’s extremely easy to pick back up when I haven’t played in a while. Harvest Moon on the other hand, most entries I have played let you save whenever you want. While this might seem like a good thing, I found it makes it more difficult to pick up where I left off, not to mention the already added pressure to do so much stuff every game day.
Stardew Valley handles music just right. It has some really enjoyable songs, with a lot of them quite calming and they don’t play nonstop in every area. There are seasonal songs that sometimes start up randomly in the morning or at different times during the day, and there is music for different areas around town. For example, the desert has its own tune and the mine has songs that will only randomly start on certain floors but don’t play elsewhere. The bar has its own music as well and includes a jukebox so you can change the currently playing bar music to one of the other songs played during the game. In Harvest Moon a lot of times there are only 4 standard seasonal songs. Yes some titles have other songs that are played in certain areas or during events and whatnot, yet on the other hand, there are entries like the original Story of Seasons. SoS has only four songs for each season during the daytime(four different ones play at night), that play everywhere nonstop, and start a new loop fairly early on. The fall theme in that game I personally find especially grating after a while and is a big part of why I haven’t picked that game back up since I last put it down.
One of my fave Stardew Valley songs.
In Harvest Moon you are only able to marry the opposite gender. And in older games where there is just a male MC, your only option is to marry the female bachelorettes. I always found in Harvest Moon that a lot of the females had much more unique designs and seemed more appealing in general than their male counterparts. The only entry that had a lot of super appealing and unique male options was Rune Factory 4, which in general gives the characters much more personality than traditional Harvest Moon. I always preferred to have a female MC as well though, so I’d choose one guy I could settle for who seemed alright. Whether you’re partial to your own gender in life to begin with, or whether you just don’t like the opposite gender options available, that’s a non issue in Stardew Valley. You have the ability to marry any of the 12 available bachelors and bachelorettes(there are 6 of each). In addition to this, should you find them to be a bore after marrying, divorce is an open option. HM never let you divorce your spouse after you already chose and married them.
The Right Amount of Stuff
The final thing that Stardew Valley does well, is it adds in the right amount of stuff to do. Rune Factory 4 added in a whole story aspect and more personality to the characters. Although because of this, the farming isn’t extremely necessary and a lot of traditional farming game features are overshadowed by more important aspects. And then there are the 3DS exclusive HM entries which give you way too many things to keep up with. This sort of coincides with Stardew not pressuring you to do anything. Not only do you need to not be pressured to do anything, but you need something to do when you’re not farming. Stardew Valley has a more complex fishing system than HM, it has a lot of quests, places to explore, and it has a combat system as well. What it does differently from Rune Factory with its combat system, is that it’s contained to places like the mine or the secret woods. They keep the combat contained to those specific areas and it isn’t attached to some overarching story that requires it.
In the end, I love both Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. Unfortunately, despite that, Harvest Moon is becoming more and more overwhelming and tedious with every new entry. It also has lost a lot of charm in recent titles and older entries are in various ways, too dated for me to be able to easily go back to. Stardew takes all of the charm you’d expect in an older Harvest Moon game, mixes it with a few aspects from newer HM titles and sprinkles in a few completely new features to sweeten the pot. I’ve very much enjoyed my time with the game thus far and I hope to off and on continue to play it for many more hours. It is an amazing farming/life sim and Eric Barone did a great job improving upon what Harvest Moon had already done yet somewhat lacked.
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