harvestella | Review of the Switch version

You wake up in an unfamiliar place, you are disoriented and you don't remember anything except your name. In a moment of such confusion, where you would probably just want peace of mind to rearrange the pieces in your mind, what you would never dream of doing is… start cultivating a plantation. However, this is what happens in Harvestella, the new title from Square Enix that struggles to find its own identity, but which represents a mixture of many different things.

Harvestella is in fact halfway between a Triple A and an indie - therefore, if we really want to classify it, we can say that it is a "double A" -, and it is halfway between a Stardew Valley farming simulator and a classic Final Fantasy RPG. And this is precisely the first problem of the Square Enix title, which is that it wants to be many things, but does not excel in anything, resulting in an enjoyable but not at all innovative work.

In fact, right from the first start it is understood that the video game does not enjoy a marked originality: as I mentioned, after a brief customization of the character which lets you choose the gender between male, female and non-binary and some physical characteristics, you wake up with no memory in a world governed by four large crystals called "Seaslights", which regulate the succession of the seasons. You obviously arrive when something strange is going on, as the crystals begin to function abnormally and give rise to an extraordinary day which is called "Quietus", or "season of death".

You somehow manage to survive this phenomenon, and when the local inhabitants find you on the ground they decide, with extreme kindness, not only to give you a house without charging you a euro, but even to give you a plot of land that you can cultivate on your own pleasure to make some money. In short, you don't know who you are, where you come from or what you are doing in that place, but you have a hoe and a watering can. If the story wasn't particularly innovative up to now, things don't improve afterwards: another mysterious character arrives who suffers from amnesia, and you begin to investigate the bizarre phenomena caused by the crystals.

Hoe on one side and sword on the other

Most of the time spent playing Harvestella, however, I have not spent planting vegetables, but killing creatures with half reminiscent of Pokémon and the other to Final Fantasy monsters. During the story (which will keep you busy for more than 20 hours) you will in fact have to go back and forth between various cities, visiting not only the town, talking to the various NPCs and making purchases in the shops, but above all exploring the vast dungeons which in appearance reminded me of those of Monster Hunter Stories.

Square Enix's work therefore focuses on uniting two completely different genres, and in doing so it finds a good balance, without however being able to excel in either of the two areas: both the farming sim and the action RPG part don't have innovations that will leave you speechless, but they still fit together like a well-oiled gear, generating a harmony that makes the gameplay enjoyable. If to continue in the story you will have to face the various monsters and bosses, in order to improve your equipment you will need money, which can be earned initially only through cultivation (and then also with the side quests), and to load up on health you will need food from you picked or cooked.

To perform all these activities, however, you will be limited in timing, given that in Harvestella the gameplay takes place over days ranging from 6:30 in the morning to midnight; if you are not in your bed by that time, in fact, you will fall to the floor exhausted, still forcing you to wake up the next day but paying the monetary "tax" for death. As much as it makes sense that, being a farming sim anyway, time passes in a plausible way, the minutes pass far too quickly, thus greatly limiting what can be done in the less than 18 hours available to you; to give you an example, leaving the house, taking care of the garden and going into town to buy something, you will have already spent at least half the morning.

The exploration of a dungeon will therefore inevitably require several sessions and even if you, like me, have the desire to rush, this will not be possible. If on the one hand this is positive, allowing you to enjoy every minute of the game and forcing you to plan your days to be able to do everything in the hours available, on the other it is limiting: more than once I have found myself forced to use a tool to teleport home in the middle of a forest or cave, cutting short my journey even though I would have enough food and health to continue.

Fortunately, Harvestella provides for these multi-session browsing, implementing a system in totem with which to move within the area where you are and go directly home, as well as a series of shortcuts made up of ladders and bridges that you will have to repair to shorten the distances. Instead, I found it very, very frustrating the fact that for the first part of the gameplay it was not possible to save progress manually but only automatically at night; considering that it is the richest section of cutscenes and dialogues that last even tens of minutes, I have turned off the Switch several times hoping that it had saved itself but, to my great disappointment, I had to repeat portions a second time.

Hit and hope

Turning instead to the combat, it is a simple real-time hack n' slash, based on a system of elemental weaknesses that you must take into account, changing your class accordingly based on the enemy you are facing. Unfortunately you will not be able to control the other members of your party, who will do whatever they like regardless, only providing support in dealing damage. However, you will also be able to take advantage of various special abilities, unlockable through experience with a system of constellations similar to those of Genshin Impact.

This combat system is not terrible, on the contrary, on Switch I found the commands for changing classes and using skills very comfortable; the real problem is that they are practically no defensive options: you will not be able to parry or dodge the blows in any way except by running from side to side, and when you eat to recover your life your character will freeze for several seconds, leaving you completely vulnerable.

Then I can only spend a few words on the graphics of Harvestella, which on Switch certainly cannot be defined as spectacular. Although the settings have been created with care and above all the landscapes with crystals in the background have a lot of charm, after seeing works such as Bayonetta 3 and Breath of the Wild running on the Nintendo console, I can only be disappointed to see pixelated and blurry textures. The situation is the same in both the portable and docked versions, while it is exponentially better on PC, where the graphics are fluid and the game certainly runs at higher FPS.

Finally, know that, at least for the moment, Harvestella it is not available in the Spanish language: it is indeed possible to choose a language for the interface and subtitles and one for the dialogues, but ours is not available. And, if I have to be honest, actually even the fact of being able to select two different languages ​​doesn't make much sense, given that the characters practically do not proliferate any words, except for very short sentences spoken by the other party members during the fights. So don't expect great dubbing or anime-style verses, for most of the gameplay you will only listen to the soundtrack of the work and read the numerous texts.

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