Monday, July 6, 2015

Chasing in on the name "Harvest Moon" - Is it right?

"Harvest Moon," when one hears these words they may think of the time when the moon is orange and at it's fullest in Fall, but when a gamer hears it, they will instantly think of the well known farm simulating series.

Originally released on the SNES, Harvest Moon was a unique title that took what would normally be considered hard work, and made it fun. It was a game where you took on the role of a farmer, whom was tasked with the job of restoring and building a farm, and it asked you to live out his life. While the game did have a main goal, it was one that never actually forced you to do it. The game was about freedom, about having a farm, yet doing whatever it is you wanted to do. You could grow crops, take care of animals, and go fishing, but you could also head out to the town, interact with towns people, and even get married. The game was packed full of content, and despite being a chore, it was one that became strangely addictive and kept players coming back for more -- a lot more.

Over the years many entries have been released in this series, and some of them have even become staples for the console they were on. Harvest Moon 64 on the Nintendo 64 quickly became known as one of the best N64 games out there, Back to Nature followed it on the PlayStation, and A Wonderful Life became a must have for any GameCube and PS2 owners as well. As time went on, Harvest Moon seemed to just get better and better, and it continued to grow in popularity. While some entries in the series built upon what was previously set, others would branch off into different areas, and feature unique gameplay elements of their own. Spin off titles like Rune Factory introduced and focused on dungeon crawling and combat, while games such as Animal Parade focused more on exotic animals, and family. No matter what the case was though, Harvest Moon was a popular series, and despite having gameplay changes from time to time, each entry had quite the fan base.

So, jumping ahead to 2015 and things haven't changed... Or have they? The truth is, things have actually changed quite a bit. The Harvest Moon series is still popular and doing amazingly well on the Nintendo 3DS, but what a lot of people (including fans) may not realize is, well, Harvest Moon is no longer Harvest Moon.

The Japanese name for the Harvest Moon series has always been "Bokuj┼Ź Monogatari" in Japan (translated to "Farm Story"), but when it was published in the west by a company called "Natsume," it was given the name Harvest Moon (named after, well, you know). Of course there were no issues with this name, it was a fitting one after all, and before long it's what almost everyone outside of Japan knew it by. It was the series' name, and there was no reason to change that -- until now that is.

Starting with "Story of Seasons" on the Nintendo 3DS, the developers behind the series have decided to use their western branch "XSeed" to localize the games instead of going through Natsume. It's a decision that really does make a lot of sense (one may even ask why they didn't do this sooner), but the issue is that Natsume retained the Trademark on the name "Harvest Moon." In other words, rather than transferring the rights to use the name to XSeed, they decided to hold onto it for themselves, and make use of it in their own way -- something a lot of people may not even realize. So, with the name Harvest Moon now lost to them, "Farm Story's" name was changed to "Story of Seasons" for it's US release, and the rest is history (or rather, history in the making). While yet another Story of Seasons game was announced, a spin off crossover at that, Natsume continues to do their own thing as well...

The Harvest Moon of today's world is not Harvest Moon. After they lost the series, Natsume decided to continue using the Harvest Moon name to release their own game -- a Minecraft like block farming game for the Nintendo 3DS. For anyone who isn't in the know, one would assume that this is the follow up to Harvest Moon A New Beginning, but in reality it isn't even a part of the series. It is a game that is inspired by the (now) Story of Seasons series, and nothing more; however, that's not how many fans, nor the rest of the world will see it.

With the newest "Harvest Moon" heading to PC, a lot of fans still do not realize the truth. The series they love has been replaced with a copy, while the real sequels are being released under a new name. In many's eyes, Story of Seasons is the "Harvest Moon clone" which rips off their beloved game, while the Harvest Moon games continue to try something a bit different. It's something a lot of people accept, and it's something they will continue to accept as the years go on. Sure, those who have access to the internet or closely follow the series may know the difference, but for anyone else, it's something they may never even realize. The series they or their kids love will move on without them, and they will never even know.

So, the question is... Is this right? Should a company use another game's name to cash in on it? Of course Natsume owns the rights to the name "Harvest Moon," so it's not like they are stealing it, but should they use it? Why not release farming games under a new title? Why keep using the name? Money, that's the reason, but they could have did something different if they wanted to. What do you guys think?

No comments :