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While Story of Seasons may not bear the Harvest Moon moniker, this “new” series from long-time producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto has roots that are firmly planted in the fertile soil of the beloved life-sim series. During E3 2014, Hashimoto sat down with Gaming Blend to discuss his new game (coming exclusively to the Nintendo 3DS this winter), what makes it similar to past Harvest Moon games, as well as what sets it apart.
First, just a little bit of background for those who are confused by all of the recent Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons news. While Story of Seasons was a Harvest Moon game when it released in Japan back in February, that property is actually owned by Natsume and, here in the States, this new game is being published by XSEED. Natsume actually has a new Harvest Moon game arriving in the US this year called The Lost Valley, which only furthers the confusion. According to Hashimoto, though, the hope is to continue the Story of Seasons franchise here in the US under this new name, and this upcoming title can be seen as a fresh starting point for the series.
In other words, Story of Seasons is basically a Harvest Moon game in every way but its name and, based on my time with the game and Hashimoto at E3, there are even a few welcome changes that help set the game apart.
For fans of previous Harvest Moon games, don't worry, you're still going to be farming, raising livestock and trying to woo a love interest or two while preparing for festivals and getting in the occasional side activity. The game still takes place from a 2.5-D top-down perspective, and you'll still be racing the sun on a daily basis in order to cram in as much work as humanly possible.
Some of the more common chores, like watering and planting, have been streamlined, though, meaning you'll be able to take care of some of the more basic tasks on your way to tackling more time-demanding activities. You'll also have farming rivals this time around, who you'll compete against at market in order to provide the best, and most affordable products. You can also jump. Yes, jump. I know I shouldn't be so excited about such a simple feature, but when you've spent as much time as I have running into knee-high walls and tiny slopes in the past two decades' worth of Harvest Moon games, the ability to leap over minor obstacles and continue on your merry way is a huge relief.
Also, according to Hashimoto, customization will also play a big role in Story of Seasons, allowing players to construct their farm in a way that will best accommodate their personal work flow.
“In the beginning, there are no spaces specifically allocated for what needs to go where, so you can build your farm however you think it will work best,” Hashimoto said. “Also, there are rival NPCs in this new game that you will be able to compete against at certain festivals. You will be competing for a certain piece of land and, if you win, you can claim that land as your own, too.”
Along with more plant types than ever, there are also brand new animal types to raise, amassing to the largest roster of critters in series history.
“There's also a mode called Safari,” Hashimoto continued. “In previous titles, you could find these natural habitat animals roaming around in their own area. By having a Safari, you can actually call them over and see them in this one area all at once.”
Hashimoto also mentioned that, in Japan, the subtitle for Story of Seasons was actually Connect to a New World. As such, connections will play a big part in this new game. Utilizing wifi, players can jump into their friends' farms and help them maintain their crops. Razing your pal's field to the ground, though, will not be an option.
“In the very beginning, we had a sort of troll system that would allow you to sabotage somebody else,” he said. “But once we put that in, it created a vicious cycle of growing it and then it gets destroyed. You were never moving forward with that system, so we decided to omit it. You can only help out other players in this title.”
Hashimoto was also excited to share details about Natusme/XSEED's collaboration with Nintendo, offering Mario-themed vegetables for the first time in the series. Players can grow mushrooms, fire flowers and the super star in Story of Seasons, and each of these items can also be utilized to affect your crops. Growing a mushroom, for instance, will allow other crops grown around it to grow faster.
According to Hashimoto, everyone will live their own life in Story of Seasons but, no matter where your farm ends up, he hopes everyone walks away with a sense of accomplishment and completion.
“When we first started making Harvest Moon games, it was basically a life simulator,” he said. “For some people, when they get married, for instance, they think that's the end. For some people, when they get married, they see that as the real beginning. Wherever that point is for each player, we want them to feel like they have fulfilled their life within the game.”