Harvestella marks a first for Square Enix, as it’s attempting its own take on the Rune Factory combination of farming and fighting. It’s an interesting experiment filled with unexpected references and nods. Ahead of Harvestella’s launch, Siliconera had an opportunity to ask Producer Daisuke Taka and Director Hiroto Furuya about its farming elements, RPG gameplay, romance options, and the effect of Stardew Valley to find out how everything came together.
Jenni Lada: How long has Harvestella been in development and which games did past teams work on? It feels like there are definitely some shades of Bravely Default.
Daisuke Taka: Harvestella has been in development for about 4 years. The development team was newly formed to work on the game, however, there are members who were involved in past Square Enix titles as well, so I’m sure there are influences from various games.
After going through the demo, there are definitely times when I feel like the RPG elements of Harvestella are the priority and the farming and relationship aspects are bonuses that enhance the experience. Is this intentional and how did you ensure there’s a balance between the kinds of gameplay on display?
Taka: The player’s level of freedom will increase from chapter three, which is beyond what is covered in the demo, where there will be more interactive elements near your home and in town. We played through the game many times to adjust the balance.
How did other farming and life sims like Rune Factory, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley shape Harvestella’s development, and how did you ensure it would stand out among them and be unique?
Taka: I’ve played them all and like the genre, but Stardew Valley in particular had the biggest impact. Especially with regards to the strict stamina management and the economic balance. All the same, I wanted to create a work that was more “fantasy” and leaned more into RPGs than Stardew Valley.
There are relationship building elements in Harvestella, so how did you determine which characters could be befriended and whether players could find romance or just be friends here?
Hiroto Furuya: We thought it was essential to have companion characters that you can adventure with because we wanted to shed light on the characters’ personal lives as well, which couldn’t always be fleshed out through adventure alone.
And since that still felt a bit lacking, we also considered characters who have close ties to the main character, such as Cres, who acts as a guide to the main character.
There is a blending of magic, technology and time periods in Harvestella. How did you decide design directions to ensure things all felt they would “fit” in the same world?
Furuya: I directed the project with the belief that a design would feel like it “fit” if the players could get a sense for the “backbone” of a structure. Therefore, when asking the artists to create the designs I made sure to give detailed explanations of the history and backbone of these buildings and why it “needed” to look or be shaped a certain way.
Even the designs that look straight-forward, like the Seaslight or castles, have a meaning behind them, so please take a look around and give it some thought.
It feels like a number of quality of life decisions were made to ensure Harvestella farming, fighting, relationships and gathering wouldn’t be tedious. How did you determine what needed to be implemented and which QOL element are you most proud of?
Taka: I asked the development team members to reexamine what they thought was common sense in the life simulation genre. While there were some elements we could
implement due to the game being in 3D instead of 2D, I thought there had to be some things that were unnecessary as well.
Come to think of it, I didn’t implement any kind of gift giving system through which the player develops their relationship with various town folk. I can’t really empathize because I don’t have much of a desire for things in the first place… (laughs).
Of the Harvestella party members and jobs present, which ones do you personally find most useful and why?
Taka: The Pilgrim, which is Shrika’s job, is a good one. It has a skill that deals multiple hits of damage over a wide area at medium range. It’s great for destroying enemies you encounter in dungeons and is also effective in boss fights.
Furuya: Each party member has their own attribute compatibility with enemies based on their job, so it is difficult to say which character is stronger in general. You can take your favorite party members with you or change the formation to suit the enemies of a dungeon. I would be happy to see players trying out a variety of options.
Harvestella is available for the Nintendo Switch and PC.