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E3 2012: Project Happiness Moves on From Harvest Moon… And Mostly Succeeds

Posted on June 8, 2012 AT 02:58pm

Quick Quote: Yasuhiro Wada’s new project is a lot like his old project, but it may shake things up more than you think.

I’ve achieved what I wanted to do with Harvest Moon. If it’s my child, then I feel that it’s fully grown, and I’m ready to let it go.” — Yasuhiro Wada, president, Toybox Games

Eighteen years ago, Yasuhiro Wada set to work on Harvest Moon—then a real peculiarity for its focus on farming. Now, after at least two dozen Harvest Moon games, he’s ready to step away. But is Project Happiness really that different from Harvest Moon?

Consider this: it stars a boy (or a girl) who establishes himself in a rural town. Rather than running a farm, he’s tasked with running a shop. As time goes by, he slowly builds up relationships with the townsfolk by bringing them objects that they like. It’s even possible to marry one of them. Sound familiar?

Okay, so Project Happiness isn’t really that different from Harvest Moon, but it does certainly have its points of interest. One thing that jumped out at me is that relationships aren’t just about meeting a member of the opposite sex and eventually getting it on. Instead, the ultimate goal is to uncover their fondest wish; and in the end, grant it. Which character you will end up helping is meant to be one of the core dilemmas that is strengthened by the relationships built up over the course of the game.

The major appeal, I think, is in the fact that you are more connected to the town than ever. As a shopkeeper, your job is to keep the town supplied with goods and services, meaning that you will have many more opportunities to interact with them (rather than simply toiling in the fields). As such, when the town grows and changes, you will grow and change with that as well. I find that sort of approach compelling.

Being from a small town in northern Japan himself, Wada professes to have a strong connection to the idyllic sort of village life portrayed in Harvest Moon; so in that sense, the commonalities aren’t that suprising. But with a few key changes, Project Happiness seems to be closer than ever to capturing just the sort of small-town life that Wada professes to love. Personally, I tired of Harvest Moon long ago, so I can understand Wada’s desire to move in a new direction. With Project Happiness, I think we’re both on the verge of a fresh start.

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