Well, we didn’t have long to wonder what Natsume would do after last week’s announcement of a big Harvest Moon shake-up, as the company today revealed their own internally-developed new chapter for the franchise.
For those of you who aren’t up on what exactly went on last week—covered in my Japan Service column if you want the full story—Marvelous AQL decided to switch English localization of their Bokujou Monogatari series over to XSEED Games (who is now owned by the Japanese publisher). People here in the West know Bokujou Monogatari as Harvest Moon, but an interesting twist cropped up (no pun intended) for the games here in the States: Marvelous AQL retains all rights to the games themselves, but Natsume can lay claim to the Harvest Moon name.
Without source games to call Harvest Moon, however, many wondered what Natsume would do going forward. Today, we know: they’ll be developing their own farming games in-house, the first of which has been announced as Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley.
“Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is truly evolving the franchise. 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,” Natsume president and CEO Hiro Maekawa said in a press release today. “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.”
Of course, the big question is this: how will a Natsume-developed Harvest Moon game turn out? In the past, Natsume has done some development work on the series—they created the GameBoy Harvest Moon titles, crafted the puzzle game Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming, and were responsible for the “girl’s” editions of Friends of Mineral Town and A Wonderful Life—but most of what they’ve done has been centered around building off of (or porting over) already-existing Bokujou Monogatari releases or gameplay concepts.
There was a piece of Natsume news from last years that now seems like it could be connected: the creation of a new internal development studio based in Tokyo. Announced last June, the team is headed up by Yasutaka “Taka” Maekawa, with the purpose of “further expand[ing] the development of games for home and handheld game consoles, smartphones, and tablets worldwide.” While there’s no direct proof at that moment that this new Tokyo studio will be responsible for the creation of The Lost Valley, given that you’d need to have at least a year’s worth of development time in order to properly create a new Harvest Moon title from scratch, the potential connection can’t be ignored.
While I’ve yet to see anything of the game—that will no doubt come at E3—the before-mentioned press release does give some hints as to the new direction Natsume will be taking their self-created Harvest Moon titles:
In Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, players will experience the role-playing farm simulation in a three-dimensional setting for the first time. The game has a fully customizable world, and players can customize their field in any way they see fit: from a field full of tulips like you might see in Holland, to a valley filled with water like Venice, the choice is up to you. You’ve never played a Harvest Moon game quite like this!
Given how huge of a brand Harvest Moon is for Natsume, I have to believe that they’re going to try their best at making games that’ll keep fans dedicated to the series—especially now that future “true” Bokujou Monogatari titles will be out there as competition (under the “Story of Seasons” moniker). And, after so many years of publishing Bokujou Monogatari games, the publisher also no doubt has more than a few opinions on what make for a good (or not-so-good) Harvest Moon game. So, their own twist on the series—free of any rules put forth by Marvelous AQL—could provide some welcome new blood to the brand. And, hey—so long as we still have the Bokukou Monogatari games coming our way as well, we can have the new take on farming games together with the old standard, and everyone’ll be happy.