The Rune Factory series was conceived as a way to change up the standard farming formula of the Harvest Moon series, and add combat and dungeon running to the games.
The first two Rune Factory games on the handheld weren’t particularly smooth, and did have a couple of issues. However, by the time the third Rune Factory game came out, a lot of these issues had been ironed out, and this is probably the best Rune Factory game to date.
All the Rune Factory games have had some kind of theme behind them – the first had the idea of introducing you to farming and dungeon crawling, the second wanted to send you to school and have the game play over two generations , and this game makes you think about the monsters which feature in the games.
As per JRPG standard, you, the hero, wander into town with amnesia, wondering what the hell you’re doing, and you’re found by a village girl and after she gets you back up to health, she gives you a farm to run. However, not all is as it seems (though frankly, I’d be worried if it were) as the village you’re in has a deep-set hatred of the monsters which inhabit the land around the farm. Ironic, because as we find out at the start of the game, the hero happens to be a monster… who’s in the guise of a human.
As it happens, as you try and find out why you’re partially a human through collecting orbs hidden in the various dungeons in the game, you also work to unite the monster and human nations together.
Although, as per usual for a Harvest Moon game, the plot does go a bit… well, it vanishes about half-way through, only to reappear near the end again and dump everything on you at once. At least you can quickly advance the story to open up the open-ended gameplay after the credits roll, I guess.
And it’s a Harvest Moon (well, sort of) where there’s been a properly done translation and it hasn’t been rushed! Miracles can happen.
No, you’re meant to have memorable season themes, not themes which I had to look up to remember!
Everything else is okay. Not quite on the level of the OST for Rune Factory 2, but it does. The snippets of spoken conversation with the villagers are alright, and the boss music is okay. The sound effects are pretty good.
The way music seamlessly blends when the time changes from the day to the night is also well done, and it isn’t too obnoxious when changing when you’re going into different parts of dungeons or going into boss fights and such like.
I do like the opening credits, and the music on the whole does fit the game’s atmosphere. I just wish it was better. I don’t know, maybe Rune Factory 2 spoiled me.
What can I say; the graphics are what the Ds does best – 3d-ish models within a 2d-ish world. The graphics in the Rune Factory games are always of an extremely high standard and the games always look great, and far more realistic than the worlds of their Harvest Moon predecessors.
This time, the developers have also managed to do away with the slight graphical glitches which were present in the earlier Rune Factory games – before, if there were three or more sprites on screen at any one time, the game would lag slightly. Now, the game doesn’t. This is always nice to see, yeah, it was minor, but at least it was recognized as a problem.
One area where this game really does shine however is when you’re in conversation with somebody. The 2d portraits which are used are wonderfully detailed and have a good variety of expressions used for different emotions when in conversations. The characters themselves are well animated, and don’t look blocky when moving around, which is always good to see, especially when I have experience of… earlier games.
I WILL KILL YOU WITH MY Lv. 9999 HERO WITH A FULLY UPGRADED DURANDEL
Yeah, multiplayer’s fun. You can either go head-to-head, or complete dungeons together. There’s also a slight exploit available in the multiplayer mode where you can go in alone and collect items and massively overpower yourself, but that takes a while to unlock, if memory serves. It’s useful for filling up your items list, at least.
After a while, especially if you keep up with forging items and building character skills, you will soon overpower anything. Money might be in issue early in the game, but it soon becomes a non-issue.
Really, if you want a challenge, I would say play through the single-player dungeons and get ripped to shreds. That’s quite good fun, even with a fully upgraded Lv. 9999 character.
Yes, that was a Lv. 9999 character I said there. With potentially having 999 in all stats. And not just the main character, but all the playable characters. Which works out to quite a few.
It’s a grinder’s dream come true!
The combat in this game is reasonably good; it’s your basic mash-A affair, in the style of the Zelda games or Sword of Mana, but with considerably more weapon options available. And if weapons are no good, you can always use magic. There’s also turning into a golden sheep and smacking things to death, which is quite a good method of killing as well, if you can get your sheep skills up.
