As discussed last night, after weeks of avoidance, I finally bought into the Stardew Valley hype.
As expected, it is indeed a love letter to Natsume games like Harvest Moon and later Rune Factory. Your custom character chooses to abandon life as a corporate drone in an effort to find something new, inheriting a farm in Stardew Valley from your grandfather.
Whereas Harvest Moon games often left you to your own devices, Stardew Valley includes a journal system with objectives to pursue (meet all the townspeople, harvest a set of crops, etc.). I appreciate this "guided" tutorial in the early days as there is a lot of new elements to take in. In the past, when I would play Harvest Moon games, many of the characters would remain consistent from game to game. But Stardew Valley is introducing me to a town I've never explored before with citizens I've never talked to before so I appreciate the game giving me a sense of guidance in that regard.
Additionally, the game certainly has a Minecraft element to it in that I can create new items for my farm using materials I collect or purchase. A few days into my game, for example, I crafted a couple of scarecrows to place near my crops in order to prevent crows from destroying the work I had done on a given tile. Additions such as this and sprinklers suggest I'm in for an experience that saw what Harvest Moon was doing and recognized the potential to go above and beyond the same old "plant crops, raise animals, talk to townsfolk" gameplay.
I'm only a few hours in but already I'm thoroughly enjoying the innate desire to clear out my farmland and be as productive as possible. True to real-life Trevor, the Trevor of Trove Farm is more interested in getting the work done than building up personal relationships at the moment but I'm sure as I start attending town events in the future, this mentality will shift and I'll start knowing my neighbors as I did the characters in Harvest Moon.