Review – Harvestella

The year 2022 will be marked as a year where Square Enix decided to release a metric crap ton of titles, most of them completely devoid of a marketing campaign. In the past, those stealth drops were “reserved” to duds like The Quiet Man or Left Alive, but it feels like most titles released this year had little to no marketing backing whatsoever, regardless of their quality. One of them, to me, is Harvestella. When it first came out, I didn’t even notice it. Very few people did. But considering it’s Square Enix’s first foray into the slice of life genre, whilst being developed by the same people behind the excellent Ender Lilies, I still wanted to try it out. It couldn’t possibly be bad. Thankfully, it isn’t.

Harvestella Farming

Eat your heart out, Farming Simulator.

Harvestella is, indeed, a mixture between a farming simulator and an action RPG. It’s hard not to compare it to Rune Factory, a franchise that has been doing the same schtick for many years. In a way, yes, the concept is not at all innovative, but that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have a lot of redeeming factors. Weirdly enough, in games like this, the action RPG bit is usually more interesting than the farming, which is not the case in Harvestella.

I could easily summarise the whole farming bit as “it’s Story of Seasons, like it or leave it”. The whole “wake up, harvest crops, plant seeds, water seeds, go to town to buy crap” gameplay loop is near identical, but it works superbly. As per the usual, you can also earn money by fishing, raising animals, and you can even get married. Once the routine sets in, it’s hard not to fall for Harvestella‘s relaxing loop, even if, as to be expected, this is best suited for portable play, be it on the Nintendo Switch or a Steam Deck. The bizarre part is when the action RPG bit kicks in, which feels in odds with the rest of the gameplay.


What is it with 2022 JRPGs and levels that feel like they came straight out of Xenoblade?

Let’s just say that the combat is… adequate. I do like how you have multiple Jobs at your disposal, and you can swap them mid-combat, allowing for some neat experimentation. I also like how your allies do not feel like pushovers. Even to the point of them occasionally being stronger than you.

That being said, it’s waaaaaaaay too simplistic. It’s a very standard hack ‘n’ slash combat system, with some really dated mechanics and lacking in others, namely a decent lock-on system. Sure, you can lock onto enemies, but the camera doesn’t center around them, making evading attacks hard, and using the system as a whole pretty useless. Leveling up is also quiet weird, since you only cash in your experience points at night, when you go to bed. Plus, you never know how much XP you’re amassing during the day either.

But you will keep going through the motions. That’s because what ties all conflicting gameplay loops together is a surprisingly interesting story featuring elements that you typically see in Square Enix RPGs: crystals, monsters, silent protagonists, and that whole deadly miasma schtick featured in Crystal Chronicles. There are also some more esoteric plot elements, such as aliens and time travelling. In a reverse trend, you even meet someone dropping into your isekai world, with you not being such victim for once. All in all, the story is actually really good, but its pacing… isn’t.

Harvestella Combat

The best thing I can say about the combat in Harvestella is that it’s serviceable.

Harvestella is a victim of its own daily routine cycle. Because of it, just one bit of lore is dropped onto you every single day. In order for the next bit of lore to occur onscreen, you have to wait for the next day. Given how you can only sleep at night, and how you can basically do all of your farming chores in the morning, you have to wait. And wait. Just for the sake of it. This results in a game with a polar-cold pacing, taking forever for anything meaningful to happen. Furthermore, in true JRPG fashion, everything has to be explained via tons of tutorials. One per day. Because screw it, why not. Only after a handful of hours will the game open up and become exponentially more interesting to invest your time on.

Harvestella Aria

Girl, this is a JRPG, not Project Runway. Also be glad this outfit wasn’t designed by Tetsuya Nomura.

To top everything off, there’s the presentation. This is where Harvestella shines the brightest, and disappoints the most at the same time. When it comes to visuals, this game clearly doesn’t impress. It was clearly made with the Nintendo Switch’s pathetic hardware in mind. Meaning that, no matter how beefy your computer is, the game will look like a Wii JRPG running on Dolphin with a texture pack. It’s not ugly, just not interesting at all.

On the other hand, the soundtrack is the game’s highlight. Composed by Go Shiina (the same guy behind the Demon Slayer anime), each area of the game features a banger that fits perfectly with the situation at hand. When on a farm, the music is soothing. When exploring a new area, the music is epic and adventurous. If you’re inside a dungeon, the music is somber. When fighting a boss, stuff gets real, and so on.

Harvestella Unicorn

That horn is indeed hella fabulous.

All in all, Harvestella is far from being the most impressive and innovative mixture between a farming simulator and an action RPG, but it’s far from being outright bad or worthy of being ignored, either. It’s got some neat redeeming factors, namely its phenomenal soundtrack and relaxing farming vibes, while suffering from an uninspired combat system, and some really poor pacing problems. It’s hard to convince players to pick this one up over, say, a Rune Factory game, with its more established formula, but I did enjoy Harvestella way more than expected. Not exactly a bright highlight from Square Enix’s year, but one still worth praising… moderately…


Graphics: 6.5

Although cute, there’s no denying this was designed with the Nintendo Switch’s limitations in mind, resulting in a game that barely looks better than most JRPGs available on the Wii.

Gameplay: 7.0

The gameplay loop is your now standardized mix between a farming simulator/slice of life game and an action RPG. The former is pretty good. The latter leaves a bit to be desired, especially with the lack of a decent lock-on feature.

Sound: 9.0

Without a shadow of a doubt, the soundtrack is Harvestella‘s main highlight. This is some of Go Shiina’s best work.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Harvestella hits all the notes when it comes to being a relaxing farming simulator, but it falters when it tries to be an epic action RPG, namely due to combat and (especially) pacing issues.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Harvestella is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Harvestella was provided by the publisher.