Hey everyone! This is part one of what will be a two-part post on the similarities and differences between Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town!
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town launched on Nintendo Switch back on March 23. We’re closing in on one month since that release and I’m here to answer a question that I know many people, including myself had: is it worth it? I originally saw gameplay on a sponsored stream through Twitch about one week before the game launched. Several viewers, myself included, were curious about the game but all recognized the same immediate detail: it’s basically Stardew Valley with better animation. At a price point of $49.99 USD, I was hesitant to take the plunge. The minute details in the animations and the exceedingly cute animals are what convinced me to give it a shot.
I’ve played Stardew Valley for a few years now and there’s things that are great about the game and things that I find less enjoyable about it. I tend to play games like this when I want to lay back and relax and take my time doing tasks. Long story short, I’m not a fan of the mines. Quite frankly, I am awful at mining in Stardew Valley. I just don’t have the reflexes to slay the creatures in the deeper levels. Have I made it to level 120 of the main mine? Yes. Have I made it past level one in either of the other two mines? Not a chance.
Where I’m going with this is that I wanted to see how different the gameplay between the two really was. When I was originally looking at Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, I had asked a good friend of mine, who is actually the one who turned me on to Stardew Valley in the first place, what she thought of it and if she was interested in getting the game. She wasn’t aware that it had come out and asked me to let her know how it was and if it is worth it. I told her I would, and that’s where this two-part monologue begins.
I have played some on both modes in Story of Seasons so far (another post on that to come in the next few weeks), but a lot of my initial observations were made during the first season on seedling mode. I started a playthrough on normal mode as well that is about halfway through the Fall season now. I’ve made more discoveries during that second game, but the things I’ve noted are consistent between the two modes.
These two games are fairly similar which is understandable given that Stardew Valley was modeled after the original Harvest Moon game (games? I should know these things). The original creators of the Harvest Moon series were behind the design and creation of the Story of Seasons games. I’m going to start here with a brief run through of the similarities before I dive deep into the differences between the two games.
The initial start of these games is extremely similar. They start on the first day of spring and each season is 28 days long. After initial character set up, you learn that your character is someone who has grown tired of a mundane life in a big city who gets a fresh start through inheriting their grandfather’s farm. On the first day in this new town, you meet the mayor who shows you to the severely dilapidated farm and you are tasked with returning it to its former glory. Another similarity, though minor and likely inconsequential, is that the easiest building to unlock first is the chicken coop.
Both games require you to interact with the townspeople to build relationships and offer a wide variety of marriage candidates. You mine in both games and collect various resources around the farm which can be used in different kinds of machinery to create new materials. Those basics are as far as the similarities go, however. Once you really dive in, the differences between these two are quite apparent—especially in the mechanics of some of the features the games share. Let’s start taking a look at them!
Animation: The first difference that is extremely noticeable is the animation. The animation in Stardew Valley isn’t exactly modern. There are shadows on some things, but for the most part there’s really not much in the way of animation. Some stuff will wiggle sometimes. You get pollen and leaves floating through the air but that’s about it for animation other than basic character movements. In contrast, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town has wonderful animation. The animation is actually what encouraged me to purchase the game in the first place even though I did feel that the price was maybe a little steep initially. I don’t know that I feel that it’s too high of a price at this point in time now that I’ve played some and have been able to experience the beautiful game design for myself.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town animation is fantastic. It adjusts depending on what you’re wearing how you have your hair. My little character has her hair in a ponytail
(for now because I’m seriously tempted to change her appearance to look like Main from Ascendance of a Bookworm) and every time I move the ponytail moves with me. All the animals have unfairly cute designs and they can move at different angles with adorable effects. There are a lot of different little animals throughout the area as well. There’s little squirrels that will of run around trees, butterflies that fly around flowers, little owls, and more (I’m not spoiling everything here, y’all have to wait for a guide for that). The animation is certainly improved, but Stardew Valley is still certainly a solid game. It still gets updates and new features and was created by one extremely talented person.
Town Maps: Let me just start here by saying I absolutely love the map in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. In Stardew Valley, you can pull up the town map to see what building is where and who lives in what house, but that’s really about it. In Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, you pull up the town map in a similar manner but you have access to far more information. It is extremely useful, especially for people like me who have the attention span of a peanut, because you can access building info. You can view the hours of different buildings and stores which is really nice because most of these places are closed one day of the week and some have slightly different hours. It’s really convenient to have access to this information through the map because you can just look up when a store is open rather than trying to remember. In Stardew Valley,if you remember wrong then you lose a fair bit of time that could be better used collecting materials or doing things around your farm (not that I’ve done that or anything).
