Gematsu recently spoke to Hikaru Nakano, director of Marvelous-developed Story of Seaons: Pioneers of Olive Town, which is available now for Switch.
During our brief email interview, Nakano discussed how his experience in the Story of Seasons series helped shape Pioneers of Olive Town, the game’s defining new features, the possibility of the series coming to new platforms, and more.
Get the full interview below.
As someone who has been involved in the Story of Seasons series for a very long time, how has your experience from prior entries in the series influenced your direction of Pioneers of Olive Town?
Hikaru Nakano, Director: “Story of Seasons offers players a high degree of freedom. Not all players will follow the same linear path. I’ve realized that it is important to convey this idea to everyone on the development team, especially new staff. Back when I was a developer, I remember asking Yasuhiro Wada, who was my superior at the time, if we should be making a game that follows a single storyline. He told me that this game is not about following one thread to a conclusion, but about the many different paths players can choose to travel down. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but I feel as if I have a better grasp of it now. It’s the essence of our game, so we must take that lesson very seriously.”
What would you say are the defining new features of Pioneers of Olive Town?
Nakano: “The defining new feature is pioneering itself. The farm area is nestled within a large forest where you can fish, mine, collect wild grasses, encounter wildlife, harvest wild crops, and discover all manner of things. You can fully develop the land or carve out only the space you need. Your relationship with nature is entirely up to you.”
Are there any plans or ideas for a deviation from the usual formula in the future?
Nakano: “My goal is to keep the Story of Seasons series true to itself. But if we’re talking about developments outside of the core identity, there are certainly plenty of possibilities.”
The Story of Seasons series has led to the creation of many independent farming simulation games over the years, including the massively popular Stardew Valley. Similar to how Story of Seasons influenced the creation of these games, were you influenced by these other titles in any way while working on Pioneers of Olive Town?
Nakano: “I play a lot of simulation games myself, so I find myself influenced in myriad small ways by many different titles. An example of that is our implementation of the skill system from the Rune Factory series. It serves as a way to display the player’s skills, and it is the method through which the player unlocks new craft recipes.”
Can we expect same-sex marriage to become a series standard from here on? Will it always be called “best friend ceremony” in Japan?
Nakano: “Giving the players the freedom to marry whomever they like is important for a game like Story of Seasons. I believe it should be included in these games, so the development team and I intend to continue implementing same-sex marriage in future titles. There’s a precedent in Japan for the ‘Best Friend Ceremony’ naming, but it’s possible it may change in the future.”
One fan asks: In Trio of Towns, makers could create up to 10 products at a time, whereas in Pioneers of Olive Town, they can only create one at a time. Was there a reason for this change?
Nakano: “I can’t speak to one singular reason, but I can say that we take fan feedback seriously, and we’re testing various solutions internally in hopes of improving the game.”
The Story of Seasons games have been released exclusively on Nintendo systems in recent years, but previous entries have released on PlayStation 2, and Friends of Mineral Town even saw a surprise release on Steam. Is there any consideration to bringing Trio of Towns, Pioneers of Olive Town, and / or future Story of Seasons games to additional platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, and PC?
Nakano: “The Nintendo Switch is an incredible console and I’m pleased that we were able to release this game on it. It would be great to have the opportunity for more people to play our game in the future.”
This August is the 25th anniversary of Story of Seasons. Can we expect any more surprises to come in celebration?
Nakano: “I would love to do something, but for now our focus is on updates and downloadable content for Pioneer of Olive Town.”
Thank you for your time, Nakano-san!
Gematsu also asked Nakano the following questions, which he was not at liberty to answer:
- One fan asks: Pioneers of Olive Town has some of the best moment-to-moment gameplay for the series, but few long term goals. How did it come to be that animal, crop, and cooking festivals for players to work towards didn’t make it in?
- Are there any plans to bring back features such as character portraits and rival marriages / children, be it in a future update or new entry entirely?
- This one may be a touchy subject: In the west, Story of Seasons was known as Harvest Moon until 2015. How do you feel about Harvest Moon trademark holder Natsume continuing to use the name despite its games no longer being Bokujou Monogatari titles?