Harvestella - Switch Review
"A pleasant choice."
Square Enix’s Harvestella, released for the Nintendo Switch in November 2022, is the company’s first farming sim, but it’s also much more. The cosy game weaves in elements from traditional JRPGs, adventure games, and lifestyle sims. The result plays out as a relaxing, chill mix of Harvest Moon (which the name Harvestella is surely a nod to) and Final Fantasy. It is fantasy farm life that will appeal to fans of those games, Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, Stardew Valley, etc.
Harvestella has similar basics to its Harvest Moon (aka Story of Seasons) predecessors. Your amnesiac protagonist has a mysterious, unknown past, arriving in a totally new world where they are tasked with the day-to-day upkeep of an abandoned farm, situated near a village. Across four seasons, you tend to your crops, raise adorable livestock that you definitely would never conceive of consuming (Cluffowls and Woolums), expand your domain, cook, fish, craft, and build relationships.
What’s new is that you’ll also fill your amnesiac’s calendar with travelling the globe, exploring dungeons, fighting monsters, building a party, unlocking new job classes, and completing main and side quests. And saving the entire world from a nefarious threat, too, of course. All while making it home in time to dish up that big fish you caught that morning.
Harvestella’s JRPG side helps break up the daily grind of routine farm management. It has a more developed plot – with more drama driving it – than other cosy farming sims. That’s a plus if you find simulation games can get a bit repetitive.
But one reason why Harvestella is relaxing is that there are no real deadlines by which you must complete any quests or plot-related events. And you’re free to finish the missions in whatever order you fancy. If you want to ignore an urgent request, or the fact that someone’s life is in immediate peril (never minding the whole world’s fate) and casually spend three seasons just sprinkling your crops, you can. If you want to complete the story ASAP, you can. Really, the only consistent timing-related aspect for all players is that Quietus wipes out your crops at each season’s end.
The soundtrack is quite FFesque. Visually, the scenic locations have a sort of Genshin Impact and Breath of the Wild vibe – according to my husband and moi.
You traverse these aesthetically pleasing fantasy landscapes from the back of your rabbit-hybrid Totokaku (equivalent to a Chocobo). When you’re tuckered out, rather than rest in a tent or random hotel like some typical JRPG traveller, you have the pleasure of retiring to your cosy, well-cultivated base, nestled away in a lush forest estate. Conveniently, you can also teleport home from anywhere at any time, rather than spending real-life time trekking all the way back.
The game offers numerous side quests, including party member–related ones, so you’ll always have ones to resume. If you die in combat, you just magically awaken to a new day at home (although you’re forced to sleep to progress to the next day, like in the Harvest Moon and Persona games). Battles and levelling up are easy and stress-free. There are 12 unlockable job classes, and during fights, you can switch between three. Aside from the usual Fighter and Mage classes, the others are unexpectedly unique.
For those who enjoy crafting, there are quite a lot of makers, tools, orbs, etc. to build. It’s also cute, going with the fantasy theme, that Harvestella is not content with ordinary names. Carrots are carrops, potatoes are lumpotatoes, strawberries are strawbuddies, onions are uniononions, coconuts are lococonuts, cucumbers are cucumbles, etc. And I enjoyed the scenic Waterside Biome (you unlock it and the Cave Biome), that’s a change from your generic fields.
Lastly, the game lets you customise your protagonist’s skin, hair, and eye colours (welcome additions), gender (including non-binary), and build. These customisations are nice touches for those of us who wish these kinds of games had just a tad more diversity.
- Cosy, aesthetic, relaxing game
- World adventure breaks up farming monotony
- Complete quests/plot at your own pace
- Battles and levelling up are easy
The pros and cons of all games largely come down to personal preferences. For Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons fans, it’s worth noting that in Harvestella, to accommodate the plot and adventure, some farming and daily life activities you’ll expect have been omitted or streamlined.
Your livestock consists of only two animal types (Woolums and Cluffowls). You can’t milk, brush, shear, hold, breed, or race them. Or show them off to town folks. Or awkwardly manoeuvre them in/out of their barns when the weather changes. Or really do that much with them, to be honest. Pretty much your only interaction with your barn animals is raising their hearts every day. Plus, their names are auto-generated (very cute, unique ones, though).
While you can name your Totokaku, Harvestella’s horse, you can’t ride them around your farm, only on the world map. You have no adorable dog or cat to play with. You also must purchase each new animal, as the game doesn’t give you the options to miraculously impregnate them or incubate eggs.
Not entirely a negative, but neglecting your animals comes with no serious consequences. Basically, I would’ve appreciated more animal interactions. And they’re fantasy creatures, which could’ve added some extra fun.
Harvestella also lacks the town festivals that, as a Harvest Moon gamer, you’ve come to know and love. No horse races or cooking contests. Likewise, there are no village waifus or husbandos for you to romance (daily egg offerings, not weird at all), marry, and have a kid with. But you can form post-story “partnerships” with some characters. You also can’t upscale/renovate your actual house much; it’s pretty roomy to begin with.
Farming mechanics are arguably too simplified. Your protagonist doesn’t even need to dish out the livestock’s feed individually, portion by (painstaking?) portion. Instead, you just dump a huge heap of it, and they feed themselves each day. Same with collecting eggs and milk, all in one go.
Your watering can never needs refilling. Never! Once you’re awarded the enhanced skills (by the game’s equivalent to HM’s sprites), sowing, watering, and harvesting your crops en masse are as simple as holding down a button. And the Cave Biome and Waterside Biome let you cultivate crops that require no attention.Finally, the dungeons, battle mechanics, and levelling up are super simple. There are no complex puzzles, and the bosses pose no real obstacles. As mentioned above, farm maintenance itself becomes super simple, too. Possibly, too super simple for some gamers!
- Minimal animal interactivity
- Farming and battling are probably too easy
- Not challenging in any way
Final Score: 7/10
I loved Harvestella’s cosy scenery, relaxed gameplay, and unique fantasy styling for which Square Enix is known. But the animal interactions could’ve been developed a bit more. If you want a challenge, Harvestella likely isn’t for you. If you want to unwind with a cosy game that doesn’t demand too much of you or your nerves, or you love Square Enix’s design aesthetics, then Harvestella is a pleasant choice.
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