"Between the three different town aesthetics present in the game, there should be something to appeal to everyone."
Since the SNES days, the Harvest Moon (now Story of Seasons under XSEED's license) series has been a relaxing alternative to the action games that dominate the gaming space. Trading swords and guns for hoes and seeds, Story of Seasons traditionally tasks players with restoring an ailing farm to its former prosperity. Recent iterations have expanded on the formula by adding new crops, animals, and communication features. This year's entry, Trio of Towns, situates the player's farm between three distinct villages, each with different villagers to befriend, seeds to sow, and animals to adopt. I was fortunate enough to sit down with series creator Yoshifumi Hashimoto at E3 this year to discuss the new features in this entry, as well as his approach to creating new titles in this series.
Hashimoto-san began by explaining that the series was born not because he and his staff dislike action games, but rather out of a desire to create something more in tune with the shift in lifestyle his staff experienced as a part of growing older. Story of Seasons reflects a willingness to embrace a slower, family-oriented life that remains cognizant of the bounteous natural world around us. This does not, however, mean that the series is only meant to appeal to an older audience; on the contrary, a wide range of users enjoy Story of Seasons in Japan. One reason for this is the variety of characters in the game, with a spectrum of personalities to cater to each user's individual tastes. Romance and marriage have always been a part of Story of Seasons, but for this element to be successful, there must necessarily be a cast of charming characters to pursue, lest the dance of courtship feel like little more than an obligation. Hashimoto-san let on that he usually ends up falling for Popuri, the pink-haired sweetie who runs the flower shop in several games throughout the series. I'm more of an Owen guy myself, but he hasn't called me since I last played Animal Parade, so our relationship might be on the rocks.
One aspect of development I'd always been curious about was the process for adding new animals to the game. I asked Hashimoto-san if he designs an animal's functionality and saleable byproduct first, finalizing the type of animal itself afterwards, or if he goes into each game with a specific animal he'd like to add in mind. He said it's a little of both; in particular, the Capybara was something he decided to incorporate late in development, and he joked that the timeline for adding it in was so strict that it might have made the dev team cry. Who knew that a game this idyllic could have such a tragic real-life backstory? (I kid.) And speaking of animals, the Japanese version of Trio of Towns features a cameo by Hamtaro, the sunflower seed-munching hamster many of us once spent our afternoons watching on Cartoon Network as children. Hashimoto-san said that it is not yet confirmed whether Hamtaro will appear in the North American version of the game. His only function is as a cosmetic pet, so players won't be losing any functionality if he stays home in Japan, but I admit I'd be sad to lose the little guy.
As a final message to fans, Hashimoto-san says that between the three different town aesthetics present in the game, there should be something to appeal to everyone. For those who haven't played a Story of Seasons game since the early days, this title is a great entry point to experience the variety of new systems that have been added over the years. For me, XSEED's localization is one of the biggest reasons why I'm looking forward to Trio of Towns. I've found that recent Harvest Moon games have grown stale in their overly simplistic characterizations, with dry writing that does little to ignite my interest in getting to know the community surrounding my upstart farmer. It goes to show how much of a difference good editing can make in crafting a compelling world. Hashimoto-san closed our interview by urging prospective players to pick up Trio of Towns when they need a break from action games, and indeed, this Story looks to be the most charming one yet.
RPGFan would like to thank XSEED and Hashimoto-san for their time and energy in facilitating our interview. ありがとうございました!