A couple of years ago, publisher Marvelous announced that XSEED Games would be taking over the reigns of localizing the Harvest Moon series. They were forced to re-name it to Story of Seasons for the international market due to Natsume still owning the rights to the Harvest Moon name in the North American market.
The first release under the new title was very well received, becoming XSEED's fastest-selling game ever as a company when it released in 2015.
Later this year, XSEED will be bringing over the latest entry, Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns. At E3 2016, I had the fortune of sitting down with series producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto and spoke to him through a XSEED representative acting as his translator.
Just a note: I did this interview with a Brazilian journalist who runs a Nintendo site whom I forgot to grab his info to properly cite him here. So if you're reading this, let me know and I'll update the article!
RPG Site: What are your feelings having a Story of Seasons and a Harvest Moon game that was recently announced coming to the West the same year? We have transitioned recently from Harvest Moon to Story of Seasons. Has it still been an issue dealing with the consumer confusion?
Hashimoto: On the creative side, we don't really have any problem at all. On the North American side, it may be a little confusing still. But working with XSEED, it has been easier to communicate.
Brazilian Journalist: With Natsume as the other publisher and cutting ties with the Harvest Moon name and becoming Story of Seasons, did you change in any way your approach as to how you develop Story of Seasons to differentiate more from what Natsume is doing with Harvest Moon? Is it just developing a Harvest Moon game with a new name?
Hashimoto: There is not much of a difference. When we were working with a different company before, they were also publishing the Japanese game as it was. Of course, they would translate and localize. Working with XSEED, we have been getting more fan-based feedback so we can implement more features into the game.
RPG Site: You helped on games like Muramasa and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. Do you see Story of Seasons transitioning to the console like the Harvest Moon series used to be or do you think that it is going to keep a strong home on the handheld?
Hashimoto: So first of all, we get more of the North American fans' voices that they want this game to go to this console. If we get a lot more feedback like that, maybe we will start being more concerned about that. We choose the platform depending on the number of users on that console. We have younger generations of fans like kids playing Story of Seasons. Kids like to have a handheld system, so we tend to focus on that userbase.
Hashimoto: I have worked with different genres. Story of Seasons is a slower-paced, slower-moving type of game, so after working on a speedy action game like Rune Factory, I may want to quicken the pace of Story of Seasons. I am always loving to improve those types of experiences.
RPG Site: Have you ever explored Steam due to its increasing popularity as a way for Japanese developers making profit in the West, and have you seen Stardew Valley before?
Hashimoto: I have been watching Stardew Valley even before its launch, so I do know of it. For the Steam version or PC version, that is not impossible but I just want to see where the users move. PC is not very friendly to kids. I just want to make sure everyone can enjoy the game when I port to different platforms.
Brazilian Journalist: You mentioned the intention when developing Story of Seasons, the target market is more towards children. At the same time, [these games have] a very heart-felt story and something a lot of people can relate. A lot of older people still play Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons very fondly. Why do you think people grow so attached to this franchise?
Hashimoto: To appeal to a wider age of players, I am always trying to see things from different viewpoints; if I was a child, if I was a grown man - I would think like that.
RPG Site: Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons puts a lot of emphasis on romance and the relationships with the people that you meet. Have you ever explored same-sex couples?
Hashimoto: When we first launched this series back in 1997, there was only a male character that you could play. 10 years later, we switched around a female character and a male character. Eventually, we let the player decide whether to play a male or a female protagonist. It is always changing depending on the time that we are in - a generational thing. We have to start considering [same-sex marriage], but we are not sure about it right now.
Hashimoto: I have always been looking at different genres. My hobby is creating video games. Even on the weekends, I try to make some video games - I just working. Or I can go to the farm and start working there. I always like to work on creating different stuff.
RPG Site: Have you had any input on the localization between the Japanese and the North American release of the new Story of Seasons game?
Hashimoto: I am not completely involved in the localization process, but because I am so close to XSEED Games, I can check and see what is going on. I can give them feedback, or interpret something that is lost in translation.
Brazilian Journalist: Since Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons have come to the 3DS, the series has evolved a lot. How do you go about creating something new for each of the iterations of the franchise to keep it fresh?
Hashimoto: A lot of our users are children. The game is not cheap for those people. I really appreciate that they spend their allowance on something that isn't cheap. Every time we release a new title on the same handheld or whatever platform, I am always trying to put forth new features so they don't feel that their money has been wasted. Every time I done with one game, I start thinking about the next one right away.
Hashimoto: Right now we have a 3DS for a main handheld, so it all depends on what is there at that given time. It is more depending on what is available when we are making Story of Seasons. We shall see.
Brazilian Journalist: For people that have never played Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons, why would the new Story of Seasons be a good choice for them to start and give the series a try?
Hashimoto: We started Story of Seasons back in 1997. There were a lot of users who used to play it but eventually stopped playing. There have also been people who have heard of the series but have never played it. With the new Story of Seasons, we have different difficulty settings so you can pick an easy or harder modes. It is more easy for people to open the Story of Seasons door and we can set up a type for the characters. If you enjoy fishing, you can change your class to focus on fishing, or if you choose the athletic type, you have more stamina for farming. It is easier for people to enjoy this series, so this game will be good for anyone.
RPG Site: You made your mark on the farm sim genre with Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, Return to PopoloCrois, and so on. Are there other genres you as a producer would like to explore?
Hashimoto: It would be great to have more people trying to experience the farm simulation genre in the US as well. It is not as popular there as it is in Japan. But at the same time, I don't want to move too far away from this genre because I want to inspire other people to make these types of games to help its popularity grow. To help, with Story of Seasons, we want to keep things simple so we just give the player a tool to use to start off with, and not something like a tractor.
Thank you very much to Yoshifumi Hashimoto for the interview. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns will be released sometime next year on the Nintendo 3DS in North America.