Image via Merge Games

Review: SunnySide Is Ambitious, But Underwhelming

SunnySide falls into the age-old trap of being a game that isn’t quite ready for most players to jump into at this point. This ambitious farming sim and RPG contains an unbelievable amount of depth and systems, but every aspect of from the UI to how it plays undermines its promise.

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If you’ve played games like Stardew Valley or Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, you’ll recognize the impetus for the plot. You move from the big city in Japan to a small town in the countryside to start over. Your highly customizable player character inherits an extremely empty piece of land to farm and build up to your liking.

How to romance characters and all gender preferences SunnySide
Screenshot by Siliconera

To SunnySide’s credit, this game is about as freeing as it gets when it comes to the genre. You can truly make your character look like you or whoever you want due to so many aspects to tweak, from weight to facial features to hair to even gender identity. However, the 3D graphics look a bit bland, especially when it comes to character models. This is a shame, since the actual 2D character portraits look fantastic. That said, the welcome depth of customization helps to somewhat offset that. After all, your farm is a blank canvas to call your own. You can build every inch of your farm and house from a lowly tent to a burgeoning mansion. In this way, the game feels like a survival crafting experience, but this is only a sliver of the experiences SunnySide has to offer.

There is also the entire farming aspect, where players plant seeds, water them, and sell them to make cash to unlock more materials, buildings, gifts, and upgrades. If that isn’t enough, there is even simplistic turn-based RPG combat. However, it feels like even more of an afterthought than similar battle systems in other games like Stardew Valley. You can go dozens of hours without really diving into the linear dungeons and straightforward fights. There is little depth to this outside of a few commands and the deck-like system of collecting different Ofuda for effects. Collecting Ofuda starts out fun, but the relatively breezy difficulty ensures it doesn’t feel as necessary as it could. I wish the turn-based combat had more of a prominence in the overall progression of the game.

All of these different aspects are wrapped up in a smartphone-based interface, which feels intuitive. However, it is SunnySide’s ambition that is also its downfall. While I am grateful to have so many different activities, none of them feel complete or worth diving into. A huge part of this comes from how poorly everything runs. This game is sometimes a challenge to play due to how it barely chugs along, especially in the outdoor, open-world areas. Yet it even takes its time loading and running at a snail’s pace at times indoors as well. This could be because I spent most of my time on Steam Deck, where the frame rate is all over the place. To make matters worse, the frequent pop-ins and sluggish loading hurts it even more.

SunnySide Review
Image via Merge Games

To give it a fair shake, I booted SunnySide up on a beefier gaming PC. Unfortunately, it didn’t fare much better there than on Steam Deck. It ran a little smoother in some areas, but still had major visual and performance hiccups. Without a doubt, this game has some of the most atrocious optimization I’ve seen in a while.

Sadly, the problems don’t stop there. While the game has controller support, it doesn’t work all that well. The general movement controls are fine and using tools feels acceptable, but the interface is a mess to deal with. Most of the menus use a cursor to deal with the menu, inventory, and even phone. It is pretty slow and imprecise, leading to me wasting more time in the menus than necessary. This is even worse when you consider how almost everything is in the phone menu, such as messages and even the world map.

However, there is one element that may never get a fix, and that is the romance system. Having 25 romanceable characters sounds impressive, but this hides some serious issues with dating in the game. Every character has a dating preference on the gender expression scale. This scale is what players use during character creation to determine their identity. Basically, you have a 10-point scale for masculinity, 10-point scale for femininity, and non-binary right in the middle. You can pick your gender identity anywhere along the spectrum, which is quite neat. However, there are some issues with this system, and that’s mostly in it’s execution.

Screenshot by Siliconera

Fall in love with Hanako, for example, but aren’t feminine? So sorry, but you’re out of luck. I think the idea of centering around this isn’t inherently bad; after all, other farming sim series locked romances behind gender in the past. The problem is you have to research each character ahead of time to know their preferences, and there is no way to change your gender identity at this time once you’ve left the character creator. This actually feels ironically backwards in a way, since gender identity can be fluid and offering a way to change your gender identity within the game would let players experiment.

It is a shame, too, since the most joy I had with this game was speaking and hanging out with the characters. You can tell SunnySide’s developer took notes from the Persona series. Each character has different levels to their friendship where you get to learn more about them. Some of the stories are pretty emotional, genuinely funny, and quite diverse.

The writing, in general, is actually quite brilliant. It just sucks that there is so much frustration with the controls, performance, and UI the vast majority of the time to get to that slim payoff. In the end, this makes SunnySide the epitome of “wait and see” early access title. It simply does too much from its survival mechanics to building to RPG combat to farming and relationships.

Screenshot by Siliconera

While there is so much to see here, rarely does anything work properly to make the experience feel worthwhile. I do believe there is a solid farming sim RPG in the making with SunnySide, but it could take a long time and plenty of updates to reach that potential. For now, I don’t recommend giving it a look unless you’re okay with quite a lot of grievances.

SunnySide is available right now on PCs via Steam.


Find harmony in the Japanese countryside as you help Sparky uncover lost memories in this modern take on the farming and life simulator. Reviewed on PC.

SunnySide has some rather ambitious ideas for the farming sim RPG genre, adding turn-based combat, robust romance, and building. However, it falls short in every elements of execution, from how poorly the game runs right now to the restrictive dating system.

Food for Thought
  • Carefully look at the romance options before starting your playthrough.
  • You can change your character’s appearance after starting but not gender expression.
  • You need to manually add tools from your inventory to your tool wheel to be able to use them.

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Cody Perez
Cody is a writer who has been sharing his love for video games and anime since his high school days in 2012. When he isn’t writing about the latest JRPGs and anime series, he can be found in Final Fantasy XIV, occasionally playing some Call of Duty, or lurking on Twitter @SoulcapCody.