Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

[Industry Interviews] Taka Maekawa from Natsume Inc.

The Switch Effect has a big treat for all our readers on today’s Industry Interviews. The company behind the hit classic Wild Guns and long-running series Harvest Moon, Natsume Inc. joins us to share some insight into the company as well as their upcoming releases. With the latest River City series headed to the 3DS and Harvest Moon: Light of Hope announced for PC, PS4, and Switch, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for our readers to learn more about this amazing company!

Rival City: Rival Showdown is coming to the 3DS

Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Taka, and I am a producer at Natsume Inc.

What was the first console and video game you ever played?
I believe the Nintendo Entertainment System’s (NES) Super Mario Bros. was the very first video game I played.

Do you have any fond childhood memories based around gaming? What was the inspiration for wanting to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I do have many memories around gaming and moments that inspired me wanting to go into the game industry. Among those, one of the biggest inspirations was when I saw the Final Fantasy VII TV commercial in Japan (I guess it was back in 1996). The commercial focused on the development of the game, which was very shocking to me, in a good way. Before that, I had no idea how games were made, but that commercial showed me that games were made using some kind of a notepad tool (later found out it was called “programming”) and drawing (again, later found out it was called “modeling”). This made me think, “Maybe I could do this!” I guess this was the moment that really inspired me wanting to go into this industry.

Natsume has gone through a lot of changes within the organization since Natsume Co. Ltd was founded in 1987. Can you share a quick history as to how Natsume Inc. was formed?
I don’t know too much about changes since that happened before my time, however I do know that Natsume Inc. and Natsume Atari at times work together, but Natsume Inc. acts independent of Natsume Atari.

Harvest Moon is a game that needs no introduction, but we’ll give it one anyway J. A farm simulator RPG that first debuted on the Super Nintendo in 1997 (U.S. release), it allowed players to take the role of a son responsible for his father’s farm. Throughout the game, you have to raise and maintain crops, animals, upgrade tools, take part in special events (e.g., festivals, disasters), and you can even get married! There’s plenty to do within the world of Harvest Moon and since ’97, the series has been released on various consoles and mobile devices over 30 times!

First off, congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Harvest Moon. That is quite an accomplishment and it’s hard to believe that time has flown this fast. What do you think attracted gamers to the Harvest Moon series and makes them keep coming back for more?
It is hard to tell, but my guess is the cuteness and heartwarming world is what keeps our fans coming back to Harvest Moon. Also, I believe not changing the core part of the game is another big reason too. That is, making your own farmland, befriending villagers, taking care of the cute animals, and eventually starting your own family.

Harvest Moon: Light of Hope will be released on the PC, PS4, and Switch and mark the first time the series is released on all three platforms. The latest game will have some retro-inspired graphics along with new gameplay. For the first time, players will be able to repair, unlock new shops, and have a Farming Friend, that helps players grow abundant crops. With the PC being released on November 14, 2017 and in 2018 for the PS4 and Switch, Harvest Moon fans will have a lot to talk about in the coming months!

We at The Switch Effect are obviously big fans of Nintendo’s new console.  What are your impressions of the Switch?
When I first saw the Nintendo Switch last year, I knew I had to get it. After actually having it in my hand, I just loved it. Not only that, it gave me that nostalgic feeling when my parents bought me the NES back when I was a kid. The idea of using the JOY-CON to make it two players was simply amazing and opened a big door into my thoughts of what can be done when making a new game.

Were there any new opportunities or challenges that presented themselves to you when developing the game for the Switch?
Yes, actually we’re in the midst of that challenge. Switch is a very unique hardware, so there are lots of opportunities, which at the same time, also means more challenges in development!

As you’re aware, technology continues to advance the gaming industry. Have you been a fan of these changes?
Yes! It is always fun to watch something new, at the same time, think about what we can do with those technologies! 

Where do you think technology will bring us in the future?
That is a hard question, but I would love to see Doraemon (Doraemon is a Japanese anime character)!

Doraemon is the future!

We would be remiss if River City and Wild Guns were not mentioned. What are the feelings in seeing this titles being released on today’s consoles?
Simply happy since both River City and Wild Guns were games I played in my childhood. I didn’t imagine us having a chance to publish these games now!

Which new games, besides your own of course J, are you looking forward to the most?
It was Super Mario Odyssey, but since that is already out, my next one will be Far Cry 5!

Last question now that I’ve run you through the gauntlet. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes! Harvest Moon: Light of Hope for Steam was just released and I’ve been watching the reviews. I’m really happy to see comments saying that they think the game has the “Harvest Moon” feel, because that is what we were aiming for. We’ll keep working hard with the PS4/Switch version. We hope to be able to announce the release date soon!

Thank you so much letting us and our readers get more about Natsume Inc. Regardless of the title, Natsume has always held a high level of quality when it comes to story and gameplay and we cannot wait for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, River City: Rival Showdown, and your future titles to be released! Here’s to the next 20 years!

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