Harvest Moon: Mad Dash, coming to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 this fall, is a modern twist on the classic farm simulator and RPG. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash will forego the series’ slow and methodical farming, building, and romance in favor of a fast-paced multiplayer experience.
The first Harvest Moon, playable on the Super Nintendo, was released in Japan in 1996 and reached English-speaking audiences in 1997. Since then, there have been dozens of sequels and spin-offs. Players take on the role of a farmer, usually one trying to save a failing farm while also building relationships with their neighbors in a nearby town. Farmers must balance the time and resources they spend growing crops, tending to livestock, and courting potential partners. Traditionally, the games have been known for being slow-paced and relaxing, but developer Natsume Inc. is looking to shake that up in the next iteration of the series.
Rather than the long-term development of one farm, the short challenges in Harvest Moon: Mad Dash will take place in a series of smaller levels ranging from the farm to the beach to the Underworld—but that's not the biggest change to the format. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is designed with multi-player play in mind. Farmers can compete or cooperate as they work to clear each stage's challenges. In a Thursday morning press release, Natsume President & CEO Hiro Maekawa said:
"Harvest Moon: Mad Dash combines the classic harvesting and farming that players have loved in all Harvest Moon games with challenging and fun multi-player games. Fans will be able to experience the features that make Harvest Moon so familiar in a new way."
Natsume gave journalists their first look at Harvest Moon: Mad Dash at last week's E3 Expo. The game seems to take as much inspiration from games like Super Mario Party and Overcooked as it does from its predecessors in the Harvest Moon series. Overcooked 2, which received positive reviews when it was released last year, pits players against each other and the clock as they race to complete orders in a busy restaurant kitchen. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash will have similar mechanics, capitalizing both on gamers’ nostalgia and on the appeal of bite-sized gaming content.
If this change in mechanics is well executed, Harvest Moon: Mad Dash has the potential for incredible sales. Natsume hasn't released hard sales numbers for its predecessor, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, but they did share that Light of Hope beat their expectations and broke internal sales records in 2018. We do know that Stardew Valley, an indie game inspired by the Harvest Moon series, shipped more than 3.5 million PC copies in its first 18 months and is now one of the top selling indie games on Switch. By comparison, Super Mario Party shipped roughly 6.4 million copies in its first 9 months. If Harvest Moon: Mad Dash can capitalize on the popularity of these titles, it could easily become one of this year's top sellers, especially since potential competitor Animal Crossing: New Horizons is delayed until 2020.