Another feature that I love about the map in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is that it shows you the location of the villagers and it updates in the moment. You can watch it and see if a villager is moving from the beach up towards the museum or something. This feature is especially nice if there’s a certain villager that you’re trying to increase reputation with or if you try to talk with all of them every day and you just can’t find some of them. I know it’s helped me out several times when I’ve been unable to locate a certain person.
Building Access: Another nice thing with Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is that the town and buildings are more accessible. So, in Stardew Valley when the buildings are closed, you can’t get in to talk to the people in that house. This can be frustrating especially when trying have that first meeting with all the townspeople or if you even have a specific person you want to level up reputation with. This is more problematic if you play like me and prioritize farm work earlier in the day and don’t tend to make it into town until later. This is not even an issue in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. Once a building is closed for the night in Story of Seasons, you can still go into the building. While you can’t shop or buy anything, you can still go past that shop area and talk to the people who live there as well as anyone who is visiting that home. You also don’t have to crunch reputation to gain access to certain areas of people’s homes, at least as far as I have encountered. That accessibility is definitely a selling point for me!
Bedtime and Energy Levels: This is a difference that is less obvious right off the bat and actually took me a few days to figure out. Both games are fairly similar initially where you wake up at 6 AM. In Stardew Valley you will wake up at 6:00 AM regardless of when you went to bed the night before or how low your energy levels were when you went to bed. If you pass out at 2 AM, you do wake up with less energy but you still wake up at 6 AM in Stardew Valley.
In Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, if you’re out past 10 PM I’ve noticed that you will wake up later in the day depending on how late you go to bed. From what I can tell, you wake up at 7 AM if you go to bed between 10 and 11 PM, at 8 AM if you go to bed between 11 PM and midnight, and it goes later the later you go to bed. I think the game is just really committed to making sure we get those eight hours of sleep since no one gets that in real life. In addition to this, if you go to bed with you energy level below a certain point in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, you will wake up with most of your energy restored, but not all. The final thing I’ve noticed in regards to the bedtime issue is that, while you pass out at 2 AM in both games and wake up the next day in your bed, you don’t get charged for services in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town like you do in Stardew Valley. You aren’t even made aware of how you returned to your house, actually. These are subtler things but still make difference in gameplay and the things that I know I pay attention to when it is nighttime in game.
Tool Storage: I think everyone who has played Stardew Valley will agree that it can be fairly annoying storing all your tools especially starting out. You really don’t have a lot of storage space starting out in either game and tools can take up quite a bit of this space. This is really inconvenient especially if you are out gathering materials and run out of room because you have to choose what to sacrifice to make room. This is a problem that I would say has certainly been remedied with Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. In Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, you have an actual tool bag with nine slots in it. You get access to different tools as you progress through the game and, while the tools do need to be in your backpack to be used, they can very easily be placed back in the tool bag to make room for materials. You also don’t have to have them all out at once. You can pull the axe out to chop trees and swap it for a pickaxe and rush into the mines. It’s very efficient and certainly space-saving!
Pets: All pet lovers want to have in-game pets too. Pet owners especially enjoy being able to add their fur babies to a virtual experience which is why this is another difference that I think is important to touch on. In Stardew Valley when you initially create your create your character, you are able to select whether you prefer dogs or cats. As you progress through the game, I believe it is during that first month, you will be visited by Marnie (I think, again, I should know this but I have the attention span of a peanut) who has found a stray cat or dog and wants to know if you would like it. You are allowed to name it but you don’t get to pick the color of your pet and you really don’t get to interact with them a whole lot either. You just kind of pet it once a day and give it water and that’s about all you’re able to do.
This is definitely different in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. Once you have upgraded your living quarters from a tent to a log cabin you are able to get your first pet. You can go visit the animal store to pick out your pet. There are a lot of pet choices, but don’t worry because you can get more than one depending on how large your house is! You can get different colors and breeds of cats. There’s shorthairs and a Persian for sure, as well as a few others. There are also different dog breeds available. There’s a couple different colors of Shiba Inu’s, there’s a Husky, a Labrador Retriever, a Bernese Mountain Dog, and I believe a few others. You really get a lot of variety and a lot of choice in the animals that you got to bring home. Once you get them home, you are able to of course pet them every day and you can pet them multiple times a day, though only the first one counts towards relationship with the pet. My first in-game pet is a black shorthair cat who likes to run around and just be a stinker, very much like a real cat. I also named this little creature after the tiny demon I own in real life, Flynn. You can also buy treats and balls for your pets, though I haven’t figured out how to give my cat his mouse ball yet. Also, you can unlock wolves as a pet option!!!!
I know that’s a lot of information, which is why this is broken into two parts. This here is part one, part two will be available next week so stay tuned! If any of you have played Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, I’d love to hear what you think so far!