"This game is going to make you ponder what 'happiness' really means," Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada tells us in his proverbial elevator pitch for his brand new game, codenamed Project Happiness. And if that's not enough to at least pique your interest, then we don't know what will. The father of the original farm game has a grandiose vision for his next franchise.
Unfortunately, this does mean that Wada-san will no longer be directly involved with the Harvest Moon series, but it's not all doom and gloom. "I treat Harvest Moon as if it's my own child, [and] the Harvest Moon series will continue for years to come," Wada-san says behind closed doors during E3 in Los Angeles. "Even if it's a grown up already, I still feel affection for it. So, I will step aside from being involved directly in its development, but I will keep an eye on it with my soul and heart."
Project Happiness--in development at his very own studio in Tokyo, Toybox--looks and likely feels similar to Harvest Moon, but Wada-san assures us that its play hook is entirely different. For one, this game focuses in on a singular shop and players' mission is to grow that shop into a sprawling store that can be decorated, rearranged and more.
But more importantly, Project Happiness focuses on character, story and charm. And for that, Wada-san has teamed up with the likes of designer Nishida Atsuko, the creator of Pikachu and several more characters in the Pokemon universe, and Nobuo Uematsu, the composer responsible for many of the most memorable soundtracks in the Final Fantasy series of role-playing games.
Wada-san, Natsume and Toybox are pulling out all the stops for Project Happiness. But this game has another, more important agenda: to explore the intricacies, challenges and joys of the search for happiness. As players build up their shop, they attract more villagers to their town, many of which have their own unique stories--stories that change based on what the player offers for sale in his or her shop.
But seven of these villagers are special, they have wishes, requests for the shop owner that need fulfilling. However, players can only choose one dream to fulfill, sending them on a quest for an extremely rare item. Wada-san wants players to form a connection with these characters, to care about them, so that the decision for who's wish to fulfill is a difficult one.
"The main theme of this game is happiness, and the seven villagers are going to ask you, 'Make me happy by making my dreams come true.' But I have no intention of shaping what happiness is for you," Wada-san says. "You're going to have to find out what is happiness for you, what is happiness for the villagers, how you can make people happy and how you can make yourself happy."
"Even after you put down the controller, this game will make you think about the game, make you recall what you did in the game. It will stay in your memory forever." Project Happiness, which we think should just be the title of the game at launch, is due out on multiple platforms next year.
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