Yasuhiro Wada sowed the seeds that would grow to be Harvest Moon, the successful and long-running farming simulator that's been flourishing ever since its 1997 SNES debut.
Still going strong in 2007, the series has made the jump to DS and PSP, and there's even one on the way for Wii. Keen to discuss his work, Wada flew to the UK to see CVG for a quick chat.
Harvest Moon may look like a child's game but it's a deep, complicated challenging affiar. What's your philosophy behind the target audience?
Yasuhiro Wada: I originally began designing Harvest Moon on Super NES for people that had become bored with other games. Of course, I was thinking the game should be for everyone, but the key was to make a completely new type of game that gamers had never seen before.
So it's for hardcore gamers?
Wada: Not anymore. At the very beginning it was, but not now.
The series sticks faithfully to a set formula. How have you tried to mould the game over the years?
Wada: It's become more complicated and bigger. But what I have really been trying to do is give increasing amounts of freedom to the player, and allow them to do whatever they want to do.
If you give the player too much freedom it can blur the line between the real world and the game world. I've always aimed to give the player freedom, but at the same time this freedom has to be controlled by very simple, easy-to-understand rules within a structured game system.
Speaking specifically about the DS game, why did you choose to leave out wireless and online play?
Wada: When I started to develop and eventually complete the Japanese version of the game, there were no Wi-Fi facilities available. So it wasn't a conscious decision, it was more a case of timing and availability. Bare in mind we began development on the DS game in Japan nearly three years ago.
Is this surprisingly long development time one of the reasons why the game strikes such a significant resemblance to the GBA game, Friends of Mineral Town?
Wada: I wanted to make the game as familiar and easy to understand as possible for fans of the series, as well as new players. So this is essentially an upgrade on that older game.
Harvest Moon suits the DS perfectly. With the coming of Innocent Life on PSP, how well do you think a game like Harvest Moon suits the more adult-orientated PSP?
Wada: There is something we like to call the 'New Harvest Moon series'. The main difference between games in this 'new series' and the previous games is that I am not the creator.
I don't touch the creation of these new games - I have left the other creators (developers ArtePiazza) with the core idea to make with it what they please. Innocent Life on PSP is one of these 'new series' games, and in that particular game they wanted to focus on improving the graphical aspects of the game using the power of the PSP.
On top of that there is another Harvest Moon game on the way - Rune Factory (being developed by Neverland) - on DS, and in this case they want to focus on other gameplay factors of the game.
So the DS game goes for new gameplay while the PSP version focuses on graphics. Many would say that a focus on new gameplay is more important than improved visuals... would you say that's one of the reasons DS dominates the handheld market?
Wada: There are a lot of new ideas on DS while the PSP uses ideas from existing games. Even though the graphics are improved the ideas on PSP are all based on existing concepts. Whereas DS, whether you look at the DS's software or user interface, has fresh ideas.