Weapons and armour and magic are also part of a very in-depth forging system this game has, were you can pretty much forge anything you need, as well as cook food items and suchlike. Once you’ve forged the item you need, you can then upgrade it as well, and improve on it even more. However, in order to do this, you need a high enough forging skill, and you need to find the items needed for forging. Which is rather good fun, especially if you’re neurotic like me and insist on collecting 9 of every item for ‘collection’ purposes. What it means though, is you can tailor all your equipment to suit your preferred fighting and farming style, which makes for good customization.
The changes you make to your equipment are also reflected on your in-game character when you equip them, which is always nice as you can also see how the different items look on your character.
Skills are also tailored much more in this game – whereas before all your skills would go up fairly linearly, now the game puts up the skills you use the most. Much more realistic! So if you want your resistance to poison to improve, well, better go and get yourself poisoned. If you want better defence, you need to go and get attacked more. If you want to have better strength, you have to make sure you fight physically rather than magically. Of course, if you have the time (and enjoy grinding) you are able to have all your skills maxed out. Though, it does take a few hundred hours…
Farming is much improved in this game, where the weather now changes throughout the day rather than being set the day before. This adds a much more tactical element to the game, as you often have to be present if there’s a hurricane or blizzard going, as you have to be present in your fields to prevent damage to your crops. The soil fertility has been changed as well, making it much more realistic – the more you use a certain piece of soil, the quicker the fertility goes down, meaning it takes longer to crop successive crops in it. This often means you have to rotate where you grow your crops, or use fertiliser, which makes things a bit trickier. Soil will also dry out during the day, often meaning you have to water crops twice a day if you want them to grow quickly.
You can also capture monsters and train them up to give you produce or to work on your farm, which adds an interesting spin beyond the ‘it’s a monster, it must be killed’ idea of the game. And who doesn’t want to have dragons watering the plants for them?
Fishing is a lot better in this game, visually at least. Whereas in previous games you just chucked your fishing line into the water and waited for something to bite, in this game, you have to find a patch of water where there are the shadows of fish – if there are no shadows, chances are you’re going to have a very long wait for something to bite. You also have to master your timing – when your line gets bitten you have a timeframe of just under a second or so to reel it in, or the fish gets away. Different fish (the more valuable I believe) have different, usually shorter, reel times before you lose them. You develop quite fast reflexes eventually when it comes to fishing in this game.
NPCs in this game are a lot better too – this time around, they move around and interact with the environment, they comment on what the weather is, or what you’ve been doing recently and they’re just generally fun to get to know. They will also join you in battle in the dungeons with their own unique weapons and abilities, and it can be fun playing around with different characters. All the villagers also have their own personalities, making it good fun in the beginning stages trying to work out who you can go to for help and suchlike. As per Harvest Moon standard, you can also marry one of the NPCs and have a child with them – not without a hearty dose of plot getting in the way first! The NPCs are one of the aspects of the game where they have noticeably put a lot of time and effort into it – heck, it even plays like a realistic dating sim at some points of the game. And yes, I admit, I had fun winding up several of the NPCs at one point. Courting an NPC and then jilting them at the altar is also good fun, if you’re feeling sadistic.
The dungeons are fairly so and so in design – they do look pretty though! I only wish there had been more than the four seasonal dungeons plus the final dungeon, as you get through them very quickly. Searching for all the hidden points where you can plunder items to forge and sell is good fun though, and the monsters in each dungeon are themed quite well. Oh, and the boss fights are all different, though they aren’t challenging once you’ve learnt their attack patterns.
You also get trophies which you can view as you complete certain aspects of the game. Once you’ve completed the main story of the game, you get a trophy which allows you to toggle the difficulty of the dungeons and the strength of the monsters which you fight – take it from me, this is much needed once you’ve completed the game as you can pretty much overpower everything by that point. I think more in the way of higher difficulty levels would have been nice though. I mean, once you’ve Lv. 9999’d everyone, you do start running out of things to do and monsters to beat up.
The replay value of this game comes from the postgame after you’ve completed the main story. There’s always just picking up from the beginning altogether and trying new things completely, such as different weapons or being a pure magic user from the start. Overall, it’s more the postgame you’ll come back for though.
Replay Value: 8
The best entry in the Rune Factory series so far, however, that title might be usurped if Rune Factory 4 for the 3DS ever gets a release date for the PAL region.
Written by Karen