We don’t need new farming games •

I love farm games. By the time I was 11, I was pouring countless hours and batteries into the Game Boy version of Harvest Moon. Part two for the Game Boy Color and Super Nintendo variant followed later. Harvest Moon: Back to Nature is still one of my favorite games of all time. I associate the title with warm summer vacation evenings, which should forever cement my love for the genre, but why am I telling you this? Farming games or titles with a strong connection to the genre are currently being released to us on a regular basis. For example, Square Enix recently released Harvestella. And while I might have been pleased with every announcement that I was getting more genre fodder, only one thing became clear to me: we don’t need new farming games.

The False Harvest Moon

But before entering into this statement, I would like to make a brief digression. Did you know that Harvest Moon is not “Harvest Moon”? Games with this name still appear, but they have nothing to do with previous installments of the series. Since 2014, Harvest Moon games in the West have been titled Story of Seasons. This is close to the original name of the series, known as Bokujō Monogatari (Farming Story) in Japan. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the latest installment in the series (Imagery: Marvelous) Now you might be wondering why, despite a slew of new Story of Seasons games, Harvest Moon titles are still popping up. These are no longer developed by Marvelous. Instead, these games are published by the previous publisher, Natsume, which still owns the rights to the name. Qualitatively, the Harvest Moon spinoffs are also much weaker than the games in the Story of Seasons series. The two current titles are Pioneers of Olive Town and the remake of the Game Boy Advance game Friends of Mineral Town. Especially the latter is a recommendation for gamers who miss the old and simpler times of the genre.

Old dogs don’t learn new tricks

Now, what’s the deal with gender? There is a very clear king in the form of Stardew Valley. A title that is now 6 years old and has been developed by a single person over a period of four years. The man behind Stardew Valley is Eric Barone. Eric, like me, loves Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. And for a long time, he wished there was a game that could match the qualities of PlayStation games. So he set out to develop Stardew Valley. A project in which he put all his passion for the game of his youth. When it was released, Stardew Valley was already superior to all other games in the farm genre. It took all the aspects that made Back to Nature so special and increased the controls up to eleven: at its core, the game offers leisurely farming gameplay with big business decisions. But that’s not all. As in Back to Nature, the focus is also on the social aspects of farm life. You can relate to NPCs, get to know them better, and even enter into the marriage bond. And over the past few years, Stardew Valley has only gotten better. Free updates continued to add new content. Including even the possibility of playing the title in cooperation. An absolute hit since its release: Stardew Valley (Image credit: ConcernedApe) Ultimately, Stardew Valley took the system that Harvest Moon had built in the early 2000s and perfected it. All this while Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons are busy catching up. The genre-defining series is so behind the new normal in terms of quality and innovation that almost all relevance has been lost here, impacting other games as well. Now, with the announcement of a new game in the farming genre, I have to ask myself: And what makes it better than Stardew Valley? Often the answer is simple: nothing. The competition is so busy trying to catch up with the new king of the genre that it’s not even possible to think that we can be surprised with something fresh, something new.

Exceptions to the rule

That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed other games in the past that are in the same vein as Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley. Often, however, a twist is needed here that distinguishes the title from these in order to be interesting. The Rune Factory 4 remaster on Nintendo Switch is a title that I really enjoyed. That’s why I was really looking forward to the fifth part of the series, but it suffered from Switch syndrome on the Nintendo hybrid and was unfortunately technically unplayable. Another game I’m having a lot of fun with right now and spiritually in a similar vein is Potions License. Here you live as an alchemist in a town to ease the suffering of its people and create other potions. For this, you use ingredients that you collect in the desert. The game reminded me a lot of the spirit of Stardew Valley. It’s a bit more involved than the farm game in that it also features combat, but offers a similar level of attention to detail. Ultimately, it’s not that I don’t wish this title sort, which is Stardew Valley of the Throne. However, any game of this nature will have to compete with the current king until then. And that throne sits atop a mountain of passion and sophistication that many won’t find easy to climb. Images: Harvest Moon: One World, Rising Star Games, Nintendo, Natsume

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