Written by Killergoose on March 16, 2015 @ 11:31 am
Have you ever played a game like Harvest Moon, which made farming of all things fun? Have you ever wanted to have a game where you can do fun professions while fighting giant monsters? What about having the ability to tame practically everything you can find? Well, this game is probably for you.
From XSEED Games, who brought you Harvest Moon, Rune Factory is essentially Harvest Moon with combat. Although saying that little about it would make it sound a lot more simple than it really is. This is a series of games where you have the opportunity to farm, cook, fight, blacksmith, fish, tame monsters, get married, create potions, modify tons of weapons and armors, and a lot more.
Rune Factory 4 is the most recent in the series, which for the first time has a female protagonist you can play as. It is also the first game that doesn't include "A Fantasy Harvest Moon" with its name, as XSEED is probably trying to push the two series apart. Still, the game itself is dripping with content, and has plenty of oddities to find and discover. Honestly, I have several tens of hours put into the game, and I don't see myself finishing it completely anytime soon.
Gameplay - 10/10
Probably the top quality in Rune Factory is the ability to just take the game at your own pace. You can just farm for a week straight if your heart desires, or go out into the world and explore and fight. However, with the inclusion of tons of professions that have their own uses, like cooking for healing and buffs, alchemy for potions, blacksmithing, and more, you'll constantly have something to do and work towards. And of course, with how many items monsters drop, you can expect to be gathering and using all of them at once.
I did find the controls slightly confusing at first, but I was surprised to find out how nice it felt when I got into the hang of things. While not extremely deep, combat is simple but satisfying. You can pick up to 4 magic spells, weapon abilities, or music buffs to use on top of using a weapon, which makes mix and matching weapons and spells that much more fun. Along with combat, farming and fishing are rather simple but enjoyable. As you go on, you get better tools to work on your farm with, which allows you to fix up your crops faster and gives you more time to do other things as well.
An interesting note is that the game does have a bit of a "dating sim" kind of feature. You can select from 5 guys if you're a girl, or 5 girls if you're a guy (no gay or lesbian couples, but there is a feature to change your character into the opposite gender once you beat the main story of the game if you so desire it). While most of the bachelors/bachelorettes are a little hard to get, you can eventually go on dates and even perhaps marry them(although this does count on random events happening, more on that in the story section). Just give people items that they like, and watch as they begin to open up more as characters.
Speaking of characters, you can bring the townsfolk along to help you fight the evil wonders of the world. And speaking of bringing things to fight for you, you can tame practically every monster of the game. This includes a good portion of the bosses. Not to mention you can ride them. The bosses, not the people.
There are also festival games to be played, and these offer new events and mini games, all of which you can come in first to get great prizes. With a fishing contest, a crop contest, a snowball fight, a quiz show, and more, along with the chance to get trophies for ranking highly in them, you can bet that you'll be spending a good amount of time trying to get good scores in these.
A very nice feature is that the game gives you the typical game difficulties, easy, medium, and hard, but also allows you to switch between them. This means if you are having a really tough time, you can move back to an easier setting, or if you want more of a challenge, ramping it back up. You control how easy or hard you want the game.
Story - 8/10
Your hero, an Earthmate canonically named Lest if you're a guy, or Frey if you're a girl, is ambushed when delivering a special item, falling off a flying ship and onto a dragon named Ventuswill. After coming to your senses, you realize you have Amnesia, and find yourself not quite sure why you're there. After some more confusion, you are mistaken to be the new prince/princess for the town of Selphia. When the real prince, Arthur shows up, he decides to let you stay in your position.
From then on, you go through dungeons and do story events to open up more of the map. While not extremely complex, it's nice that you have control of the flow of the story, but the game also pushes you to do these events so you can explore more of the world. Things that you do in town also affect dialogue; you can become more and more friendly with the townsfolk, and even date and later marry a few of them as well.
A big part of the game is random events. Many Town Events will open up, and these allow you to explore the personalities of all the characters, discover their backstory, and give them much more depth as a character. The only problem is, when I saw random events, they really are random. And you do need specific events finished in order to get marriage events, which themselves are random. There is a save scum trick which involves saving right before the day of an event, and resetting until you get the one you want, but this is much more counter intuitive compared to the other games where it was much easier to marry.
Regardless, while there is a "main" story, in reality, the story goes based on how you do things, who you decide to date and perhaps wed, and much more. With 3 acts to play through, you'll have plenty of stuff going on. And best of all, there is no time limit, meaning you can do whatever you want, whenever.
Graphics and Visuals - 9/10
This is one of the 3DS games that has surprised me with how nice it looks. It's not anything fancy, but the character portraits look rather nice, the town and its surroundings look good, the monster and bosses look great and silly, etc. I think my only gripe is a flaw with the 3DS itself, and how small the screen is. Still, the models and the backgrounds are easy on the eyes and pleasant, and I was easily able to tell what was what.
Sound - 10/10
The music and sounds don't disappoint, with a plethora of satisfying sound effects with attacks, decent voice acting, and several good tunes that fit the mood of the game very well. Several of them stick out to me, including the music from the credits, Selphia Plains, the boss theme, and from farming. Each piece is what it needs to be, and makes sitting back in the castle relaxing, or makes fighting bosses intense.
Best of all, after you beat the main story of the game, you are given the option to use the music from the previous Rune Factories.
Overall - 9.25/10
Rune Factory 4 was a surprise for me. I bought the game on a whim since a friend of mine was telling me how much he enjoyed it, and it has stuck to me ever since. It's something that you can play for hundreds of hours and discover new things. The re-playability is also rather nice, as you can try to get through the story faster, or try dating other characters, and more. This review probably didn't do it as much justice as it has. While there aren't too many improvements from Rune Factory 3, the devs have made sure to polish an already winning formula.
With plenty of things to do for a great price, Rune Factory 4 is a must have for your 3DS.
Story Rating: 8
Graphics & Visuals Rating: 9
Sound Rating: 10
Overall Rating: 9
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- Nintendo 3DS
- Neverland Co.
- JP Marvelous AQL, XSEED Games
- NA Release Date
- October 1, 2013
- JP Release Date
- July 19, 2012
- MVGL User Score
- Official Website