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Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon first launched in Japan all the way back in August 2006 as a celebration of the Harvest Moon franchise's 10th anniversary. It was released in North America the following year, and has since been followed by two sequels - one more for the Nintendo DS and one for the Wii. Europe may be rather late to the party, but is Rune Factory worth the wait?

Despite its action RPG leanings, Rune Factory begins in true Harvest Moon fashion. Your alter ego Raguna, the game's protagonist, stumbles into a village with almost total amnesia before being offered a home by local resident Mist. In return for her generosity, Mist expects you to look after her derelict farm by performing the various tasks HM fans will be very well accustomed to: clearing rubble, ploughing the fields, planting crops, watering said crops, and so on. If this your first foray into the HM universe and this all sounds about as exciting as doing real garden chores, fear not!

Rune Factory mixes up the Harvest Moon formula with all-new dungeon crawling action. While you won't be able to ignore your regular duties, you are offered a certain amount of freedom to choose which tasks will receive the majority of your attention. While the game's combat mechanics aren't nearly as fluid as a 2D Zelda instalment, for example, they serve their purpose well enough purely because combat isn't the sole focus of the game. Reliance on standard sword attacks - which are often unresponsive and can't be used while moving - can be frustrating, but thankfully it's not your only option.

After investing a decent chunk of time into the game, you will be rewarded with a multitude of new items, weapons, and magic spells to play around with. Some will be offered freely, while others will have to be purchased from shops. Each will be of particular use either on your farm or in dungeons. Improved watering cans, for example, are a godsend for watering multiple crops, particularly compared to the one-block-at-a-time process required by your first watering can. The trick to acquiring these goodies, however, is patience. Lots and lots of patience.

Screenshot for Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The pool of items available to you at the game's offset is limited at best. Even some of the most basic tools have to be purchased or located by exploring the nearby town. Upgrading these items can require a hefty dose of materials, money, and experience, too. The process of upgrading each item won't always be immediately obvious either. If you're the kind of player that appreciates immediate rewards for your effort, Rune Factory will be a rude shock. Most of the game's features won't become available without investing a serious amount of time and effort beforehand.

So is it worth the effort? That, of course, depends on the player. If you enjoy laid back games such as Animal Crossing and previous Harvest Moon games, or if you're happy to tinker with your farm for an hour here and there without charging through in one long session, then yes! If, on the other hand, you prefer instant gratification, or you enjoy mammoth play sessions during which the majority of a game is revealed to you in quick bursts, then perhaps not. The addition of dungeon combat helps to spice things up a little bit, but it won't be enough to keep you entertained if you detest the rest.

Still reading? Great! You've got a lot to look forward too. If there's one thing that Rune Factory has in spades it's, well, almost everything. The array of options is almost too vast to wrap your head around, especially early on. There's a wealth of season-specific crops to choose from, each of which can be levelled up to increase its value, and used in different ways later on - some can be used in medicine, others have intrinsic health benefits, while some are best sold to make some additional cash. Even with limited funds at the beginning of your adventure, there's more than enough to sink your teeth into.

If you do decide to stick around for the long haul, though, there's so much more awaiting you. You can try your luck wooing one of the village's many bachelorettes in the hopes of settling down and eventually having a child, you can take up fishing, you can explore increasingly dangerous dungeons and even plant crops inside them to take advantage of their year long seasonal weather, and so on. While none of these activities are particularly compelling on their own, the freedom to tackle each in your own time is refreshing, and the combination of farming and exploration can be devilishly addictive.

Screenshot for Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Simple and functional, but certainly not breathtaking. A stylus centric control scheme, ala Animal Crossing, would have been a welcome addition to the default button-based one.

Graphics

Environments, most noticeably outside dungeons but also inside, are detailed and varied. The 3D character models are quite impressive, and the overall atmosphere is charming.

Sound

Soothing melodic background tunes, frenetic battle riffs, and a smattering of voice recordings combine to create a very pleasant aural experience.

Value

Assuming the basic concept doesn't repulse you within the first hour, Rune Factory has enough content and freedom of choice to keep you coming back for months to come.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Rune Factory successfully implements an engaging dungeon crawling aspect without sacrificing, or even significantly altering, the core Harvest Moon formula. It isn't enough to entice those who simply don't enjoy spending a large amount of time planting and looking after crops, but it's a welcome addition for those who do. The amount of content included in the game is staggering - and, in fact, somewhat overwhelming at first given the lack of introductory tutorials - but it will take a significant amount of effort on the player's part to see it all.

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10.03.2009

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Developer

Neverland

Publisher

Rising Star

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (8 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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Oh question, something that I never understood...do you still take care of cows and what not in this game?

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

You capture an befreind monsters in the game's dungeons, and some of these monsters do the jobs that would otherwise be done by sheep/cows etc. So in a way, yes.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Nice review karn! I've had this one for a while, and really like it, though I don't play it anymore.

C3 Moderator

I am so glad that this has been released in the UK. Because the shop that I go to in Truro did not have it on import. I will be buying the other HM games before this though.



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