You probably already know how crowded September and October are for game releases. It feels like 2017 has had the busiest months ever with more codes coming in per day for review than there are Animal Crossing amiibo. So in the midst of review hell, a game released on the Nintendo Switch that I own on two other platforms. Stardew Valley has already found success on PC and other consoles but the draw of having a portable version was all I needed to drop $14.99 into this release.
If you aren’t familiar with Stardew Valley, it plays like Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and even Animal Crossing but with interesting bits of each of those combined with some unique ideas, improvements, and more. In fact, if you are craving a Harvest Moon like experience on the Switch, look no further. Over the last few months, I’ve put a lot of time into a new save in Animal Crossing New Leaf on 3DS and even get back to Story of Seasons now and then.
I created a character based on Chie Satonaka for my Farm that is the Inaba Farm. It has been amazing seeing a small town in game feel so lively with a large cast of characters that all have their own stories. While everything gradually opens up for you to explore, there are random story moments that trigger depending on where you are and who you talk to which are a nice touch to give the overall experience some direction thanks to a narrative. I’ve spent 4 in game days in a row just fishing on the beach and others literally just walking around or mining. The only time I feel a little stressed is when a season is about to end. The good thing about the freedom here is finding your own in game routine and making the most of your time during the day. When it is raining, you don’t need to water your crops or trees. This lets you spend more time foraging or fishing.
Speaking of fishing, while I had trouble at first, I think the fishing mini game and the Switch controls are the best I’ve ever experienced in a fishing game. Even when I played Animal Crossing, fishing on the island was a highlight. Over here there’s a bit more strategy to it and loads to discover across the various locations you can fish in.
I picked this up the hour it released on the eShop and have put in about 3 or 4 hours each day ever since. The structure of playing out each day and having a save when you head to bed allows for a perfect experience on the go or just while playing other things. I’ve been juggling Etrian Odyssey V and Fire Emblem Warriors with a few others over the last few days and I always manage getting a day of gameplay in Stardew while switching or taking a break. The best part is you can play however you want. After the first Spring season when you get your bearings in order, this will suck you in completely.
I mentioned the individuals you meet in the town and around the area and they have been designed really well. The nice portraits in their dialogue boxes are great and fit perfectly with the art style that extends to crops, fish, and even minor things like actual trash in game. Music is memorable as well. Each season has multiple tunes and the in game locations like the library or the spa have their own feel through audio design and music.
While there is a lot to love, there are some bugs. The biggest one I’ve encountered is the music going all crackly with extended play periods. This seems to be a bug with the engine that is being patched soon. There are some instances of control issues and interactions with dialogue boxes. The big complaint I have is with the save times. when you go to bed, a save triggers and you are forced to wait for around 30 seconds depending on the game. If you want to play through a few days in game, this dampens the experience. I hope they can make the save time reduce in future patches.
One feature I’d like to have is touch screen support. It is becoming annoying seeing so few developers add in support for this because while you don’t need to have a game fully playable with touch, allowing for menu navigation or minor things is always a plus.
Having only put in an hour into the Steam version and a bit more on PS4, Stardew Valley on Switch is a perfect fit. I already enjoy playing the games it takes inspiration from on handheld only, and Stardew on Switch is another game that feels excellent on Nintendo’s new hybrid. Stardew Valley is a brilliant love letter to some fantastic games and one that holds its own. Once the bugs are ironed out, this will no doubt be the definitive version in all aspects.
Great blend of two gameplay styles
A relaxing experience
Lively town folk with their own tales
Perfect fit for the Switch
Lovely visuals and music
Saving takes too long