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Harvest Moon’s deeper message: a story of life and death

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Story of Seasons is the latest game in Marvelous AQL's farming simulation series, Harvest Moon. It's not being published under the Harvest Moon title because of Natsume's ownership of the intellectual property, but it is a Harvest Moon game at its core. This means it's about running a farm, producing crops, raising livestock and, according to head of development Yoshifumi Hashimoto, exploring the concept of life and death.

Speaking to Polygon at E3, Hashimoto said the theme of life and death is subtle, and usually only half the audience picks up on it, but it's been present since the Harvest Moon series started in 1996.

"[The original Harvest Moon] released at a time when games were all about battles and monsters, and we made a game about being a farmer, but not a farmer with a tractor," he said. "You took care of things with your bare hands. If you didn't take care of your animals, they would die. Initially, we received complaints from parents who said the game was too dark. But this whole game is about a farmer's life. I want people to experience what life is like."

Hashimoto told Polygon he doesn't see a game like Story of Seasons or any of the Harvest Moon titles forcing a message onto players. Rather, he believes the actions and consequences in the game make it easier for players to understand life and death. He said he recently heard on Japanese radio of a kid whose pet died, and who explained to his parents that the pet had "run out of batteries." He hopes Story of Seasons helps younger players understand that the world is a bit more complex than that.

"Death is a touchy subject to talk about," Hashimoto said. "But it's one of the things I'm really proud of doing in my games. I was thinking of what kind of life I could have the user experience ... I wanted to make it easier for players to understand life and death."