Perhaps a game that combines farming with making friends sounds like a bit of an odd concept, but since 1996, that's what the Harvest Moon series has been about. Starting with a dilapidated and deserted farm in a corner of town, it's up to the player to toil away raising crops and animals, selling produce for money – which can then be used to expand and upgrade your farm. When you're not busy with the farm, you can make friends with the other villagers, helping them out with things and wooing the ladies, before settling down with whoever you decide is the lucky one. With many, many iterations of the series under his belt, and a good few of the more combat-orientated Rune Factory games too, creator Yasuhiro Wada seems to have the cutesy farming games market cornered – and with his new game Project Happiness, plans to expand into retail too.
Set in a small village in the countryside, you play as a local shop owner, working hard to expand your store by selling more items and attracting more customers in the process – and in traditional Harvest Moon style, every customer that walks through your door has their own story to tell as you get to know them better. Wada has lofty ideas for the game though, stating he wants the game “to help expand the player’s view of the world, and make them ponder what their life means to them”.
Project Happiness sounds... interesting, if rather vague. We're assuming it'll follow a similar sort of format to the Harvest Moon/Rune Factory series, where you'll divide your time up between working on your farm and socialising with the locals, but in a shop rather than on a farm – and having poured some forty-five hours into Rune Factory 3 on the DS and around seventy into the Wii's Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, it seems we can play these sort of games till the cows come home - quite literally. And having recently discovered it even has a cute little pinky-white puffball 'sprite' creature in it – we're already more than sold on the idea.
For those of you that are interested in these sort of things, Wada seems to have a fair few friends in high places – among the people lending a hand in Project Happiness include designer Nishada Atsuko, famous for creating Pikachu and a number of other Pokemon, with the music for the game being written by famed Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu.
So far, we don't really know an awful lot about Project Happiness – just that's it's releasing on the 3DS some time in 2013. Perhaps if it's as awesome as it looks in the trailer, we might just decide to forgive Natsume/Rising Star for not bringing Rune Factory Oceans to the Wii. See for yourself below: