The Past And Future Of Harvest Moon

By Ishaan . May 28, 2014 . 5:30pm

Harvest Moon is a series that’s been around a long time, and in its many years has been published by a number of different companies, both in Japan and the West. Earlier today, Xseed announced that they will be publishing the next game in the series in North America, and we thought it would be a good occasion to take a look back at Harvest Moon’s publishing history over the last 18 years.


The Victor Interactive Years: (1996 – 2002)


The very first Harvest Moon was released in August 1996. The project was led by a Japanese game designer named Yasuhiro Wada, at a company named Pack-In-Video. Harvest Moon was created for the Super Famicom and already contained the two major features the series has become known for—farming and marriage. A single year within the game consisted of four 30-day seasons, and a single day lasted from 6 am to 6 pm.


Shortly after its release, in October of the same year, Pack-in-Video merged with the gaming division of a company named Victor Entertainment to form Victor Interactive Software. That same year, Victor acquired the license to Tomb Raider from Core Design, and published the game in Japan, selling over 300,000 copies and having it nominated for the CESA Award. They also produced the first Reel Fishing game for the PSOne, and this game was published in North America and Europe by Natsume Inc, the American division of a Japanese company named Natsume Co. Ltd.


Natsume’s relationship with Victor Interactive extended beyond Reel Fishing, though. The company also published Harvest Moon in North America, taking a chance on the farming game at a time when localizing JRPGs was considered risky. During this time, Natsume filed a trademark for the “Harvest Moon” name in the U.S., and as such, it belongs to them.


As the years went by, Victor Interactive continued to produce Harvest Moon games under their own label, eventually entering the 3D era with Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on PSOne and Harvest Moon 64 on the Nintendo 64. Then, on March 31st, 2003, the company was taken over by Marvelous Entertainment Inc., and the organization was renamed Marvelous Interactive.


The Rise of Marvelous Entertainment:


From 2003 onward, Harvest Moon games in Japan were published under the Marvelous label, while Natsume would continue to publish the series in North America. Over in Europe, publishing duties began with 505 GameStreet and eventually landed with Rising Star Games, who went on to publish a number of Harvest Moon titles in European territories.


During this time, at Marvelous Entertainment ambitions for the Harvest Moon games began to outgrow the confines of the original concept of leading a farmer’s life. A producer at Marvelous, Yoshifumi Hashimoto, began work on a new game that would take the two basic concepts of Harvest Moon—farming and forming relationships with people—and add a third to complement them: combat.


The new game, titled Rune Factory, was more stylish, more ambitious, and took place in a fantasy world that evoked a greater sense of mystery. It included just about everything that made Harvest Moon enjoyable and layered dungeon exploration, combat and equipment customization on top of it.


Rune Factory made its debut in 2006. Marvelous published the game in Japan, and Natsume were once again responsible for publishing duties in North America, where the game was titled Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon. In the years that followed, Rune Factory amassed a significant audience of its own—one that has been growing ever since the release of the first game, both in Japan and the West.


The Start of Marvelous and Xseed’s Relationship:


2008 – 2011 was a time of change for both Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, and for Marvelous Entertainment. In 2008, Marvelous signed a co-publishing agreement with a North American localization company named Xseed Games. As part of the agreement, Xseed would publish a number of games produced by Marvelous… save for Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, which were still to be published by Natsume.


Nonetheless, in the coming years, the relationship between the two companies would only grow stronger. This became extremely evident when Marvelous allowed Xseed to publish Rune Factory Frontier in North America, instead of Natsume, marking the first time in the history of the series that a company other than Natsume had published a Harvest Moon game in the U.S.


Xseed, at the time, was owned by a company named AQ Interactive. As fate would have it, in 2011, Marvelous and AQ Interactive merged together, along with a third company named Liveware Inc., and the new entity was named Marvelous AQL. Xseed was renamed Marvelous USA, and would collaborate even more closely with Marvelous in the years to come, publishing major Marvelous titles like Rune Factory 4 and Senran Kagura Burst in North America.


Wada’s Departure and Hometown Story:


Amidst these events, Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada announced his resignation from Marvelous. Wada left the company in 2010, and went on to form his own company, named Toybox.  Ever since, Rune Factory creator Yoshifumi Hashimoto has become the primary name associated with both Rune Factory and Harvest Moon, and serves as the producer for both series.


Meanwhile, Wada developed his first brand new game at Toybox, titled Hometown Story. A mix of life-simulation and shop management, Hometown Story was clearly inspired in part by Harvest Moon, and owing to his close relationship with Natsume, Wada signed up with the company to have them publish the game in North America. Meanwhile, Rising Star—who also share a relationship with Wada—published the game in Europe.


The Present and the Future:


And finally, we come to the present day. Xseed are now publishing both Rune Factory and Harvest Moon in North America, and are already looking at publishing Marvelous’ next life-simulation RPG, Forbidden Magna. It looks like Natsume may be out of the picture permanently, with regard to Harvest Moon and all associated series developed by Marvelous.


As for Europe… that’s a trickier question to answer. Marvelous AQL, in collaboration with distributor Zen United, published Harvest Moon: A New Beginning in Europe. Whether or not Story of Seasons will be handled by Zen or Rising Star Games is unknown at this point. When reached for comment, neither publisher was willing to provide further insight into the situation.


So here’s where we’re at: While Xseed can publish Harvest Moon games in North America, they can’t call them “Harvest Moon”. This is because Natsume owns the Harvest Moon trademark in the U.S., which is why Xseed’s version is titled Story of Seasons. And In Europe, we don’t know what’s going on yet.


As for Natsume… since the company owns the Harvest Moon trademark in the U.S., it is entirely possible for Natsume to continue publishing games in North America under the “Harvest Moon” title.


Wouldn’t it be interesting if they chose to co-develop another life-simulation game with Yasuhiro Wada and named it Harvest Moon? Personally, I would love to see it happen, partly because I really don’t want Natsume to lose their identity.


Food for thought:

Oh, the irony.

  • raitouniverse

    You actually did it. You said Forbidden Manga.

    Nice retrospective.

    • Rintarou

      Never forget!

    • DesmaX

      Can’t wait for the sequel, Forbidden Anime

    • Deletable Man

      Proof that they are ONE OF US. I nearly type “Manga” every. damn. time.

    • Damn it. This is the second time.

  • JonathanisPrimus

    That Muramasa link basically told me that Dragon’s Crown had been in development for at least four years.

  • AlphaSixNine

    I would love to see Natsume do something with the Harvest Moon name. More games like this the better for me. :3

    • Sadly, I think that would unnecessarily complicate the situation.

      I’ve noticed a few sites are… making this kinda confusing with this whole thing. Sorta going like “you know Harvest Moon? This isn’t Harvest Moon but it has the same team behind it and all of the mechanics of it”… despite it being a Harvest Moon game regardless of IP circumstances.

      You do not want Natsume to go and take a different series and call it Harvest Moon, because that would be inherently misleading, and would be pretty much riding a game’s success on the brand name, instead of being truthful. When people see Harvest Moon, they think of games from the “Bokujō Monogatari” line. Not something else.

  • Shinobikens

    I’ve never really played Harvest Moon because idk which ones are good and which ones aren’t

    • My personal recommendations? You can get the SNES Harvest Moon and Back to Nature easily through the respective VC/PSN Classics routes, but I would avoid A Wonderful Life. Some people really dig the game, but it was honestly a bore to me, and the PS2 version (which is also available on PSN) is sorta janky. There is also Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon, available as well on PSN, but it’s very different, and probably won’t be considered “good” to most folks.

      For more modern games though, the ones I’ve really liked are: Harvest Moon Friends of Mineral Town (GBA), Harvest Moon DS (but I recommend the girls Cute version– you’re guaranteed to have it work properly, as some copies of the original version are bugged), Magical Melody (Gamecube, don’t get the Wii one if you can avoid it), Animal Parade (Wii), Tale of Two Towns (DS), or just skip right to the most recent one, A New Beginning (3DS). And let’s not forget Rune Factory games, which are a fan favorite in general. But it all depends on what you want!

      If there’s a specific HM game you’d wanna know about, ask! But if you wanna look up the games in-depth, check out here:

      • GH56734

        I wish I could play the boys Harvest Moon DS version with the bugfixes from the Cute version :(
        That aside, Sunshine Islands and Island of Happiness disappointed me… is A Tale of Two Towns better?

        • Technically, there IS a version of HMDS with the bug fixes. The reason why I highlight getting the girls version though is so you don’t have to worry about any potential bugs on your copy, and if you buy used especially, then chances are high if you buy HMDS, you’ll get a bugged one. You’re in better luck if you get it new.

          Tale of Two Towns was really good, to me! The Island games were okay to me, but I felt like ToTT was a vast improvement on the system they established, and they got rid of that nonsense Sunshine/Rain balancing system with Grand Bazaar, so it was all for the better. I do recommend getting the DS version over the 3DS one, though. The 3DS one’s upgrades were super minimal, and it actually had some bugs as a result. The eShop one is supposed to be better, but it’s not worth it.

      • Suicunesol

        What about Harvest Moon 64? That was also great!

        • HM64 is excellent! But it’s also a LOT harder to get. There were emulation issues with it with the VC emulator, so it wasn’t released on the Wii’s store. We might get it now on the Wii U system once they start doing N64 games (actually one of my hopeful announcements for E3), but it’s not one of the easier games to get your hands on, at least legitimately. But if a person can get it? Sure! It’s a great alternative to Back to Nature, especially.

    • Start off with Harvest Moon 64.

      • I still have my copy on the N64, traded it back int the day for Quest 64. Best trade of my life :D

  • Roger

    I like Natsume, despite some localization typos. Hopefully they will continue on the Market. HM wouldn’t be here nowadays without them.

    • Maybe Natsume will be the “back-up” company in case XSeed’s too swamped to do anything.

      • Roger

        Marvelous could buy them and fuse it with Xseed, or something like that (opinion) . Or just buy and let them continue do their work as always (Sega~Atlus relationship nowadays, for example).

        Not sure how well Xseed is handling the localizations…so much time has passed since Trails in the Sky SC announcement, and we don’t even have the first one on Steam yet, lol.

    • GH56734

      It seems all localizations by Natsume USA were outsourced to translator agencies (handling books, official documents and the like) rather than relying on in-house staff… much unlike Xseed which does mostly the opposite.

  • Man, Harvest Moon. I’m really gonna miss the name, but as long as the games are still localized…

    I’ve own a majority of the series in some form. HM SNES, the three Gameboy games, both GBA games, 64, Back to Nature, Save the Homeland, A Wonderful Life, HM DS/Cute, Island of Happiness, Sunshine Islands, Grand Bazaar, Magical Melody, Tale of Two Towns, Animal Parade, Innocent Life, Hero of Leaf Valley, Rune Factory 2 and 3, A New Beginning… there’s been a lot of games in the Harvest Moon series!

    I hope that the games lacking the Harvest Moon name won’t drive off people who are less “in the know” of this. This is a series that has really vastly improved with each entry, as evidenced by the 3DS games being fairly high sellers. I hope there will eventually be even more access to these games, especially classics. I sure wish I could have HM DS, Friends of Mineral Town, or even HM3 for the GBC on the Virtual Console!

    I’m wondering, what is anyone’s favorite HM game? Any particular ones that stand out to you guys? (Maybe nix out Rune Factory, that seems to be a major favorite around here, so it feels a little useless to ask about this. XD)

    • laurenhiya21

      Not sure if I have a majority or not, but I have Friends of Mineral Town, More Friends, Another Wonderful Life, Magical Melody, Save the Homeland, DS, Sunshine Islands, Grand Bazaar, Tree of Tranquility, Animal Parade, Innocent Life, Rune Factory 1 and Frontier…

      My favourite of these is definitely Another Wonderful Life (which I noticed down below that you don’t like it haha). I may partially like it most because of nostalgia (it was one of my first games ever) but I think I mostly like it best because it has this nice calming atmosphere that I haven’t really experienced with any of the other HMs (Frontier comes close though). Not sure how I can describe it any better :l But also hybridizing was the best and I want it included in another HM game :(

      They’re kind of silly reasons so I can see why most wouldn’t like it… (and I do remember a few annoying things about it) but that’s probably why I like it so much. (and probably other reasons as well but can’t remember off the top of my head ><)

      • Oh I’ll admit Hybridizing was probably one of the best features of the game, but it did definitely overcomplicate some aspects, like cow raising. Or that damn goat that… only gave milk for so long, and then you couldn’t breed it, so OOPS NO MORE MILK. I mean, yeah, it was definitely a much more realistic Harvest Moon, for sure, but there were a lot of things that didn’t sit well with me about it. I sorta like that they went back to the bachelorettes of the game though for HMDS.

