Shine on Harvest Moon

Rising Star Games attended last week's Games Market Europe (GME) in London, bringing over key members from its Japanese parent company Marvelous Interactive. Most notable amongst these was Yasuhiro Wada, President and COO of Marvelous and creator of the highly successful Harvest Moon series. Other games published by Rising Star Games includes Pilot Academy and Space Invaders: Revolution.

But the big news is that Harvest Moon is coming to a handheld near you. Whether it's Nintendo GBA, SP or Micro, gamers can now farm on the go and this time you get to be a girl trying to woo the local farm boys. We caught up with the man himself to find out what makes him tick and where he's taking the Harvest Moon series.

GiN: What inspired you to create Harvest Moon?

Wada: In my younger days I lived in the countryside. Now I live in the city and I wanted to make a game that recalled those years in rural Japan.

GiN: How did you make farm work fun?

Wada: I remembered Zelda on the NES. There were sections of the game where you could cut down the grass and plant a seed, which would later grow. I decided that I wanted to make a game like this.

GiN: Why did you decide to bring Harvest Moon to handheld?
Wada: I wanted to create a new version for handhelds. Home consoles are fun, but you can have a new kind of fun on handhelds.

GiN: What changes did you have to make, if any, to make the switch from console?

Wada: Handhelds offer a different way of playing because people are often on the move, which means they can't always play for extended periods. When you plant things in Harvest Moon on handheld it has to take less time to grow.

In addition, the DS offered new ways of interacting. The stylus can be used to wash and pet the animals. And the dual screen created an opportunity to display the game differently, allowing you to see tow different perspectives and add new details to characters.

GiN: Which handheld was your favourite to work for?

Wada: From a creative point of view, the DS is a very interesting machine. The PSP is a great handheld and an excellent machine, but there isn't much of a jump between playing on a PS2 and playing on a PSP. The gameplay is nearly exactly the same.

The DS offers a brand new way to play games. As a games designer you have to think of a new way to be creative, which is an exciting challenge.

GiN: Which current games inspire you?

Wada: That's a difficult question. Most of the games that inspire me are Nintendo titles. There are other good developers and publishers, but Nintendo still has the most user friendly and innovative games. With Nintendo gameplay is always the most important feature of their titles.

A lot of games today focus on graphics and play almost like watching a movie. Players often sit through amazing looking cut scenes, but once that's over the gameplay is the same. Nintendo always includes lots of details which bring the games alive. There tends to be less interactivity from other publishers, so I always look to Nintendo for inspiration.

GiN: What excites you about the industry today?

Wada: I'm worried about the industry at the moment. In Japan only hardcore games fans are buying, which means the market is limited. Although the fans are very important and it is essential that we continue to make games for them, it is also important that we continue to expand the market for the future of the industry.

At the moment online gamers are hardcore gamers, but the next generation consoles will help online gaming reach a wider audience, which will be good for the industry. We have to think about ways of reaching more people.

GiN: How is Rising Star Games going to reach a wider market?

Wada: We want to make user friendly games. We also aim to do what the big companies aren't doing at the moment. Our focus is on creating games that appeal to beginners, intermediate players and girls – encompassing all gamers.

GiN: Are there any more Harvest Moon titles in the pipeline?

Wada: (laughs) Yes, but I'm afraid I can't tell you anything at the moment. I can say that it's going to be online and it's going to be great.

(GIN tries to maintain composure and not jump for joy)

GiN: Finally, what other games do you have coming out?

Wada: Obviously we have other titles besides Harvest Moon, but nothing we can tell you about at the moment. We are bringing out titles for all platforms, including the next generation consoles and aim to have one or two titles for each one next year.

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