Chinese New Year Games Spotlight – Sims Meets Ming Dynasty

Jocelyn Yan

To celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year, USC Games is releasing a 3-part series featuring hit games from past CNYs.  This is Part 2 of our 3-Part series featuring Hot Games from Chinese New Years’ past.  

With the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, the Chinese New Year, typically a time for celebration, was impacted due to the cancellation of all major in-person events. While cinemas and theatres shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like people around the world many celebrants people were bored while staying at home, and unable to meet with friends or relatives. 

In July 2020, the life simulation mobile game Jiangnan Landscape went viral in China. The game was developed and published by Coconut Island, a game studio that focuses on making indie games with exquisite design. Jiangnan Landscape attained 2.1 million downloads within the first month of its release and maintained its place in the top 3 for 21 days in a row. Let’s dive into the game’s features, which make it so intriguing.

Jiangnan Landscape‘s gameplay is very similar to The Sims. What makes it unique are the elements of ancient Chinese culture that are present in the game’s story, characters, graphics, and music. The game specifically takes place during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) of China, the time remembered for its literature, art, and porcelain. All characters of this game wear period clothes, and the background buildings are also presented in the style of ancient Chinese architecture. The background music is performed by traditional Chinese instruments including Guzheng, Dizi, and Erhu. The historical setting of Jiangnan Landscape allows players to easily enter their role as explorers – By immersing themselves in the virtual game world, players get to escape from modern times and discover a life in one of the grandest and most poetic periods of China. 

When players first enter the game, they will find themselves playing as Wen Zhengming, a Chinese painter, calligrapher, and poet during the Ming dynasty. Wen is trapped in one of his well-known paintings, Jiangnan Landscape. Jiangnan, one of the southern regions of China that Wen painted, was destroyed by a fire disaster. Players must complete a list of quests to rebuild the area and revive the economy. There are a wide range of quests, including but not limited to constructing new houses, inviting new residents to the area, cultivating a farm, hosting a marketplace, and even solving a robbery case. Each quest unlocks awards that contain in-game currency and items that can help to more easily progress through the game.

In addition to the rich cultural presentation, the game also has strong attention to detail. In Jiangnan Landscape, there are several special characters players can obtain via a “gacha” mechanism. These characters, although not all originally from the Ming Dynasty, are influential historical figures with great accomplishments in either art or literature. The plot moves along with players’ discovery of these special characters whose real life stories are incorporated in the plot. Even the non-playable characters have their own storylines – they may be fighting with the neighbors one day, or falling in love with the girl next door on the next. Players can see these characters having random conversations on the streets, or may even discover an in-game criminal in a random valley. The game’s strong attention to detail provides an even more immersive experience for players living a life in the historical time of Jiangnan. 

Of course, the game contains easter eggs. For example, players can eavesdrop on a conversation between NPCs by clicking the chat bubble that appears on the screen. Listen carefully! You may be able to discover a clue that leads you to solve a criminal case or hear a secret that helps you to get even richer in game. 

Jiangnan Landscape, unfortunately, has not been made available for players in the U.S, yet, but if exploring a beautiful ancient period in China’s history combined with fun, immersive gameplay is your thing, keep an eye out for it!