The Harvest Moon series has sold just over a million copies in Europe thanks to support from Nintendo with Harvest Moon DS, and the continued releases on Wii, PSP and Nintendo DS from Rising Star Games. The off-shoot, though, has not been quite as popular in this territory, with both Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, its DS sequel and Wii version, Rune Factory Frontier, failing to set the charts alight. However, Rune Factory 3 recently launched on DS and has already garnered more attention than its predecessor. Is the third portable edition the best of the bunch?
How many times have you played a role-playing game where the lead character is discovered with temporary amnesia? Well, add another game to that list with Rune Factory 3, since Micah turns up in a small town and is met by Shara, who agrees to let him stick around as long as he basically becomes the errand boy for the local populace. This involves looking after the town’s farm (based around the large Sharance Tree that has not bloomed in fifty years), tending to crops, collecting numerous key items, fulfilling various tasks for people and clearing the local vicinity of meddlesome monsters. There is, as per standard rules of any Harvest Moon-esque game, also the added mission to wed one of the many beauties found around town, wooing them and eventually winning their heart completely. There is the odd twist during the tale, but the primary goal is to ‘save the world’ by resurrecting the Sharance Tree. Other than that the main story is quite linear, with the majority of the back-story actually being filled in whilst taking part in the variety of objectives set by town dwellers.
Those with a proclivity for farming will be over the (harvest) moon that they can tend to their own patch of land within the Sharance Tree, tilling the land, planting seeds, watering when required and then harvesting the crops to sell at the right time. It is not a long-winded process either, since every ten seconds of real-time equates to ten-minutes of in-game time, meaning that days can pass very quickly and crops flourish at a fair enough pace to ensure the farming sections are not tedious. RPG lovers, though, will be far more at home with Rune Factory 3’s range of weapons that can be collected during the quest, the action-filled battles and levelling-up shenanigans, with statistics being boosted in all sorts of areas, including simply wandering around town. Care must be taken over how many Rune Points are lost, however, as Micah does not have an endless supply of energy. The RP meter depletes the more he works, either in the field or during battle. Once Micah runs out of energy, it starts to have a knock-on effect to his Health Points, the meter that also reduces when hit by an enemy. Therefore, care must be taken over the amount of healing items held in storage, with the odd jaunt back into town to rest in the local bathing house being wise as well.
There are times at the beginning of Rune Factory 3’s adventure where the tasks involved may seem too much like tiresome chores, especially when you need to remember exactly where the people who actually asked for the help reside. However, it is in the early stages where it is actually useful to learn where each specific store or house is, since becoming familiar with who is best to speak to at the required time is essential later in the journey when the storyline is moving along and when you have to rely on certain villagers for help or to obtain useful items. Giving certain gifts to people definitely helps smooth communication channels at times. Although going fishing and handing over fresh squid to a delicate damsel may not be the smartest move. - choosing what presents are passed onto which people is imperative!
When it comes to the fighting expeditions, before entering a particular area you are given information on what sort of monsters are present, what can be picked up along the way in terms of items and ores for extraction, as well as the general difficulty level of the dungeon, forest, and so on. Villagers can jump into the action at various stages to help with certain battles, which comes in especially useful when faced with the tougher stages and enemies that hunt you down with never ending persistence, and there is also a new multiplayer element whereby up to two other friends can join in the fun, in a similar fashion to Secret of Mana on SNES. Rune Factory 3 takes some time to break into, but once that hidden wall crumbles, its quaint story and setting grab your attention, with a little help from the cute visuals, pleasant musical score and intriguing dungeons to explore.
The usual Harvest Moon farming mechanics are firmly in place, with crop growth and subsequent sales playing a large part, but the adventuring elements, various quests that must be undertaken, and the simple action-RPG battle side help to flesh out the game considerably and make it stand out from its sister series.
As far as Nintendo DS games go, Rune Factory 3 is extremely pleasant on the eyes, with solid characters, impressive animated sequences and impressively hand-drawn character portraits.
Peaceful and melodic pieces of music are generally the order of the day throughout, although there are plenty of other chirpier tunes to keep the mood upbeat when required. Unfortunately some cringe-worthy voice acting drags this aspect down slightly.
There are so many different tasks to get involved with as asides to the main storyline, and even the farming element will help pass many hours on its own.
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Rune Factory 3 definitely shares many similarities with its Harvest Moon heritage, but successfully branches out into a highly engaging action RPG that stands in good stead when compared to other role-playing efforts on Nintendo DS thanks to its enjoyable battle mechanic, variety of objectives and the above average storyline.
AdamC3 (guest) 14.11.2011 17:55#1
I'm definitely happy I stuck with this one. I really struggled to get into it at first and almost gave up. It's really good fun after a while.
I know SuperLink has this - what are your thoughts on it? Same goes for anyone else with the game. Do you think it's the best in ther RF series so far?