Review by DandyQuackShot

Reviewed: 05/22/18

Escaping The City Life

Okay everyone, as long as you won't tell Natsume and the Harvest Moon fans that we have a total knockoff game called Stardew Valley on the Xbox One I will keep this as secret as possible. With all apologies to Harvest Moon fans, Stardew Valley is almost a carbon copy of the concept of Harvest Moon. But if you are a fan of Harvest Moon and had the chance to grow up on the original Super Nintendo version as well as the awesome Nintendo 64 game and wanted something similar to play on the new Xbox One, then you are in luck. Created by a developer called Chucklefish, Stardew Valley places you in a setting not too far distant from our own reality. You are introduced to your dying grandfather who leaves you a special present that "you should not open until you are ready for a new beginning" or something to that effect. Knowing my impatient self, I would have opened that letter right away. You are then introduced to your cubicle at Joja Corporation which shows a hilarious scene of people in cubicles. I laughed pretty hard because working in a cubicle for a corporation that demands nothing from you but to zap your whole creativity and personality is something that happens to lots of people. So you pull open your draw, pull out the mysterious letter from your grandpa and voila! The deed to your grandfather's farm in Stardew Valley.

Stardew Valley is a village on the border of an ocean and mountainous area which probably would sink you in terms of tax value. But fortunately this is a game based off of the concept of Harvest Moon where one little grape you find in the woods is worth a LOT of money. The Mayor introduces himself to you and invites you to tour around the village and meet all the people-all of whom are eccentric in their own way. Not only do you have people who are skilled in a particular trade but they all have their own particular tastes and so you have to be careful if you want to make friends with them. The creativity of Stardew Valley sweeps you away from feeling like you are playing a Harvest Moon knock off. There are many many differences in that the game is open ended. There is no time line to follow where the game will end and there is no main goal to the game other than to complete special projects that open up other areas and features of the town map. You will become quickly engrossed in reaching the bottom levels of the mines where you are required to use weapons against some crazy monsters down there. You can also farm, upgrade your house and tools, and build on to your farm with barns and a greenhouse, or simply go fishing.

Building relationships is a really fun part of the game as you get to know how crazy Stardew Valley really is like any small town can be. The Mayor may come up to you with an embarrassing request to help him find his missing shorts or you may be asked to help Harvey overcome his fear of heights. You can start relationships that lead to marriage and babies or stay a recluse and just go fishing all day. There is no main antagonist to contend with. Joja Mart has a store in town that will try to sign you up for a club membership but if you decide to restore the community center then this place will go away. Likewise if you decide to help out the Joja Mart store instead. With no real end to the game you just have to live with building your own farm and having the time of your life outside of reality. For me, I grew up playing Harvest Moon and living beside of a farm in real life. After going to work in the city and almost going nuts being stuck in a cube and stressing out over nothing, I can say this game is a great stress relief just to play if you are stuck in such a situation. I hope games like these inspire you to escape like I was (well since day one starting that corporate job) and moving out to the country or to a small town where life is so much better and you can walk to work. Let Stardew Valley's end game be that for you.

The music in Stardew Valley along with its quaint settings gives you a very nostalgic feeling. I bought the game at Walmart out of the bargain bin and the game actually includes the original soundtrack on a separate CD. I promised my wife we would take it with us on our next vacation trip because the music is very relaxing. Of course you can take advantage of the game's sound options and turn the music off and then turn on your Spotify if you have that. Stardew Valley was a huge hit with my wife who got hooked on it from the start. Trying to find a Xbox One game that isn't a crazy shooter or violent game is actually pretty tough so Stardew Valley holds its on in this category. My nieces also were hooked on this game and really enjoyed getting me married off.

I think you will enjoy Stardew Valley as one of those games that lets you escape from reality for a while. Sure it is a Harvest Moon ripoff but does it matter? Nope. This game is one of a kind and its creativity carries itself through. Enjoy building a farm and living a slower paced life even if you can't in real life.

Rating: 8

Product Release: Stardew Valley (US, 12/14/16)

DandyQuackShot is a long time contributor to having contributed several game reviews since 2006. He is happily married with a son and still enjoys a a night in Halo or checking out a new and interesting game title.
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