Note: I've never played Harvest Moon, so my review is through the lens of a newcomer.
Rating Quick View:
Future Play: Medium
Fun level High - If you like to create something from nothing and leave with a sense of accomplishment and ownership, this game is definitely for you. Stardew Valley has such depth and breadth that you can play it however you want to and never be wrong or lose. Want to focus on farm design? Want to focus on battling? Want to focus on learning character backstories? You can! Or not.... No pressure. Since days are split into roughly 15 minute chunks, it feels like a very time manageable game where you can set a goal for the day, achieve it, and try something else the next day. Part of you needs to like grinding games, though. Repeating the same task and increasing efficiency really should be something you enjoy. Fortunately I find that fun.
Frustration level Medium - Ok... This category is a bit of a difficult one to score because I read guides when I got stuck. Found a key... Looked up where it goes. Found a locked door.... Looked up where to get the key. I try to generally avoid any guides, but since days are only 15 minutes at a time, I really didn't want to "waste" it randomly walking around. This game doesn't feel very rewarding as an exploration game, more of a task oriented game, so getting to where I wanted to be felt high priority. In addition, I saw a video clip of the game prior to playing. Without that, I may not have known how to refill the watering can (for example). With little to no tutorials, you either have to be okay trying and failing or just looking up answers. I only read guides for select things and still have played for 145 hours, so I'm happy I used them when I did.
Function level High - Everything about this game and how it functions is great. The music, the sounds, the colors, the story. It's all pretty awesome. A recent title update changed the controls and I don't like the new operations nearly as much, but it may be because I was used to the old control setup. One thing to note is that if you spend too much time on your farm, the music will stop for the day. I don't know if this is on purpose, but when there is no music, I always feel inclined to leave the farm and walk around the town (music returns when you leave your home screen).
Future Play level Medium - This is another tough score, because I am just not sure how many times I will play a game that I have played for 145 hours on my first run. Obviously I think it is an amazing game and I love it. I think depending on what you like to do in the game, the replay level could be very high. If you like starting from scratch or trying farms on new landscapes, you will definitely get 5 play throughs. If you want to go as low into the mines as possible and battle, there may be no reason to start another game. Even if I don't start a new game, I can imagine always returning to my current save.
Information on the author - I find typical review categories difficult to relate to, so I created my own. The purpose of this review isn't to discuss every aspect of the game or how to play the game. Upon writing, the author earned 29/40 achievements and played over 145 hours on a single save file.