Nintendo We Volume 6: Harvest Moon: Treacherous Conditions
In recent years, there has been one franchise to pique my curiosity, because although it may not be a series created and developed by Nintendo themselves, most instalments have found their way mostly on Nintendo consoles, and I’ve also found it to be extremely obscure compared to many other video game series’ of similar endurance. This series is Harvest Moon. For those unfamiliar with the series, below is a brief rundown.
Harvest Moon is a series comparable to Animal Crossing, whereby the typical objectives of one single game in the series is to build and maintain a farm, growing crops, buying and taking care of livestock, gathering various resources such as wood and stone, attending annual in-game festivals and even starting a family. From all accounts, Harvest Moon for the most part has been a series of games fairly well received by critics, but considered underrated, since the series, as a whole hasn’t exactly achieved the same level of mainstream success that many other video game franchises of comparable longevity have been able to brag.
In recent years, games in the Harvest Moon series that have been ported primarily to Nintendo’s 3DS console have continued to garnish positive reviews, but from the looks of things, it’s very likely that this is going to take a considerable turn for the worse, since critics have made comments about one of the most recent game in the series, a game separate from the main series called Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (which was handled by an outside developer, and released in America last November, and is set for a European release later on this year), citing that the game doesn’t feel like a Harvest Moon experience at all, and regular features to have stayed in this instalment have been drastically reduced. Marvelous Entertainment, the regular developers of the series have since developed their own series instalment entitled Story of Seasons, but are unable to use the Harvest Moon name, due to a dispute over the ownership of the intellectual property.
The developers seemed to have run the risk of alienating the bulk of the series’ long time fans, which would be an extremely bad idea, as the loyalty of long time fans seems to have been the lifeblood of the franchise since 1996. But that being said, it’s clear that something about the series has to change in order for the developers to find the same kind of success that other long running video game series’ have found. And though the developers have certainly tried that with The Lost Valley by reportedly incorporating a gameplay formula akin to Minecraft, Believe there is a much better and more interesting source of influence that they could use to inject something new into the series, but at the same time, create a gameplay experience reminiscent of a traditional Harvest Moon game. The development team I believe that Marvelous Entertainment could collaborate with to deliver such an experience is Klei Entertainment.
Klei Entertainment are an independent outfit from Canada, responsible for the development of such critically acclaimed games such as Mark of the Ninja, Eets, Shank and most relevant to this volume of Nintendo We, Don’t Starve. Somewhat similar to Harvest Moon, Don’t Starve is a game that revolves around survival, whereby the player must explore a vast randomly-generated world filled with copious amounts of dangers and hostile creatures, all while trying to build their own settlement and to maintain their hunger, health, and sanity in order to survive for as many days as they can. Don’t Starve has been Klei’s most critically and commercially successful title, finding it’s way on multiple platforms, and with one DLC package released for it, and another one on the way. Though it functions on some of these same principles, I’ve always found that many Harvest Moon games are confined to merely one town and a farm. But I think if there was more to play for, and more terrain than that to explore throughout, it would certainly increase the series’ appeal and the lifespan of any one instalment. To add the same element of danger to a Harvest Moon game that can be found in Don’t Starve would also add to it a heightened sense of urgency, and that in itself would make the same game even more exciting.
One big challenge in particular, would be to expand the lore of the Harvest Moon series in order to include these new features, such as specific in-game conditions, things that would be considered a threat to the player such as hostile enemies and regular in-game events designed to cause complications and throw the player off guard. There are many sources of inspiration the developers could use to create it’s own lore, like Klei Entertainment did with Don’t Starve; many elements from media such as films, games, classic literature, poems, etc. But the things that Marvellous Entertainment would have to keep in mind is that their own input and ideas, or modifications of existing ideas, would be just as pivotal in the development of such a Harvest Moon game. It’s all very well and good being able to cite a huge range of influences, but there would be little point if they wouldn’t add any flare to it and make the ideas their own.
Another huge challenge for them would be to not alienate their fans too much like they could potentially do when Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is released in Europe. Of course, they need to add new ideas and inject new life into the franchise if they ever want to rope in a bigger fan base than they have now, but they also need to bare in mind that if not for these fans, the series would have been discontinued a long time ago. Arguably, people could say the same about Castlevania or Mega Man, but although they haven’t been quite as successful as the likes of Super Mario Bros for example, there are still a lot of hardcore gamers out there who are always looking for a challenging game, and Capcom and Konami have scarcely failed to deliver in terms of challenge with both of those franchises.
Nintendo also have an obviously healthy relationship with Marvelous Entertainment, since although they don’t own the franchise, have seen fit to port an instalment of Harvest Moon to almost every single one of their consoles since the days of the Super Nintendo, so it could also be worth discussing new ideas with them as well, and accepting some of their input as well as that of Klei Entertainment. In either case, I think developing a darker and more varied game in the Harvest Moon would be mutually beneficial to all three parties; Nintendo’s exclusively child-friendly image would be further debunked, Klei Entertainment would be given the chance to have their games reach a wider and more varied audience, and I think Marvellous Entertainment would very likely to take the Harvest Moon series to greater heights, and bring newer fans of the franchise as well as keeping their already extremely dedicated fan base.