Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, and Story of Seasons all start players off in a town or village with a farm inherited from their grandfather – but why?
In Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, and Story of Seasons are the quintessential farming-sim RPG games, and most entries in each series follow the same basic premise. Players are tasked with restoring an old and dilapidated farm, slowly building it up to a prosperous agricultural venture. The three games share narrative, gameplay, and general design elements, all because they share a common connection.
Unlike the aptly named Farming Simulator series, these more laid-back games are focused less on accurately simulating real-life farming than on creating a structured environment for players to experience basic joys, like accomplishing goals and forming relationships. Interacting with NPCs in these games is beneficial to both the player experience and the success of players’ farms. Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons integrate marriage systems that highlight this intention, and all three games deliver the goal accomplishment aspect in spades.
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Surely these joys could be delivered through other video game settings, though, so why a farm? The original farming sim RPG, Harvest Moon, was created and produced by Yasuhiro Wada. As he told IGN in 2018, Wada grew up in the countryside in Kyushu, Japan. When he eventually moved to a big city, he began looking back on his time in the country and reminiscing about “what made the countryside so special.” This led him to design Harvest Moon, in which the slow pace of country life was recreated. The needs of the plants and cattle force players to be accountable for their environment, thus bringing them in touch with nature – something Wada also missed.
How Harvest Moon Led To Story Of Seasons & Stardew Valley
Wada continued to make Harvest Moon titles until 2010, when he left Marvelous to create Toybox Games Studios. The series’ name later changed to Story of Seasons under Marvelous, while publisher Natsume continued on with the Harvest Moon name. The first Story of Seasons was released in Japan in 2014, carrying on the same gameplay style Wada established with Harvest Moon. Its most recent entry, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, launched just days apart from Harvest Moon‘s newest game, Harvest Moon: One World.
While Stardew Valley had nothing to do with Wada directly, is was heavily inspired by Harvest Moon. In fact, its creator, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, an American independent game designer, actually made it in part as a response to the things he didn’t like about the Harvest Moon series, as he told Gamasutra in 2016.
Despite their differing histories and gameplay styles, all of these games owe their premise, in one way or another, to Wada’s original vision of recreating his countryside lifestyle, and the sense of community and accomplishment that comes with it. Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley will all likely continue on in some form for years to come, as Wada’s idea seems to have resonated with a significant audience across the three franchises.
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