MUSINGS: Harvest Moon: Tracking a Split Farming Franchise

Friday, June 5th, 2015

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Have you heard of the Satellaview? This was an online peripheral for the Super Famicom that never made it over to the West. What was interesting about it is that it would have games, beta tests, game guides, and music. Some cartridges could also be bought that have basic gameplay elements so that you could play on your own time and then play expansion material online.

Satellaview for Super Famicom

Why am I talking about this? Because the first spin-off for the series was an episodic release over Satellaview called BS Bokujō Monogatari. These were broadcast weekly during the month of September in 1996 and were as follows:

  • Hajimenteno “Autodoa Life” (Translated: First Time “Outdoor Life”)
  • Daichi to Kokoro ni Afure ru Minori! (Fruitful Land and Mind!)
  • Bokura Haminna Iki Teiru (We Are All Alive)
  • Bokujō Masuta wo Mezase! (Aim for Ranch Master!)

And after that, there wouldn’t be another spin-off for a decade. The next time, we wouldn’t be using futuristic technology… We’d just be going to the future.

Innocent Life Screenshot

Innocent Life: Shin Bokujō Monogatari, better known to the West as Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon and even Harvest Moon: Innocent Life in Australia, was the second spin-off in the series. It was first released in 2006 for the PlayStation Portable but would find its way onto the PlayStation 2 as Shin Bokujō Monogatari: Pure Innocent LifeInnocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon (Special Edition) in North America.

Like I said last year in my article about Bokujō Monogatari spin-offs, Innocent Life is interesting in that it’s a good game — made by ArtePiazza for Marvelous — that has little potential for a spin-off series. If they wanted a full series out of this like with Rune Factory, they needed to do something more with it than just make a Bokujō Monogatari game with a future skin. Speaking of which…

Rune Factory A Fantasy Harvest MoonThe next spin-off wasn’t too far away — in terms of release, not setting — as the Neverland-developed Rūn Fakutorī -Shin Bokujō Monogatari-, better known as Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon in the West, released the same year. As you might know, this is a hybrid farming simulator and dungeon crawler RPG. And when it released, critics were impressed and heaped tons of praise on the game.

The game, of course, spawned into a series of games. There are the numbered sequels — Rune Factory 2 (2008, localized by Natsume), Rune Factory 3 (2009, localized by Natsume), and Rune Factory 4 (2012, localized by XSEED Games) — which all appear on Nintendo handhelds. Then there are the console games.

Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny

The first one is Rune Factory Frontier, the first of the XSEED localizations back in 2009. Releasing on the Wii, this game not only had the usual farming and dungeon elements of the Rune Factory series but an unusual element of Runey balancing, which when balanced properly will help farming. The second is Rune Factory Oceans, known as Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny in North America (but not in Europe; this was known as Rune Factory Oceans in that region). Releasing in 2011 on both Wii and PS3, this game featured a giant beast you can use to travel to new islands and an altered farming system that worked around waving a wand and having your befriended monsters grow your crops. While the PS3 port was criticized, most of the problems seemed to stem from looking like a Wii game. Overall, I think both games are good. And while I think Frontier is better, I think Tides of Destiny works better for those that want to be eased into the series.

So, after the barrage of spin-offs in 2006, we had a three year wait before the next one-off with the WiiWare title Bokujō Monogatari: Shirīzu ma Kiba no o Mise, known in North America as Harvest Moon: My Little Shop. Developed by h.a.n.d., this title had some unique features, such as having the player run a shop that featured juice, egg products, and ice cream. It was also unique because it used a real-time clock instead of having the usual “1 minute for 1 hour” clock used in most of the other games in the series.

The final spin-off released so far is one I have very little knowledge about. It’s called Minna de Bokujō Monogatari and it is a free browser based game. It released in 2010 for the social network Mixi where it was played by just over 2 million people. That’s all I know.

I should also mention that more spin-offs are coming. A crossover between Bokujō Monogatari and PoPoLoCrois, being localized by XSEED as Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale, was announced last year for the 3DS. It will be mixing the farming aspects of Bokujō Monogatari with the RPG elements of PoPoLoCrois. When it was announced, producer Yoshifumi Hashimoto said that it was 50% complete. Several months later, it’s scheduled for a June 18th release in Japan while XSEED will look for a Winter release this year.

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale - Cutscene 01

…What? You think I missed some? I didn’t miss any. I just hadn’t gotten to the Platinum-Egg developed games yet.

There were two puzzle games developed by Platinum-Egg, both West-only titles and one published only in North America by Natsume. The first was Puzzle de Harvest Moon, and it was universally panned. The other is Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming, and it was received better, for what it’s worth.

Hometown Story Featured

…Oh yeah, there’s also that giant store-shaped elephant from 2013 in the room: Hometown Story. It was created by Bokujō Monogatari creator Yasuhiro Wada, published by long-time series localizers Natsume and Rising Star Games… and that’s pretty much it for connections to the franchise. Marvelous had nothing to do with it. Toybox was the Japanese developer AND publisher. Put simply, this is not a Bokujō Monogatari spin-off; it’s just a store-running simulator that did poorly with critics.

So that’s it. We have the Bokujō Monogatari franchise created by Marvelous that has over 30 games and counting since 1996. Then there is Natsume with two main Harvest Moon games and two puzzle games you could argue belong to them. And then there’s the store simulation bastard child of Toybox, Natsume, and Rising Star that was never invited to the party.

Rune Factory 4 Banner

I hope this helps. And I look forward to talking about this again next year.

About Jeff Neuenschwander

Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.


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