        But hey, just cause it’s one of my least favorites, doesn’t mean I didn’t give it a good try! I give all HM games a chance. (fact: Grand Bazaar is probably my second least favorite, while Save the Homeland is my third. I just can’t get into those two.)

        • laurenhiya21

          Yep I don’t like that goat either. No point in keeping it… at all. Plus I remember it not liking me or something :l

          But it’s good you at least gave it a try :) Too many people seem to give up really easily >:l)

          • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who wasn’t taken with Grand Bazaar. I’ll probably still give it a few more tries to see if there’s anything I could really get onto with it, but the Island games felt much better (minus the balancing sun and water thing which made them impossible to ever go back to), and Tale of Two Towns was pretty much the culmination of all of the DS games. After you play those ones, it feels almost painful to really go at GB.

          • laurenhiya21

            Yeah I think I’ve only gotten to Summer in Sunshine Islands (and I’ve gotten to mid-Winter in GB) and I’ve had a ton more fun in Islands than GB. I think I even had more fun with DS, glitches and all haha. I haven’t tried Tale of Two Towns though… I might have to track down a copy…

          • You should be more than capable of doing so! It’s available right now on Amazon, brand new, for $21.40.

            Though like I mentioned, definitely get the DS version of it. The 3DS one is not worth it.

          • laurenhiya21

            Oh nice, didn’t realize how much it’s dropped in price :D Now I definitely have to pick it up soon ha (and yeah, no way I want to deal with that 3DS version *shudder*)

    • Deletable Man

      HM3 GBC is probably my favorite. It had a heck of a lot to do for Harvest Moon game of it’s time but didn’t feel Easy Mode like the otherwise awesome Magical Melody did. Plus, portable!

      • oh yeaaaah high five for knowing the best portable one.

        Seriously HM3 was such a great game, I can’t wait for it to go onto VC. It was the first game to have a marriage potential, portable-wise. It had a solid storage system, had clear perks for either having a Boy character or a Girl character, introduced things like Rice growing… Heck, I even loved those dumb little movies that played at the Theater on the mainland. And it was basically a straight-out sequel to HM2, which was a nice touch!

        Glad to hear someone else really liked HM3. (and also admits that Magical Melody was super cool too.)

    • katamari damacy

      HM64 is the pinnacle of the series for me, followed by HM FoMT and HM MFoMT. The characters and setting from HM64 (and subsequently FoMT/MFoMT) outshines all the others. Personally, it’s just because each NPC’s role in the Mineral Town setting roughly corresponds to an actual job that a small town would logically need to be self sufficient. No mad scientist, demolition men, or random butlers and maids and other nonsensical professions for NPCs.

      • 64 is really good! But it’s hard to get at the moment, unless if you wanna go the Pirates route, or if you have a working N64 lying around.

        I’m really hoping the VC stuff really has been fixed, so we can get HM64 on the Wii U. I haven’t been able to play the game in soooo long. Though I did own it, before! Back when I had an N64! I was so surprised when my mother had gotten it for me one year cause it was still like $60-$70 for the game.

        • katamari damacy

          N64 Cartridges were ridiculously expensive. I bought HM64 brand new for $70. Because of the extreme cost, I’ve never given up any of my N64 titles

          • I had parents who made me get rid of older systems if I “wasn’t going to play them anymore”. My dad kicked himself years later for making me pick between the PS2 or the SNES, and choosing the SNES. (And I kicked myself for it cause I lost stuff like Kirby Superstar, Mario All-Star, and EARTHBOUND out of it.)

  • Yindustries LLC

    I’m sorry if it’s really obvious, but what’s the irony in this situation?

    Very nice by the way.

  • GH56734

    Since that link to Ignition’s takeover of Muramasa Wii publishing duties has the discussion closed, I’ll ask here since it’s quite a perplexing situation:

    When the Ignition rep said about Xseed losing Muramasa Wii publishing duties:

    I don’t know if I can get away with saying too much about this, but Xseed was kind of being punished, to some extent,
    They [Xseed?] wanted to light a fire under the guy who was in charge of them [???]. Out of all the games we [Ignition] actually have ties with Vanillaware and we were able to get Muramasa. We [Ignition] have a very good relationship with Vanillaware already.

    And we know later that Vanillaware refused to even spare some employees to insert the already finished English text into Grand Knights History or set up new servers, citing they need all developers they have for Dragon Crown PS3 (localized by Atlus as a simultaneous worldwide release window)…
    yet they could spare some of these employees for the (new, improved, with a third line programmed in) localization of Muramasa Vita by Aksys.

    So, what’s the deal?
    Did some higher-ups in Xseed scrap the deal to punish their employees for taking too much liberties with doing things on their own (even though I find it puzzling a costly licensing deal would sneak past a manager, it’s like an elephant in a room with their limited ressources and all)

    Or… was it Vanillaware who were punishing Xseed for some reason, leading to a situation where their ties with Xseed are “bad” and those with Ignition are “good”?

    (BTW are Ignition still localizing videogames at all?)

    • Xerain

      I’m interested to hear more about the situation with Ignition way back when, however, I don’t think it’s related to Grand Knight’s History. I remember the details of Grand Knights history being covered in depth by this site, and there were even interviews with XSeed staff, none of which remotely supports what you’re suggesting.

      IIRC, according to that interview, Grand Knight’s History just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was the worst timing possible. Also keep in mind Murarmasa for the Vita had extensive DLC support. When Aksys came calling upon them, Vanillaware was most likely actively working on DLC content for the game. Not so with Grand Knight’s History, where the team was pulled to work on Dragon’s Crown, never to touch Grand Knight’s History again.

    • JonathanisPrimus

      Disney bought Ignition’s parent company. Disney hates traditional video games, so they’re dead now. It’s probably why Dragon’s Crown ended up with Atlus.

  • Kornelious

    Man, things have been pretty crazy with Natsume lately…They are a good company and do good work and unfortunately suffered from the one thing that plagues many big businesses…bankruptcy.
    It is pretty amazing to see how far they’ve come though, Even if the future is a little cloudy we always have our memories to look back and smile about :) (Cliched, I know :P)

    • GH56734

      They might be more willing to take risks… More RPGs like they used to with Lufia, Chulip, Medabots…

      For starters, they could approach Level-5 to publish Fantasy Life 3DS physically for them (like with Ninokuni PS3 with L-5 USA localizing and Bandai Namco publishing).
      They could even localize it for them, or maybe even rebrand it with “Harvest Moon” appended to the title like with Rune Factory (though that would be morbidly hilarious).

      • For starters, they could approach Level-5 to publish Fantasy Life 3DS physically for them (like with Ninokuni PS3 with L-5 USA localizing and Bandai Namco publishing).

        Judging by past trends, Level 5 would prefer that a larger publisher handle their games in the West, and rightfully so. They make big-budget portable games with a broad appeal, so there’s a lot of potential for them to sell a good amount with the right kind of marketing.

        Marketing muscle is something Natsume lacks, unfortunately. That’s why you see L5 partnering with Nintendo for so many of their releases. One makes great games, the other knows how to market said games. It’s a win-win for both companies.

  • TurtleOmlette

    Remember that time they published Rune Factory 4 in Europe?

    Yeah that was great.

    • RF4 not getting to Europe had nothing to do with XSeed.

      • TurtleOmlette

        I know that, but a game in one of my favourite series is available in English and I can’t play it. That’s crap and I’m forever mad.

        • Well if you want to be mad at someone be mad at Neverland for going bankrupt. What you brought up doesn’t make sense with this article’s topic.

  • Rune Factory Frontier was handled odd alright. Marvelous tried putting their own name on the front of the box instead of Xseed, didn’t go over well.

  • fairysun

    Marvelous does it right. If you want to change your game genre, you create a new IP/series. That way, old fans who still like old game element(in this case, farming) can still play the old IP(Harvest Moon) and old/new fans who like the new game element can play the new series(Rune Factory). What says you, Capcom?

  • Kuroneko

    Natsume is like the 4Kids of game publishers

  • katamari damacy

    The last good Harvest Moon was A Wonderful Life. all others since then have been a mixed bag that range from outright horrible to merely decent.

  • JustJam

    I remember playing Friends of Mineral Town & HM:DS. Had so many promising features but terrible bugs. The last HM game I ever played was A Wonderful Life on PS2. What sucked the most in 2003-2010 era was how they released a boy version first then released an upgraded version as the ‘girl version’ later on. So great to see HM games have improved over the last couple of years.

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