The latest in the unique spinoff of Harvest Moon is here! In Rune Factory 4, you play as a guy or girl who plummets from the sky, but luckily lands safely on a friendly dragon on the ground below. Unfortunately, you lose your memory in the process, but the dragon mistakes you as the new ruler of the town. So now it’s up to you to cultivate the land, revitalize the town, make new friends, and maybe even find true love. All the while trying to solve the mystery of why you fell from the sky in the first place by battling (and befriending) monsters, and exploring secret dungeons!
When you first arrive in the town in the game, the dragon has you start farming right away. Why would a prince or princess have to farm? Well, the castle where you stay has plenty of fertile soil around it, and the dragon decrees that everyone in the town must work. Even you! Farming is exactly like in other Rune Factory and Harvest Moon titles. Although in the Rune Factory games, it’s a bit more streamlined (and better for it). You’ll grow crops that can be used in many different ways. You can sell them for money, eat them to refill your health, use them in cooking various dishes, and even giving them as gifts to townsfolk. Rune Factory 4 runs on an in-game time clock (not real time), so every day in the game you’ll need to water and harvest your crops so they’ll grow.
One of the new gameplay aspects in Rune Factory 4 is since now that you’re a prince or princess, you can give orders that will affect the way your town grows. You can choose to hold different festivals in your town, order shops to carry more items, earn various job licenses, increase your storage, and much more! But you won’t be able to do everything all at once. Orders and decrees will cost you Prince (or Princess) Points, which you earn by helping out the town’s citizens. I can’t help but wonder if the Prince Point gameplay aspect is in direct response to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where you were mistaken as the mayor and could affect your town’s growth there, too!
Just like in other Rune Factory and Harvest Moon games, the way you interact with the townsfolk is key. Near the castle is a request box that you use to take on jobs from the people in town. This is a great way to learn the ropes of the game, as many of the starting missions are like a tutorial for the various things you can do. Complete the requests to earn Prince Points and other rewards. You can also give gifts to the residents so they’ll like you more. Talk to everyone often to find out what things they like to get. You can even date and eventually marry one of the eligible bachelors or bachelorettes in town! Farmer Prince Cary is leaning towards either the narcoleptic pink-haired butler lady, or the strong and tough female knight!
And when you’re not farming, giving orders, or schmoozing with the townsfolk, you can venture off into the wilderness to battle enemies and explore dungeons. Defeating bosses in these dungeons will generally move the story along, but you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want otherwise. By giving gifts to monsters out on the field, you might even befriend them and take them back to your barn. Befriended monsters can give you items, help work in the fields, fight alongside you, or give you a ride. But they have to like you enough first. Defeating monsters will earn you experience points to gain levels, but you also gain levels by doing anything in the game. Running, farming, even sleeping can raise your stats a bit! There is even farmland out in the wilderness that you can use to grow more crops. Or you can fish in ponds, mine for ores in rocks, and so much more!
The only main problem I had with this game is that while the graphics are some of the best I’ve seen on the 3DS, everything is kind of small. It’s hard to see certain items, and the text font is so tiny. I don’t know if it’s just me and my eyes getting old, but I would’ve liked to have been able to zoom in or have bigger text. But other than that, this is one of the best action RPGs out there on the 3DS. You can download it on the eShop or buy it in stores. If you do buy the physical copy of the game, you’re in for a treat because it’s one of the few games that still comes with a full-color, well-written instruction manual that even has the lyrics to the opening theme song in it! XSEED generally always does a great job with porting their games here to the US in that regard.
Rune Factory 4 is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol. Even though you battle monsters with all manner of weapons, the game has a neat way of explaining why you don’t really hurt them. In the game, all your weapons have a spell cast over them, so that when you hit and defeat monsters, you don’t harm or kill them. But instead, it makes them warp back to a faraway forest where the monsters came from. Characters do curse every now and then in the text, and the suggestive themes mostly come from the campy banter between you and whoever you decide to try and marry in the game. Alcohol is generally just used for cooking in the game. But really, this game is best for older kids due to the high level of reading involved, and the complexity of the gameplay.
Happy 5th Anniversary, Rune Factory!
I did not know this until after playing the game, but it seems like Rune Factory has been around for five years! Seems longer to me. Anyway, to celebrate, here are the other games in the series I’ve reviewed. I haven’t tried all of them, though. I missed out on the first one, and I didn’t get to review the one on PS3. And I think there was one on the Wii, too. But I’ve reviewed the DS sequels, so here they are. All are good games.