The truth is that Natsume isn’t going anywhere and is in fact bringing over the next official entry in the series, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, to the American Nintendo 3DS. Natsume President and CEO Hiro Maekawa has crossed MarvelousAQL’s line in the sand and fired back against its confusing presser.
“Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is truly evolving the franchise,” it says in Natsume’s own press release. “Hardcore fans will love it, players who haven’t played a Harvest Moon game in a while will want to try it out, and new players will be introduced to the unique and charming world that is Harvest Moon.”
“But the incredibly exciting thing that really elevates the game is that while it does get back to what everyone loves about the early games, it also innovates in a way that no Harvest Moon game ever has.”
Oh, it is so on like Donkey Kong!
Where did this confusion arise? How can MarvelousAQL claim to be making a new “Harvest Moon” game when it could be just making any normal farming game? Well, it appears that nearly the entire original Harvest Moon development team, including longtime producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto and character designer Igusa Matsuyama, were either poached or had a falling out with their original company, and they are now bringing their ideas and aesthetic to a different company.
They just have to use a different name.
The real question lies in how longtime fans will react. Will they follow the brand name that they have known since the days of the Super Nintendo, or will they jump ship and join the original development team in playing what looks more like a spiritual successor?
I haven’t played a game in the Harvest Moon series since the days of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, so I have no attachment to the franchise. One thing I have learned about the Japanese video game scene over the past few years, as all the biggest and legendary names are fleeing to the indie scene in a mass exodus, is that companies and brand names are far too respected, when it is the people behind these games that deserve the spotlight.
When Capcom lost its star developers, the people went on to make Mighty No. 9 and Platinum Games, and Capcom hasn’t been doing so well without them. When Koji Igarashi was sidestepped and Castlevania was passed on to another Western studio, the long running series lost a bit of its swagger. When Square Enix discovered it was best to leave development in the hands of young and modern directors who understand the HD world, Final Fantasy became more producible and likable again.
So, when you see Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons on the shelf and don’t know which one to pick, remember to look past the name and see the faces of the people working on the game. The heart and soul of the older games can be found in the newer title. I can’t speak to the quality of either game yet, since I haven’t played them, but this new found respect I have for personalities behind the franchises makes me want to support Story of Seasons. Plus, XSEED is just really good at localizations, too.