Harvest Moon, Medabots, Chulip, And More: A Natsume Interview

Monday, April 25th, 2016

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Natsume is a company best known for first publishing, and then developing, the long-running Harvest Moon series here in North America. Not content with just having just one massive IP, Natsume has also localized other series such as Medabots and Lufia. In the past few years, Natsume has also started to develop and publish their own mobile games, such as the Ninja and Gabrielle series. And honestly, who can forget Chulip?

In February/March, Operation Rainfall conducted an e-mail interview with Graham Markay, Natsume’s Vice President of Operations. During the interview, we discussed Natsume’s latest Harvest Moon offering, Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories. We also discussed several other of Natsume’s past (Lufia), present (the Ninja series, the Gabrielle series, Medabots, Reel Fishing), and future (Super Strike Beach Volleyball) properties.

And, of course, we talked about Chulip.


By: Quentin H.

A special thank you to Scott MacDonald for organizing the initial interview and for assisting with developing the questions.

Operation Rainfall: Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories was launched for iOS back in January 2016. What is the basic plotline for this title, and what classic aspects of the franchise can old fans of the series who haven’t played a Harvest Moon game in a while, expect to see when they pick this game up?

Graham Markay: We’ve kept the introduction to the plot fairly simple: You’re the only person who’s able to hear the cries for help from the local Harvest Sprites; the nearby village, Chestnut Town, has forgotten there’s even a farm! From there, you’re introduced to a variety of townspeople, and, throughout the game, are introduced to their individual stories. By restoring each person’s seeds of memories, everything comes together to explain how the villagers lost their memories of the farm.

All of the staples from Harvest Moon that fans have grown to love are there: you’re planting crops, raising livestock like cows and chickens, building relationships with the townspeople, falling in love, getting married, and having a family.

Natsume

OR: What new experiences and content are there in this game that people haven’t seen in previous games?

GM:  With Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, we wanted to do a game that held the essence of classic titles, but had very different gameplay and aesthetics. With Seeds of Memories, we’ve taken a slightly different path: we’ve gone back to the traditional dressings of the classic games – a farm outside of town with a mountainside to explore – and mixed those with modern gameplay mechanics, like our intuitive tool system we introduced in The Lost Valley.

We’ve also brought two important systems from The Lost Valley. First is our intuitive tool system, which we’ve melded together with fluid touch controls. We want players to be playing the game, not fighting their phones or tablets. Second is our crop mutation system, where players can grow new types of crops by harvesting in different seasons.

CTR-P-AVME_HMTLV_TitleSheet_final2

OR: How has the Harvest Moon franchise been adapted for the mobile platform? What are some of the biggest challenges and what are some of the biggest surprises for developing this game for mobile?

GM: We’ve included the ability to save anywhere, anytime, to suit a pick-up-and-put-down style of game.  We wanted ways for players to accomplish small tasks that added to a larger picture; many of these small tasks became seeds of memories in the final design. Optimizing and designing the controls, as well as the UI was another challenging issue. Since Seeds of Memories was our first true, full experience Harvest Moon game on a smartphone, and as many people know that some time your own finger can be the worst enemy to for playing games, we went through many trials and errors before coming to the final design. We believe we were able to accomplish user-friendly controls and easy to use UI, although we will keep on looking and challenging for improvements.

OR: Development for the Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley DLC was not started until after the main game had been completed. At first, the DLC focused on first adding new crops, buildings, outfits, and then ultimately added a pair of new love interests and their respective quests. What is Natsume’s approach to DLC for Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories? Can we expect some to come at a future date for iOS and other platforms?

GM: Right now we’re still focusing on development of the game itself. If we decide to create DLC/additions, it will be after the development for all platform releases.

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A screenshot from Reel Fishing Paradise (mobile).

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A gameplay image from Gabrielle’s Zombie Attack (mobile).

OR: With the Gabrielle and Reel Fishing series for the mobile platforms, we have seen Natsume start to test the waters with microtransactions. However, as of February 2016, there are no microtranscations included for Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories. What led to the decision to not include them in this game, despite a potentially lucrative market for it? Are microtransactions in Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories a possibility in the future? If so, how would they be implemented?

GM: When we decided to develop Seeds of Memories for multiple platforms, we wanted to ensure we had a fully-fleshed game, a similar experience to what players would find on 3DS, or older consoles.  We took a hard look at our options and realized that we could simply set a single, upfront price, as opposed to portioning out payment in smaller transactions.

Currently, there’s no plans for microtransactions. If we decide to implement DLC/additions in the future, we’ll decide on how to handle the payment options, if any, at that time.


“Therefore, any changes we make to games that we do publish are relatively minor.”


OR: When Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories first was released, there was a feature to allow same sex marriage, even though it would result in your character’s pronoun being switched by your romantic interest. However, players have reported that as of the January 27, 2016 update, this is no longer possible. Was same sex marriage intended to be included in the game originally or was that a glitch? Can we expect that to be a feature to return again in a later update?

GM: When the game first launched, there was a bug that affected many, but not all games, to not set a gender flag on a player’s character. This caused confusing dialogue and some unusual situations, such as a male avatar becoming pregnant. The update was to correct this gender flag issue.

OR: Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories is the first Natsume game scheduled for the Wii U and is the first game of the Harvest Moon franchise to go to Steam.  With the game now out for iOS, what gameplay changes and additions -if any- can we expect to see when the game is brought to other platforms later on in 2016?

GM: Currently the development team is finishing up with the Android version of the game, and once it is launched we will evaluate the next launch. It has always been our goal to add to the foundation of the smartphone games for the other platforms.

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More artwork from Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories.

OR: With Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories coming to Steam, will there be a standalone PC release as well?

GM: Currently the plan is to be a digital product, but we’re looking at all our options.

OR: Are there any plans for the game be utilizing the Wii U gamepad? If so, how?

GM: Nothing has been finalized, but we will evaluate the situation after the launch of the Android version.

OR: Considering the history and success the Harvest Moon brand has had on Nintendo handhelds in the past, is there a reason Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories was not developed for the 3DS? Is there a possibility of future Harvest Moon games returning to the 3DS or Vita?

GM: While we’re absolutely fans of the 3DS, we’ve been hearing fans ask for releases on other platforms – in fact, iOS and Android were consistently the top requested platforms. While the 3DS is a rich gaming environment, it isn’t our only option, and we’d be silly not to branch out to other platforms with gamers craving a Harvest Moon title, or any of our other franchises.

We’re definitely not closing the door on future releases for the 3DS or Vita, but one Harvest Moon at a time J [sic]

Natsume’s approach to localization, Virtual Console, and of course Chulip on Page 2

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.


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