In August of 1996, a lesser-known publisher of quirky Japanese video games released Harvest Moon, a game that would go on to cement the “life simulation” subgenre long before The Sims or Farmville attempted to make boring tasks as addictive as heroin. Despite its relatively low profile, Harvest Moon attracted a fanatically devoted niche audience, and over the past 15 years that subset of gamers has only grown more devoted to Natsume’s quirky little line of virtual farming titles.
To celebrate the franchise’s 15th anniversary, Natsume has decided to go all out and re-release nearly every Harvest Moon title to date on our various downloadable content services. Alongside the numerous Harvest Moon games already available for download on the PlayStation Network Store to either the Vita or PlayStation 3, the publisher has revealed plans to release the special edition version of Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon on October 2, as well as a vague promise that more Harvest Moon classics will be available in the near future. Nintendo 3DS owners, in turn, can look forward to a re-release of the GameBoy Color’s Harvest Moon at some point before the end of the year.
Never one to rest on their laurels, Natsume also has a major new offering in the works for Harvest Moon fans: Come November 6, the Nintendo 3DS will see the debut of the brand-new Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. Periodically released Harvest Moon sequels are rather de rigueur these days, but this particular one is a bit special. To tie in with the 15th anniversary celebration, Natsume is offering fans who purchase the $50 15th Anniversary Edition of A New Beginning from the company’s online store a big, fuzzy bonus. Specifically, “Natsume’s largest plush yet: a squishy, huggable, twelve-inch cow.”
Why? Because gamers love nothing more than largely useless, value-added collectible trinkets. Plus, Natsume’s fortunes as a company have long been heavily tied to the Harvest Moon series, and the developer wants to frame this offer as a way to thank its devoted fans. “We’re so pleased to present many of our classic Harvest Moon titles on the PlayStation Network, Vita, and the Nintendo 3DS eShop throughout 2012,” said Natsume president and CEO Hiro Maekawa. “Whether you’ve played our full Harvest Moon library before or are a newcomer to the series, it’s amazing to look back and see how Harvest Moon has evolved over the last 15 years.”
“It’s even more thrilling for us to see how popular the series is today — pre-orders for the Anniversary Edition of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning have been incredible!” Maekawa added with obvious excitement.
Interestingly, Natsume has also announced a less notable promotion to celebrate the anniversary that has all but been overshadowed by that huge plush cow. Those who opt to pre-order Harvest Moon: A New Beginning through the Natsume site, but don’t want to drop an extra $10 on the 15th Anniversary Edition version can instead spend $40 for the standard iteration of the game. Those who choose this route will also receive an adorable plush animal, though this one is the smaller, arguably less-attractive Yak that you see pictured above. So now that we have a final release date for the game, feel free to rush out and pre-order the title as soon as you’d like, but think long and hard before you choose to align yourself with either the plush cow or its less-expensive bovine rival.