With more hoeing than Father Christmas, the Harvest Moon games have been providing fine farming fun on Nintendo consoles for ten years. We caught up with creator Yasuhiro Wada to ask him about the series.
How did the original idea for Harvest Moon come about?
Yasuhiro Wada: I was born and grew up in the countryside, so I wanted to show the appeal of that lifestyle to other people - at the time, there was no such game that showed how good it was to live in the country, so that was one reason. Also, I wanted to create something totally different to other games that were around at the time.
The series has just celebrated its 10 year anniversary in Japan - why do you think it's lasted so long?
Wada: One reason is that there's no real competitor - there's no really similar games available. Another reason is that the games have developed through us listening to the voices of the fans all the time - trying to develop the series in the way that the fans want it to go. So it's grown from feedback between the producers and Harvest Moon supporters.
So the fan input has effectively shaped the development of the different Harvest Moon games?
Wada: Well yes, but you have to have a balance as well. If we tried to incorporate everything that the fans say - what they all want added to the game - then it could get quite messy! So it's a case of "pick and mix" - to add things little by little, and then, from the production point of view, see which elements work best.
With Nintendo co-publishing Harvest Moon DS in Europe, it's getting more attention than the earlier games did, so what tips would you give to newcomers to the series who might be playing their first Harvest Moon?
Wada: The main tip I would give is to just do whatever you like and enjoy it! Because in this day and age, people's mentality when they start a game is that there must always be a specific objective, and you have to accomplish this. Don't think of Harvest Moon like that. You don't have to do anything when beginning a Harvest Moon game - don't try to achieve any objective, just take your time and learn how everything works and how the world evolves. That's how you have fun with the game.
Do you feel that Harvest Moon has influenced other games in this way? Perhaps something like Animal Crossing, with its more freeform approach?
Wada: (Laughs) Nintendo liked Harvest Moon a lot, from the very early days. They encouraged me to try to develop the game this way and that way, but because I didn't listen to everything they wanted, as a result they came up with Animal Crossing, I believe! (laughs)