Original Recording Script:
Earlier this month, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town released for Nintendo Switch and Steam in the west. Originally released in Japan at the end of 2019, the game is a remake of the 2003 and 2004 Game Boy Advance games Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town.
The game has been fully recreated in 3D and features new content, character designs and various quality of life improvements. But perhaps the biggest and most important thing added to the game is the ability to date and marry characters of the same gender.
Whether playing as a male or female character, each bachelor and bachelorette is accessible as a romance route. While this is a first for an official release of a Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons game in the west, the inclusion of LGBT romance in the series has a bit more of a history to it.
Let’s have a look at the very brief history of LGBT romance in Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons.
The series began its life in 1996 as Bokujou Monogatari on the Super Famicom. In the game the player would play as a male farmer and one of the game’s various goals involved getting married to a bachelorette. The game was localized as Harvest Moon for North America in 1997 and Europe in 1998 and the franchise had become an instant success.
When the series hit Game Boy in 1997, the option of playing as a female farmer and marry one of several bachelors was put into the game, though it wouldn’t become a series standard until much later. In the 2000s, most of the Harvest Moon games would split the games into a male title and a female title.
This leads us to 2005’s Harvest Moon DS Cute, the first female title released for Nintendo DS. In the Japanese release of the game, the player can marry both the bachelors and some of the bachelorettes of the game. While the game refers to the relationship with bachelorettes as “best friends”, it functions the same way as marrying the bachelors. Complete with confessions of love.
However, when the game was released in North America, this feature was removed from the game. In a particularly cruel way too, as the player can raise their relationship level with the bachelorettes and even propose to them. The difference is that they will never say yes.
That same year we also saw Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for Nintendo Gamecube. Another game where the series started tip-toeing outside of hetero-normative relationships. In the game, the player has a rival named Jamie. Jamie is also the first character that can be married regardless of the player’s gender.
For most of Magical Melody, Jamie is simply not gendered in the game. But after the Harvest Goddess bestows a groom’s tuxedo and a bride’s dress onto the player and Jamie, one of the Sprites proclaim that Jamie is a good-looking boy or girl.. After this, Jamie is not gendered again. While this is done to maintain hetero-normative marriage, it’s not an unfair reading to see Jamie as non-binary or possibly gender fluid. Especially since Jamie reappears again in Harvest Moon: My Little Shop in which they’re never gendered.
After Harvest Moon DS Cute and Magical Melody, the series would stop playing with the idea of LGBT representation for quite a long time. Which led to fans picking up the slack.
In 2013, a fan made mod for Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and More Friends of Mineral Town released called the True Love Edition. The mod swapped the player’s gender between the two versions of the game, allowing players to engage in same-gender relationships without any downplaying for the first time ever.
In 2015, the True Love Edition had grown popular enough for the creators to create a version for Harvest Moon DS: Sunshine Islands as well. Though this mod never became as detailed and advanced as the first mod, it showed a clear message that Harvest Moon fans wanted the option to marry characters of the same gender.
Around this time was where the series also ran into issues in the west. Marvelous, who develops the Bokujou Monogatari series, wanted to start self-publishing games in the west, but Natsume still owned the rights to the Harvest Moon name. This led to the series being renamed Story of Seasons and for Natsume to create their own Harvest Moon games unrelated to the original Bokujou Monogatari games.
In 2016, the indie game Stardew Valley released to critical acclaim. The game was inspired by the Harvest Moon series and tried to expand its concept with more customization and options. This included same-gender romance. The game got popular enough to release on most major consoles and it was clear that Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons had to catch up with the times if they didn’t want to lose their players to Stardew Valley permanently.
When asked about same-gender relationships in 2016, Story of Seasons producer Hashimoto Yoshifumi initially said that the series would eventually include such relationships but that the approach of just letting players date and marry any bachelor or bachelorette was not an approach they were considering.
Despite this, as I mentioned in the beginning, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town allows the player to do exactly that. While Hashimoto’s suggestion that the series should instead have characters of specific sexualities is commendable, the decision to simply allow any relationship in this remake was ultimately a good thing.
As a queer person myself, playing the latest game in a series I’ve been a fan of since childhood and seeing a female character so casually refer to my female player character as her girlfriend and her wife is one of the best feelings I’ve had with a video game this year. It’s something I’ve wanted to see for such a long time.
I really hope that future Story of Seasons titles continue including same-gender relationships, whether it’s through the style of Friends of Mineral Town or by having bachelors and bachelorettes with various sexualities and preferences. Let this be the turning point where it stops being an oddity that crops up here and there throughout the series and instead becomes part of its DNA.
And that concludes the very brief history of LGBT relationships in Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons, here’s to hoping the history might expand to something bigger soon enough.