Since Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town’s reveal last week, people both in Japan and the West have had mixed opinions over the artstyle shift and character design changes made to classic characters from the original Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. A blog post by character designer Igusa Matsuyama sheds a bit of light, and some fans have also done character design dissections that might explain some of the changes.
Some background on Igusa Matsuyama: The elusive artist has been credited for the Harvest Moon series as far back as character image artwork in Harvest Moon GB, and was the character designer of Harvest Moon 64, and they have continued to serve as character designer for every entry in the main Bokujou Monogatari series (including Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, which carried over character designs from 64 and Back to Nature wholesale), except for Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade. They also recently worked on the character design for Little Dragons Cafe.
The message from Matsuyama comes from their personal blog, linked to by the Story of Seasons official JP Twitter. Matsuyama, in their post, addresses that although this game is a remake, it is also a new game. Compared to ports, which is bringing over the previous game to new platforms; and remasters, which essentially keep the same content but improves on visuals and sound quality; this is a remake, which keeps the same premise but remixes content in a way that fits modern times.
While it’s a bit hard to call this a completely new game, Matsuyama states, a new game is a new game.
In order to create the character designs (and expression variations) and artwork for SoS: FoMT, Matsuyama took the original games out for a spin on the Nintendo DS (not GBA, because no backlit screen) and played through around a year’s worth of in-game time. They comment that they found the memories and experience nostalgic, and while they aren’t able to say much on the new game, they said that the new game is much more pleasant to play compared to the originals.
But why change the designs so much? Apart from Matsuyama’s (and the Story of Seasons series’) artstyle shift, and changing the designs in ways that fit modern times, some fans have provided a possible argument for the shift – the redesigns are meant to probably fit the characters into their roles as seen in Friends of Mineral Town.
Longtime fan community Ranch Story Blog has provided several breakdowns of the new character designs, compared to the originals. Essentially, they argue that the old designs are classic, but are ill-suited to their roles in Mineral Town, and as such these characters have seen design changes.
Karen first received her design in Harvest Moon 64, Matsuyama’s first outing as character designer. She had blonde bangs as a reference to Eve from the first Harvest Moon on SNES, whom she was the granddaughter of. However, in Back to Nature and later, Friends of Mineral Town, Karen was changed to being Jeff and Sasha’s daughter while keeping the same design. In SoS: FoMT, Karen’s hair color is more reminiscent of her parents’, with light brown leading into a dark brown at the back. Karen’s clothes are also modernized, and better fit someone working at the Supermarket.
Meanwhile, Rick in 64 was an inventor and a descendant from Ann in SNES Harvest Moon. Appearance-wise, he wears indoor clothes and a long apron that didn’t fit his backstory when he and Popuri became siblings who worked at the Poultry Farm, with him filling for their missing father.
In SoS: FoMT, Rick’s clothes are more accurate to that of a poultry farmer’s, with his rolled-up sleeves, boots, and him even holding chicken feed in his arms. It can also be clearly seen in his 3D model that his eyes are now purple, matching Popuri’s eye color. His expression is also more composed, compared to the upbeat friendliness radiating from the original design.
You can read more character design breakdowns and visit the fan community via the link here.
From both Matsuyama’s message and the character design differences, it seems that Matsuyama and Marvelous aren’t intent on treading down the same old path all the way with this new game, even if the game is based on the GBA one’s premise. The character designs have changed as part of this, and while the classic looks are gone, a case can be made that this was to make the 64 designs more consistent with the characters’ backstories as presented in Friends of Mineral Town.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town releases for Nintendo Switch in Japan on October 17, 2019. Check out the game’s first trailer in our previous post here.