Game Review: Rune Factory 3 (DS)

The Harvest Moon series of farming simulation console games have made many improvements and additions over the past several years, but the basic gameplay idea has always been the same. Grow crops and raise farm animals for money, and make friends in the nearby town and possibly marry and start a family. But something always seemed amiss: action packed battles! Luckily, the Rune Factory series covers that, and now you can enjoy the newest with Rune Factory 3 for DS.

Rune Factory 3 starts out like any other Harvest Moon game. In this one, your farmer suddenly appears in town one day and has lost his memory. Later on you’ll learn that you can transform into a monster, but more on that later. Anyway, your character starts working on a run-down farm, and earns a living growing crops. Everything is time based, so you’ll have to harvest crops at a certain time to get money that day, and make sure to take care of your plants and animals daily. Luckily they kept the farm activities pretty streamlined. Keep track of time so you don’t miss an important event in town either, whether it’s a festival or a shop’s hours of business. Make friends with people in town by doing favors for them or giving them gifts they like. You may even win the heart of a lady this way and eventually marry.

That all sounds like typical Harvest Moon type stuff. But what separates Rune Factory is that in this game, you can fight monsters in dungeons. At times you’ll want to put down that hoe and pick up a sword and venture off to four different dungeons, each one representing a season. You can even find patches of farmland in each dungeon so you can farm crops from all seasons! In the dungeons are monsters to fight and quests to take on. The way you acquire farm animals in Rune Factory 3 is by befriending the monsters in the dungeons. Some of them aid you in battle, while some provide help on the farm. Later on, you can even turn into a monster yourself and visit a hidden village and discover other secrets. Everything you do in the game has a skill you can level up, whether it be fighting monsters, using tools, or simply walking around.

There is so much you can do in this game that I can’t put it all in one review. You can learn to cook, fish, and much more. You can even venture into a special dungeon with friends via WiFi. The 2-D graphics are some of the best I’ve seen on the DS and are full of color and detail. I also really like the character designs, too, and the production values seem very high with an animated intro and whatnot. Sometimes the button placement for actions feels a little awkward, but it just takes some getting used to. The only other problem I had with this game was the clock seems to move faster than in Rune Factory 2, so it feels like you have less time to do all the things you want to do. And it’s too bad you can only pick one townsperson request or job per day.

But those are only minor problems. Rune Factory 3 is a charming and addictive game that is really much better than the Harvest Moon games it spun off from. With this and Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Natsume looks to have a solid handheld RPG lineup this holiday season.

Kid Factor:

Rune Factory 3 is rated E for Everyone with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Use of Alcohol. You can purchase wine in the game and cook with it or drink it. Even though you fight monsters with swords and other weapons, they only disappear when defeated. Plus, the game’s story explains that your weapons are imbued with magic that doesn’t really kill the monsters, but teleports them back to their home in the Forest of Beginnings. And you are encouraged to befriend monsters, too. Even though there is spoken voice, reading skill is a must because of the heavy text.

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