There are Runes in them hills!.
Rune Factory 4, the latest in the fantasy spin off from Harvest Moon and first title to grace the 3DS. Originally canceled for EU XSEED & Marvelous got together and released the game in a digital format for those who were chomping at the bit for more Farming/Hunting goodness. Is it a bad apple or a good harvest? read on budding farmers!.
Review code supplied by MARVELOUS
For those who aren't aware of Rune Factory the general idea behind it is a Fantasy Harvest Moon title, what this essentially means is it's an RPG fused with Harvest Moon goodness. This creates not only a unique title but also a means of getting fans of both RPG and Farming games a taster of what the other side enjoys possibly opening them up to a new genre.
The story seems to be much more focused and in your face than in previous titles, you start off aboard an airship on it's way to the peaceful town of Selphia, your ship gets attacked, you are thrown off, get amnesia (how original) and get mistaken for a Prince/Princess which is due to arrive to help out the village.
As luck would have it the official Prince/Princess isn't bothered and actively helps you into his rightful role, this includes adventuring, farming, meet and greet, answering requests and using your Prince/Princess Powers to help improve tourism thus creating a better village!.
As with all Harvest Moon & Rune Factory titles alot of the allure of it is the side cast & I can confirm nothing has been lost here!, All are quirky and interesting, plenty of Waifu material for those who enjoy that kind of thing. As I have just mentioned another major part of these games is choosing a Husband or Wife depending on your gender and settling down, finding out the perfect gifts and making sure you make the right choices go a long way to seeing what the fantastic cast has to offer!.
Visually the game is well done, little effects like the water, flowers bustling past in the wind and character models work well. It isn't in full 3D which may irk some people but it's got a solid frame rate which is more than can be said for the last Harvest Moon game which had 3D graphics but a less than stellar frame rate, for me it's a decent exchange as these visuals suit the feeling of the game just fine.
The game has slight voice acting but nothing really special, the musical tracks for the game help establish the fantasy feel of the game. The distinct difference in tone between the village/farm and the forest and dungeons is brilliant and a real credit to the team for creating such a diverse and pleasing collection of songs.
So now we boil down to just how a fantasy RPG with heavy farming elements works, I have to say it honestly works alot better than I would of guessed.
I have to start off and say that if you are looking for a solid RPG or a Harvest Moon only title here you'll be let down. As it is a mixture of the two, both elements are there and functional but neither really shines in it's respective genre, as stand alone sections neither really do anything to inspire but combined they create quite the attractive package.
At the start of the game you are given a little plot of land to farm in, once you have this cleaned up and done a number of requests you will be awarded a full set of tools to help maintain your land. The farm will be your main source of money for this quest so it's well advised to put the hours in. Usual Harvest Moon style, tend the ground, plant the seeds, water and look after, once the plants have grown you can pocket them to help your quest or send them off for funds.
Starting off this can be quite slow but the more plants you have, the different schedules and weather keep you planning ahead to really maximize profits.
Another factor is using your Prince/Princess Powers to help bring more tourists in, what does this have to do with farming? well throwing festivals of course!. Alongside the usual upgrade options for yourself and the farm with such examples being Monster Shed, bigger plot & more bag space you can also use points to throw festivals for the village people and surrounding visitors. If you compete in these festivals it makes them an even bigger success as well as opening you up to more prizes, more tourists means happier village thus gaining you presents and profits which help in your quest.
Alongside farming you can also use your equipment to gather materials such as Wood, Iron and Minerals, these can be used to upgrade your home with Alchemy and Blacksmith equipment which once again helps you in the main quest.
It's easy enough to get lost in all the farming and crafting side of things but as I have already pointed out it's just all there to help the main quest, even every action you do causes you to gain skills which improve your overall character,
The other half of your royal duties involve the welfare of the village & the threat of the surrounding areas monsters. As per request from the Village's Nature Dragon you'll explore outside of the village to various monster riddled dungeons but fear not you don't have to fight them off with a watering can.
Like any good RPG you are given options, playing out like a basic RPG say a slower version of the recent Ys game, you have choices between swords, spears, broadswords, Gloves and more. All the battles are done in real time and involve you understanding your distance, power and speed, you'll find spells and upgrades along the way to help you fight off the games many monsters. You won't be going alone! the game allows you to not only ask people you have forged a friendship with (see handy!) to go along with you but you also have the ability to tame monsters which not only help out at your farm but can be battle changing allies.
Naturally you'll come across many materials good and bad, monsters to help level up and challenging bosses, all typical RPG stuff it's just a shame that it's a little uninspired at times. On the other side of things despite all your options in regards to farming and crafting it isn't quite as in depth or diverse as you would find in a main Harvest Moon title. The silver lining is both of these work really well together and despite not being amazing separated the fact they effect and work so well together is a real nice treat if a little unexpected.
Rune Factory 4 is a fantastic title that almost never saw the light of day over here in the EU, like SMT IV before it this is becoming a problem as we almost missed out on a must buy title. I love Harvest Moon & I love RPGs so this was always something on my radar, the series has never quite gripped me up until this point and I am now hooked. It's a brilliant little time sink which rewards you with freedom and countless hours of enjoyment as long as you are willing to put it with a slow start and a gradual burn, The farming element may put a few people off and it's a shame as it really is in my mind one of the Must Play titles on the 3DS, it's the first fully functioning, smooth if not a little barren in options Harvest Moon with a nice little RPG side to it to help pass the time.
Who Should Buy This?
- Harvest Moon Fans
- Fans of RPGs and a fantasy setting
- If you want a little more bang for your buck
Who Should Avoid This?
- If you want a straight HM title or a straight RPG
- People looking for a quick fix
- If farming really doesn't appeal you won't get much from this one.