Stardew Valley Scratched A Harvest Moon Itch I Wasn’t Sure I Had Anymore

Stardew Valley Cover

When I was about thirteen years old, my mom drove me to Walmart so I could spend my hard earned money on a shiny new Nintendo 64 game.  I’m not even really sure what brought me to purchase Harvest Moon 64.  I can’t recall any television commercials, and unless Nintendo Power heavily advertised it, I cannot see what would persuade me to buy a game about farming.  The word alone is boring, how the hell could a game be fun?  Yet, every day after school, I would come home to till and cultivate my crops, pet my dog, and try and woo my future wife by handing her gifts I hoped she liked.  It was insanely addictive and I could not get enough.  I was hooked on Harvest Moon.  I still have the game, box, and instruction manual as well, all in pretty good condition.

How this box was appealing to me I have no idea.

How this box was appealing to me I have no idea.

One of the best memories I have from that game happened very early on.  I had originally decided to go after Ann, the redhead animal caretaker on Green Ranch.  However, I dashed my chances by unintentionally killing my first chicken, aptly named Clucko, by literally not feeding it.  Her heart meter went down to zero and so I immediately dropped that idea and went after the barmaid Karen instead.  She even looked like the girl I was crushin’ on in 8th grade so it worked out for the best.  The real life counterpart never reciprocated my affections…

Luckily, there were more games released in the series for me to sink my teeth into and forget about my horrendous love life.  I managed to get my hands on the Playstation’s Back to Nature and the GameCube’s  two farming exploits, A Wonderful Life and Magical Melody, the latter of which I thought was the best in series so far.  All of these games managed to update certain aspects of the game while adding a little bit more each time.  I kept farming deep into the night, always eager to see what the next day brought.  Hours upon hours spent on games about farming.  About an actual job people do for a living with the major difference being that occasionally, forest spirits would talk to you about saving the homeland or something.  It was glorious every step of the way.

I'm still so, so sorry Ann...

I’m still so, so sorry Ann…

Then something happened.  The games stopped being fun.

Maybe it was the change of the main protagonist (backwards hat wearing Pete, commonly thought to be Jack for several years), or maybe it was the constant shift to more childish looking aesthetic.  Maybe I was just getting bored with the formula, as it remained largely unchanged since I started.  Whatever it was, none of the newer games appealed to me.  Their reviews didn’t do them any favors.  A side story of games, Rune Factory, appeared on the DS in 2007.  I was excited not only because it was a fresh take on the series, but because it also incorporated a dungeon crawling aspect to the game, something my brother and I had joked about for years (Harvest Blood Moon was our working title).

Boy, was I disappointed.

Oh. Oh good then.

Ah.  Good.  Great.

Although I’m pretty sure the games got decent reviews, absolutely nothing about Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon worked for me.  In fact, I’m almost positive I didn’t even play it after day one.  Everything just felt wrong, and no part of it felt like a Harvest Moon game.  Yet, somehow, they made six of these games.  Making matters worse, the series as a whole fell deeper and deeper into a period of middling reviews and poorly received sequels and spin-offs.  Every time I read anything about a new installment, I was excited for as long as it took for me to find any pictures or videos, at which point the excitement dissipated entirely.  After some time, I had given up all hope.  The series I knew and loved was no more.

Enter Stardew Valley.

My farm will never look this good.

My farm will never look this good.

I think I figured out this game existed a mere three days before it was released on Steam.  A friend of mine bought it for me after it came out and I thought, “Cool, I’ll check that out later.”  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.  My days of farming were long gone.  However, by “check that out” I apparently meant “continue to play until midnight or later every night.”  I cannot stop.  It’s like I’m thirteen all over again and I’m loving every goddamn second of it.  It’s everything the Harvest Moon series was to me, with the added benefit of swift controls and a simple yet rewarding dungeon crawling element to boot.  Dark Souls combat this is not, but it works extremely well within the settings.  Mining, upgrading, dating, town events, and even some clothing options truly make this a unique experience and a love letter to the farming days of old.

What makes me even more excited is how well the game is doing.  It’s selling so many copies. Not only has it been on the best-selling list for Steam, it has a highly active modding community who are beyond thrilled for a new farming sim that does justice to the what we all started out loving.  Even those people who pirated the game have found it so compelling that they went back and purchased it.  Even more astonishing?  The game was made by one guy, Eric Barone, who I want to shake hands with one day.  This game has me thinking about my farm when I’m not playing it, how to optimize my output of crops, what my next day will consist of, and which of the several eligible women I should be spending my time with (the answer is Leah.  Or Haley.  Or is it Penny…).  I’ve made checklists, sent text messages to myself to avoid forgetting important things, and constantly compared playstyles and notes with my brother, who is playing as well.  I also find myself humming the music all the time, which is amazingly catchy and well crafted.  My desire to turn the game on at this very moment is palpable.  But my desire to tell you how good it is overrides it, if only for a brief period.  Then I keep humming this song.

If you ever loved Harvest Moon and for some reason you have not bought this game yet, do yourself a favor and hop on board.  It scratched an itch I wasn’t even sure I still had, but it’s been there all along.  Dormant, waiting for the right game to come along.  I just didn’t know it would have a new title.  Good thing it wasn’t something stupid like Story of Seasons.  What a mistake that would be.

Story of Seasons Logo


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