A lot has happened since Natsume split from original developer Marvelous Interactive to create their own games under the Harvest Moon moniker – it was a major turning point at the beginning of Harvest Moon‘s 20th Anniversary. In Japan, Marvelous held the license to what roughly translates from Bokujo Monogatari to “Ranch Story”. Natsume localized the Bokujo Monogatari games as Harvest Moon until 2014. Though the company retains the rights to the title, Marvelous has partnered with XSeed games to localize the franchise’s games instead. To make matters more confusing, in 2014 Marvelous announced that their in-house publisher XSeed games would be localizing and publishing the Bokujo Monogatari series in the west since XSeed could no longer use the Harvest Moon name due to Natsume owning the trademark of the “Harvest Moon” name. XSeed opted to give the franchise a new name under the title of Story of Seasons.
This means the last true sequel under the “Harvest Moon” title before the Story of Season branding came about was Harvest Moon 3DS: A New Beginning (2012). Harvest Moon 3DS The Lost Valley (2014), and any game titled Harvest Moon from here on out, now belong to the Natsume series, and they’re not the same!
Why is this still a big issue amongst the Harvest Moon community? Well, for a lot of people (myself included), little was known about Marvelous being the original software developer behind the original Harvest Moon series. Many believed that Natsume created and developed the series due to its name being plastered on box art covers, with the Marvelous name showing on a splash screen and hidden away in very small print on the back of the box.
It never occurred to me growing up what localization meant, and I spent a long time being confused playing the new stuff and thinking to myself: Why has this franchise changed so much from what I once loved and enjoyed? I remember picking up Story of Seasons and being more confused when the game felt more familiar than the new Harvest Moon games I had been playing. I did a lot of research, and as it turns out, the original developers changed their name, and I needed to learn the correct re-branding to better familiarize myself with before purchasing.
TLDR: Story of Seasons is the real deal. Harvest Moon after 2014 is not.
To summarize, if you’re not new to the franchise and you’ve been playing Harvest Moon for the last 20 years (like I have), making sure the series is listed as Story of Seasons and the developer is listed as Marvelous, Inc., or Xseed, is your best bet in finding a game similar to what you grew up with. After XSeed became the official publisher in 2014, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, since everything will be labeled Story of Seasons in newer titles. If you find a game listed as the “Harvest Moon” series with Natsume Inc. listed as its developer, you’re more than likely playing a game that you won’t feel familiar with.
Check out information on the the new Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town remake here.