Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Cover
Platform Nintendo DS
Genre A Lover and a Fighter
Score 6  Clock score of 6Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 3
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 6
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Rune Factory is the "Harvest Moon with swords." This is still the craziest thing I have ever heard and I just beat the stinking game! If you would have told me 10 years ago that the Harvest Moon game I loved would one day feature swords and magic and monsters and bosses, I would have thought that was pretty crazy. Of course, the series has evolved a lot since that first game and Rune Factory is just the latest one off that Natsume has been experimenting with the last few years. I think they were successful with a fantasy Harvest Moon though, but there are some problems. Let's just get right into the good and the bad.

Scores

Gameplay: 7
Well, you don't make a game like Rune Factory on accident. It takes a lot of guts to take a well established game like Harvest Moon and add such a drastic new element to it that should essentially transform the game. The biggest problem with adding swords to Harvest Moon is that the two gameplay modes: farming and fighting, seem pretty separate. The farming is really good, as good as Friends of Mineral Town with a few differences, and the adventure elements are actually pretty good too. But all the fighting takes place in eight caves, serving as dungeons. You can also farm in these caves (which is advantageous because all the caves have consistent weather) but you can basically play this game without ever fighting if you want. You'll never "beat it," but Rune Factory simply feels like a good Harvest Moon game with some basic Zelda elements tacked on.

If you've never played a Harvest Moon game, I really don't know where to begin. It's a farming game, but the series is actually fun and there's usually tons of stuff to do. Rune Factory is no exception, you can court the ladies and eventually get married, forge weapons and accessories, and cook hundreds of different recipes. Of course you plant vegetables too and harvest them when they're ripe, and in this game you can capture monsters and use them as livestock: there are cows, chickens, and sheep. The game had a surprisingly good Harvest Moon feel, I really didn't know what to expect when going into it but I was satisfied. Rune Factory lightly uses the stylus but only if you want.

Now onto the fantasy combat, which is really a simple Zelda game. Just walk up to an enemy and tap the B button. You can buy and forge new weapons, but it's really not that big of a deal. I used a mediocre weapon for the entire game and every enemy except for the bosses went down in 3-4 hits. The point of each dungeon is to destroy all the monster generators in the caves and then confront the boss. This is typically so easy though that breezing through the dungeons wasn't a problem for me.

Fun Factor: 3
This is where Rune Factory runs into major problems that induce super boredom and repetitiveness. Maybe I've just played too many Harvest Moon games, and I've loved most of them, but farming in this game was a huge snore. In the first Harvest Moon game, you had to spend a long time to clear any decent area for farming but in Rune Factory, you're basically handed a ton of area right away to work with! And I took advantage of this and turned my farm and the surrounding caves into a money-making machine. This may sound cool, but I was a millionaire by Winter 7th and had absolutely nothing to spend it on. I stopped farming after that. What's the point of money when there's nothing to buy?

So farming is so so, and though the cave battling storyline is interesting, there's a super big problem with it. You can only move on to the next cave after you beat the one before it, and with nothing stopping me, I had quickly beaten the first four caves by the end of the first Spring. The problem is, the fifth cave doesn't open until Winter! I thus had to play 60 game days of no new adventure content, which took seemingly as long in real life to accomplish. Maybe that's why I found the farming kind of boring, because I wanted to fight but I was forced to farm and make worthless money instead. By the time Winter 1st rolled around, I was level 75, had basically every house upgrade and product available, and was a week away from getting married. I had the last four dungeons and the game beaten by Winter 14th. That's why this game doesn't work. Rune Factory artificially lengthens the game; if they don't delay me until Winter, I beat the game by the end of Summer.

Finally, all the hottest chicks in town are "too old" to marry. The available women in town all look way too young to marry, it is kind of creepy. I wanted to hook up with Lady Ann, the saucy innkeeper.

Graphics and Sound: 9
Rune Factory looks and sound better than any other Harvest Moon game, if you ask me. The environments are well detailed and the character art looks great (except all the eligible women look like they're 14 years old...). There's even an opening FMV with some really corny music. I really don't have any complaints about the look of the game except that it doesn't take any chances beyond the excellent isometric view. There's an ice dungeon and a fire dungeon but nothing really stands out as being memorable. The game's music is awesome though and had me playing with the sound on nearly the whole time. Also the townspeople have some occasional short voice acting which is actually good, even if it only sounds like they had four different actors.

Story: 6
For a Harvest Moon game, Rune Factory has a pretty good story. Our main character stumbles into the village of Kardia suffering from amnesia and is loaned some a home and some farmland to settle himself. All Harvest Moon games have to figure out a way for a young man to inherit a decrepit farm so whatever. The conflict comes when the neighboring land of Sechs starts looking like they're going to invade the land that Kardia resides in. The Sechs Empire has placed monster generators in all the nearby caves and our hero has to go in and destroy them to liberate the country. Surprisingly though, our man has a lot of skill with the sword but because of his amnesia, he has no idea why. Maybe he was a soldier? I don't want to spoil anything but it actually gets pretty cool right at the end. There's also some events in the town such as reuniting a divorced couple and to get married you have to figure out some story elements. The most disappointing part was the festivals, there's no dancing scenes like in the original, just a lot of walking around town talking to people.

Overall: 6
Rune Factory had so much potential but essentially fails at combining two totally different concepts. Farming and fighting typically do not go together except during agriculture revolts, and they simply don't mesh correctly here. I commend them for trying and the sequel is out in Japan already so I will undoubtedly give that a chance, maybe they made some changes for the better. The game ends too quickly and there's no big reasons for me to continue on except to finish the game's first year and experience all the festivals. If you're a fan of Harvest Moon games, check out Rune Factory because we haven't had a good portable one since Friends of Mineral Town plus it surprisingly had a decent story.

Here are some stats from my Rune Factory save: main character was named Greg and I beat the game on the Winter 14th of the first year. I became a millionaire and got married to Felicity on Winter 6th. I married Sabrina and Neumann the very next day. My character's level was 87 and my final equipment was the Luck Blade and two Critical Rings (total 80% critical hit rate). My cash crops were strawberries, eggplants, and pineapples. I had 11 tame monsters in three sheds. Don't know how many hours I played but I would wildly estimate it at around 40 hours.

Rune Factory A Fantasy Harvest Moon Soundtrack Art
Rune Factory's soundtrack cover. Looks cool except they all appear possessed.