Being niche titles and fan favorites, the Harvest Moon series has earned its fame through relaxing gameplay and open ended goals. So much so, that the series continues to do well even after producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto left Natsume for Marvelous. While Natsume continues with the Harvest Moon line, Mr. Hashimoto continues to show how to do the genre right with the true series continuation, Story of Seasons. With the sequel, Trio of Towns, out in Japan, and coming this winter to western audiences, the producer took some time to speak with Hardcore Gamer about capybara, the three towns, and farming life:
[Hardcore Gamer] So, you must like farming games since you’ve been doing Harvest Moon for so long, and when things…let’s just say went south, you wanted to continue doing it. What is it about farming games that intrigues you?
[Yoshifumi Hashimoto] It is something that I wanted to continue doing with my life partner. When I moved, I wanted to create something that had more of a taste of western culture. It was something that we both wanted to keep doing.
Okay. What is it about farming life in particular that you enjoy so much? Is it something that you get to do with your partner, so you are happy doing anything, or is there something specific that you just love creating in this niche?
My grandparents lived in a rural part of Japan. There’s no stores, no train. It’s a really solid rural area in the middle of nowhere. I spent a lot of my time there during my childhood, so I know what it is like being a farmer. It can be really tough living in the middle of nowhere, but I think, in the game, we can make it something fun and more enjoyable. I want people to people to find out that it can be fun, too.
So you want to give everyone a taste of the more simple life that you are familiar with.
When we first released Story of Seasons, battle, fighting, shooting games were really popular at the time. So, at first, we didn’t think it would be as popular as it is now overseas. When time went on, we found out that there were more simulation farming games out there. That means I thought more people were accepting of this type of game in general.
I would agree. Sometimes you want to just relax and just enjoy something. Not feel tense. So, there’s all sorts of new things to do (in Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns), and it’s not a goal driven game that you are creating. So, when you sit down to try out the game, what do you like to do most? Farming, making friends, finding a marriage partner, what do you like to do when you play?
Personally, I like to plant the farm and focus on that. But, I think, a good part of this game is to just not forcing somebody to do something (that they don’t want.) So if you just want to fish, you can stick with fishing. People can achieve what they want.
So, of the new things that you are putting in Trio of Towns, what has you the most excited?
Since we put the three totally different towns in one game, players can enjoy three different lifestyles. For example, in the western themed town, all the stores open from morning to night, the regular business hours. But then, you go to the next city, the tropical island, the stores open from really early in the morning, but close for a siesta. Players can go to the different cities and enjoy different lifestyles, something that will be different for them.
So with the animals, I got a look at the variety available. Being able to get buffalo milk was very interesting. One thing I thought was very interesting was the capybaras. My wife is a zoo keeper and this would excite her as we don’t see them used very much. But there are no herding kitties. I would find it amusing to find cats trying to herd sheep.
With the capybara, there are twenty-eight different pets you can pick from. You can choose one out of five different ones that you can choose as a soulmate to stick with you everywhere you go. There are so many different, rare animals that you can’t usually have in real life. I hope that the player can enjoy those having different types of rare animals in this game.
That was a very neat idea. I like that very much. So, I got the five minute warning, so I will do my normal interview closer. Is there a question that you wish people would ask you but nobody ever does?
I thought your questions were very interesting, and I thought everything you asked was a really great question.
(Yes, he seriously said this. I didn’t include it to brag, though. It leads into the rest of the interview…)
Well, thank you. Sometimes, I don’t feel confident in interviewing as I don’t do it as much. I ask that question to give the subject a chance to say something that they want to say but I am too dumb to know.
(Laughs) Can I ask you a question?
With you being in North America, what kind of pet do you want to see added in future games?
Hmm. Well, there is a species of cat that, honestly, hates people. It’s called a Pallas cat. It looks like a very furry house cat, but they are very talkative. If you see it at the zoo and go up to the exhibit, it will growl at you. (Very bad imitation of the sound) Whenever I see one, we talk back and forth and I just have a great time. Beyond that, a serious answer would be takin. It’s a bovine creature with ornate, thick horns. (Brief shuffling as both myself and PR rep extraordinaire, Sonia, search our phones for a picture.) Yes! That’s a takin.
Yeah. You don’t go into the exhibit with them. They are very defensive. Very protective.
If a takin ends up in the next Story of Seasons, it’s because I took your idea. Does a takin do anything? Like is there a product that can be taken from them?
Honestly, I only know it because of my wife. She ends taking care of them a lot and she loves them. When you see them, they are very interesting to watch, majestic. Plus, you can make all sorts of puns with them. Like “what are you takin about?”
(Laughs) I’m definitely going to research this.
Afterwards, we spent some time shooting the breeze and hanging out, before duty called and I had to run to my next appointment. Frankly, this was one of the more interesting and fun interviews I had the pleasure to conduct. Look for Story of Season: Trio of Towns to release winter of 2016, published by XSEED.