Review – Garden Story
I don’t know if it was my poor understanding of how Garden Story was described during a past Nintendo Direct, or maybe its art style, but I somehow walked into this game expecting something similar to that of Stardew Valley. Instead, to my surprise, I was presented with a 2D Zelda clone with a somewhat confused personality, with sentient fruits and vegetables named after what they are, as well as random animals with names of their own.
To sum up story in brief: you, a small grape, are now the guardian of the land after the previous guardian had vanished. Given your rookie status, absolutely no one has any faith in you. This is your typical underdog story, focusing heavily on rooting for the little grape-shaped guy. After a brief introduction into everything that’s happening in the world, namely a plague called “The Rot” attacking everything, it becomes your task to solve the problems of everyone in the land. After this brief prologue, everything plays out pretty simply. You fulfill requests given by the residents, everyone becomes happy, you find a boss, kill said boss, then move onto a new area.
The more requests you complete in each area, the more this area will level up, affecting the types of enemies which will spawn, or the upgrades available for purchase in the shops. These requests are refreshed every new in-game day, ensuring there’s always something new to do after you have your beauty sleep in your safe house (you get one for each area you visit). Each region is nicely themed with a season, starting in spring, moving to summer, fall, and finally winter. However, each region comes with its own unique types of problems. For instance, to finish the first area, you’ll be required to clear The Rot from the library. While in the second area you’ll need to repair a bridge and reconnect the village with the rest of the area. This opens up a quite interesting part of the game as well.
As you move around each area, you’ll collect a wide assortment of your traditional crafting materials (stone, wood, glass, and so on), all of which are used in order to craft upgrade. Do bear in mind that, as with most of these games, your inventory is limited and you cannot carry a lot of materials at any given point. Be sure to stock these items in storage boxes, which can be accessed from multiple locales with the same stock, akin to the storage crates in the older Resident Evil games.
Luckily, you can sell any superfluous inventory, which is crucial, as money is also required for upgrades. If you don’t want ’em, dump ’em. This brings us back around to the interesting part of the game mentioned above, upon building the bridge, you’ll gain the ability to modify where certain items are. This includes lights, benches, and storage boxes. Throw them down wherever seems best!
Everything is presented in an adorable pixel art style, reminiscent of a Super Nintendo game with a bit more detail. It’s adorable, but it’s not exactly jaw-dropping. The music is also pretty good, fitting in perfectly with the atmosphere, but I do feel like the game was in dire need of a more epic tune for boss battles, as well as an eerie song whenever you’re exploring an area at night.
As cutesy as Garden Story is, and the music certainly matches, it certainly isn’t aimed at children. The themes in Garden Story are the idea of proving yourself and self-worth. The characters constantly express disapproval for your character and the fact they have become the guardian. It’s all the more reason to prove yourself though, go out and use your sword, hammer, parasol, whatever works for you, and show The Rot who’s boss.
If you are looking for a stopgap substitute for a 2D Zelda game, but with a bit more to offer in terms of depth and playability, Garden Story is the way to go. If you’re not willing to go out there and fight enemies at a particular time, just chill out, handle some requests, meet the characters, head back to bed, then do it all over again. Look for perks. Search for upgrades. This is a game you can either tackle in a handful of hours or enjoy it for much longer, depending on how much you’re willing to invest in it.
Simply looks and plays like a 2D Zelda, just using fruit, vegetables, and animals instead of humans. The design is very cute and easy to look at, but nothing that is particularly mind-blowing.
A great blend of traditional 2D style combat, mixed with resource management and time management. A lot of fun to sit down and play casually handling tasks, or tackling the main story.
The music is cute and matches the artwork, but I think the game lacked a truly epic tune whenever you fight against bosses, as well as an eerie song to be played during nighttime.
Fun Factor: 9.0
An incredibly fun time and the perfect style of game to play on the go on Switch. Play a full day cycle while sitting on the bus or train and you’ll chip away good chunks of this game without even noticing.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Garden Story is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Garden Story was provided by the publisher.