By Josh Speer / September 5th, 2014
While at PAX Prime, I had the opportunity to interview someone about the upcoming 3DS game Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. I was asked to keep the name of that individual to myself, so for the purpose of this interview, I will refer to them as CeeCee. I learned a lot about the new game, and hope you find it interesting. My questions are in bold.
So you’ve had a long relationship with Marvelous when it comes to localizing their farming sim series, but it looks like there is a split in the series now. How did that come about?
As you might know, Marvelous has their own subsidiary in the United States, which is XSEED. Therefore it makes sense for them wanting to handle Bokujou Monogatari themselves. On the other hand, we have over 17+ years of experience with the Harvest Moon franchise, and we plan to continue to support that franchise. We have so much feedback from players about the things that they would like for Harvest Moon that’s targeted specifically at North Americans and Europeans. So we took that body of information and decided to make this game.
Do you think that there can be two successful farming sim games at the same time?
Absolutely, why not?
So there’s some new aspects to this game. One of them is that it starts in Winter. Was this done so players don’t waste valuable Spring time to learn the mechanics?
Well, that was a nice side effect. What ends up happening is you enter the Lost Valley, technically, [on Spring 1st], and that is what the calendar will say. But everything is covered in snow. So, within the first ten minutes of the story you discover that the Lost Valley is under this crazy curse. It’s stuck in an eternal winter, even though the calendar changes. There are people that are coming from outside the Lost Valley and are like, “It’s spring in Hillsville! Why isn’t it here?” You have to uncover the reason for the curse, and how to fix it.
It seems like players have to earn the other seasons. What are some of the activities you’ll need to embark on to make those come around?
Oh my gosh, everything! I mean, it’s a Harvest Moon game through and through, and we’ve heard Hiro talk that hard work leads to success. That’s sort of the staple that the Harvest Moon series has always been known for. So, I don’t want to give too many specifics, but if it’s a Harvest Moon activity — planting, harvesting, tilling, fishing, caring for animals — generally, that will play directly into the story.
Animals this time have unique traits that can be bred into later generations. How did that come about?
It was our goal to expand and reinvent a lot of the systems in the franchise, and taking care of animals was one of them. The idea that we did want to do is actually something that we talked about in our most recent dev diary. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley was code named Back to Basics. And so we wanted that sort of back to Harvest Moon 64, Back to Nature, Wonderful Life sort of idea. Sort of a throwback to those games for people who are like “I love Harvest Moon!” but haven’t played a game since. We want it to be a love letter to those fans and be accessible to new fans. So we pared down the number of animals, and instead made each one of those unique.
How will the different traits affect gameplay?
It’s nice, because it lets you raise the kind of animals you want to raise. There are animals that get traits that let them produce a higher quantity of items. There are animals that produce higher quality items. We want you to have the freedom to mix and match. We let you customize the way you want to play the game. And we let you experiment.
When people first looked at the landscape of the game, a number of them suggested that it was inspired by Minecraft. Did that have any influence on the design?
Not really…however we can see how people can see that (laughs). The idea was, Taka, the producer, and the development team sat down and were like “how can I make customization of my farm both interesting and a little different from the past?” They realized that every time you play a Harvest Moon game, you essentially have a flat farm. There’s a little bit of up and down, but essentially it is a flat plot of land. So they realized the next step was to add a vertical element. And they really liked that idea. So I think it is 16 up and 16 down, for a total of 32 levels.
I guess the vertical component gives you a lot more variety in what you can do?
Right. Again, with sort of that aspect of freedom, we also wanted people who wanted to heavily customize their farm, we gave them ample opportunity to. But if you don’t want to muck around, if you want to leave the landscape as natural as it is, very rarely are you forced to terraform. I mean, it teaches you how to do it in the tutorial. And there’s a couple of areas that you can terraform to build a bridge.
Are there any benefits to planting crops at higher elevations?
Yes. So, crops can be affected by high elevation, low elevation, how close they are to water, whether they are on a swampy piece of ground or not. As you progress in the game, you actually get the ability that, when you dig up a piece of soil, it’s actually a unit of soil in your bag. Not too far into the game, you actually get the capacity to slap down that land on top of the water, and so it’s this aqua colored piece of ground. You can have a unique plant that comes out of a swampy piece of ground. And actually, the list of crops in this game is bigger than any previous Harvest Moon. It’s huge.
Any surprises you want to mention for long time fans?
We have some players that they play, play, play, get to the end of the game, get married and then stop. So we decided for the first time to have DLC. So we’re gonna have both free and paid DLC. We want that to be for the players that want to continue with the game, and not pay to win. We know some people don’t like paying for DLC, so we will have some free stuff too. Nothing is cut from the game to make DLC. We made sure our whole game was feature complete before we started on DLC. As a matter of fact, the DLC won’t be worked on until after the release of the game.
This is kind of a related question. Will there be a way to visit your friends’ lands in order to experience the landscape they create?
StreetPass and SpotPass will not be in the game, however there is an interesting way you can show off the valley you have created. More information will follow soon!
Do you have a timeframe for launch?
Still looking at Fall 2014. We are aiming for the end of October.
Any chance of an update for Hometown Story?
It’s something we have been talking about. However, we first want to get Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley onto store shelves.
Thanks for your time!
Harvest Moon: The Lost ValleyNatsumePAX Prime 2014