The wait for the newest Animal Crossing mainline game, New Horizons, seems to be an exciting yet agonizing wait for fans. Luckily, there's a nice little indie game out there to help you out during this pressing time.
With Pokemon Sword and Shield finally being released into the world, Animal Crossing fans are eyeballing Nintendo as the next biggest game scheduled to come to the Switch is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The game series was in the limelight a few weeks ago as it was faced with some controversy; fans were quick to call out Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as a cash grab due to the latest update where a new paid subscription service, Pocket Camp Club, was introduced. The service consisted of two separate plans that players could chose from—or not, since it is completely optional. The first plan consisted of hiring any villager of your choosing to help out with daily requests and collecting event item, while the second—and pricier of the two plans—allowed players to access an entire inventory all the fortune cookies ever introduced in the game. Players who get this plan are also given a warehouse to store unused furniture.
Despite the developments being made in Pocket Camp, it’s no secret that Animal Crossing fans are craving a new mainline game and have been for a while. While there have been games like Happy Home Designer, they’ve merely been spin-off titles. Regardless of Animal Crossing fans though, the Nintendo eShop seems to be lacking in relaxing RPGs and life simulators in general. However, this is where we meet Stardew Valley, a game that always seemed to be at the top of the charts in the eShop.
I put off playing Stardew Valley for a while. I saw it as an Animal Crossing clone but with pixel art and an added farming element. I also thought farming games weren’t going to be something I enjoyed. That’s why it was a gamble to pay that $10. I knew I was going to come out of the game for the first time with one of two extremes: hating it and never picking it up again, or loving it to the point of giving up my sleep. Let’s just say, it’s the latter situation.
Stardew Valley is no clone. Sure, they have some resembling elements, but the premise of both games is similar in the first place: You move to a new place, meet new people, and lead a life there. Perhaps that’s why I felt so "at home" playing it. There’s a subtle taste of familiarity, but it’s got a refreshing twist: it’s not Animal Crossing. Not at all.
For starters, the townsfolk aren’t animals. They’re 100% human. I also find that the interactions you have with the townsfolk are a lot deeper than that in Animal Crossing, admittedly. You’re able to develop your friendships and keep track of how well you’re doing with a heart system. Obviously, the more hearts a villager has next to their name, the deeper your relationship is. You’re also able to marry your favorite, regardless of sexual orientation; and having a family isn’t out of the picture either!
Additionally, in case you get bored of doing the regular things like fishing, foraging, and building up your farm with coops and barns, there’s also a hint of fantasy in this game. Once you unlock the mine and forest, you’ll find that there are enemies to kill. Granted, this is a relaxing farm game, so the battles aren’t too intense (at least, from what I’ve encountered so far), but it’s great to have a life simulator that has an adventure element to it, rather than being a pure chill-out experience. Sometimes you just need to be kept on your toes a little so you can really appreciate the tranquility of the rest of the game.
Stardew Valley is an excellent alternative to Animal Crossing. It has a similar essence of staring fresh in a new world. Although you’ll find part of it to be reminiscent to Animal Crossing, like fishing and donating artifacts to the town museum, Stardew Valley still has other factors that make it a unique experience. Think of Breath of the Wild. It has inspired games, like Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, but the two brings the player away with different experiences. The same applies here; even if you’re not looking for an Animal Crossing alternative and you’re just looking for a relaxing game that doesn’t cost too much, this game is one that I would highly recommend. It’s keeping me happy during my restless wait for New Horizons, and I’m sure that even when it comes out in March, I won’t completely set Stardew Valley aside.