First off I feel I should inform you all that I don’t play many video games, in case you didn’t already know. My brother is the real gamer in the family and is thus the expert. So, if you’re looking for real video game reviews, you should check out his Interdimensional Closet. It’s full of all sorts of fun stuff. Secondly I feel you should know that this is my first ever video game review and you should take that into consideration when I say things that make me sound dumb. With that in mind, this is Rune Factory III.
As you know, I am terribly, probably unhealthily in love with Harvest Moon. I’ve played at least five different Harvest Moon games, at least two of them multiple times. My latest conquest was Harvest Moon DS Cute, which I was originally going to review upon finishing. However, just when I was getting close to freeing the Harvest Goddess, my emulator decided it didn’t want to keep track of my game anymore and it was lost in some black hole inside my computer. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? Anyway, I started up a new game, but while griping to my Courtney about the loss of my game she told me about Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon.
There are three Rune Factory games that I know of. So naturally your first question is “Why they heck did you start with number 3?” Well I’ll tell you. It’s Courtney’s fault. She was the one who told me about the games and then proceeded to tell me she was ordering Rune Factory III. When I expressed my interest she told me that I should be a pirate and test out the game for her before she got it. So that’s what I did. And yes, I do plan on going back and playing the other two… at some point. Anyway, let’s talk about the game, shall we?
The Adventure Begins
Unlike in Harvest Moon where you get to create a character in the form of a generic avatar who doesn’t speak unless given the option, Rune Factory drops the main character in your lap and tells you to deal with it. Rune Factory III gives you Micah whom you can rename as you see fit. Micah falls from the sky one stormy night as a wooly, which is kind of like a slightly humanoid sheep monster. He’s taken in my one of the bachelorettes and cared for until morning when he turns back into a human and wanders out into town. The same girl finds him again and takes him to a sacred tree which her grandfather has given him permission to live in. He is told he will have to pull his own weight around town by caring for the field below the tree and completing requests from the villagers found both on a message board and in his mail box. After receiving a weapon from the town black smith and one or two free tools the adventure begins!
Micah can’t remember anything about who he is or where he came from. He gives himself a name in the beginning since he can’t really remember what it is, though it turns out he guessed right. There are four ‘dungeons’ near the town, one for each season. Each dungeon has its own boss for him to face in order to regain a memory and help out the town. This is pretty much the entire plot; fighting monsters to gain enough levels to get to the boss and defeat it before moving on to the next boss until you reach the fourth boss. Once you get all your memories back, you would think the game would be over, but of course, they have to throw one last boss at you… and then maybe just a few more. After the fifth boss all the other extra challenges are optional, though, so you are free to ignore them to your heart’s content.
While Micah is running around trying to catch all the boss monsters and put them in their place he discovers a rift between the human town and a settlement of monsters located in the desert dungeon. Turns out not all monsters are the mindless beasts you destroy on a daily basis. There are perfectly civil, well mannered monsters that used to live alongside the humans until for whatever reason they were kicked out of the town. Why they were forced to leave I still don’t know, but the humans don’t like the monsters and the monsters hate the humans, for the most part at least. So besides chasing down memories, Micah is also charged with getting the two groups back together in the hopes that flowers will once again bloom on his fancy magic tree. Yeah, that’s seriously his motivation.
There are a few qualms I have with this little bit of the story. One is that Gaius, the blacksmith of the town, is a dwarf. Dwarves are supposedly one of the monsters that were kicked out. There’s a dwarf living in the desert settlement and everything. Soooo why wasn’t he kicked out? The second is Micah isn’t the only half monster floating around. The shop girl who works with Gaius is also half monster. So all the crazy stuff that applies only to Micah because he’s half human half monster should also apply to her, right? Apparently not. This really annoys me before the final battle. The whole thing is that this guardian creature thing doesn’t want you to marry into the town because you’re half monster and that you will only hurt whomever you’ve chosen to be your wife. Well, if you chose Raven, the blacksmith’s assistant, she’s also half monster so everything the creature has against you he should also have against Raven. And yet it’s ‘trying to protect her’ by keeping Micah away since he’s a half-bred freak or something.
The style is one thing that is very different from the Harvest Moon games. While Harvest Moon has a very cartoonish look to it with round features and a more western style and feel to it, Rune Factory is much more Japanese in both look and feel. The characters have a distinct anime style and they act like anime characters as well. The music is more dramatized than just the event music and seasonal background music given in Harvest Moon. You get music for inside, on your farm, in battle, in trouble, in love and so on. The sprites are more Final Fantasy-esc as well, adding to the Japanese feel. It also happens to have a lovely sound track, complete with theme song and everything, which makes me really happy.
Since this is a Harvest Moon game, there are naturally elements of the classic Harvest Moon games. As in all Harvest Moon games you are expected to plant crops and harvest them to make money. However, you don’t actually have to grow crops to make money in Rune Factory III. Your farm under your magic tree produces a lot more than weeds, stumps and rocks. There are also colored grass, healing plants and antidote plants that grow and can be sold to make money. And they’re everywhere. You have to clear them out anyway to make room for your crops so just planting crops probably makes you more money than selling the crops… what crops make it that is. What annoys me about growing crops in this game is the fact that with any given storm all of your crops could be washed away and replaced with naturally growing plants. Given these plants still make you money, but you don’t get the crops you were growing and you have to start all over again with level one seeds. Oh yeah, the crops get levels too.
You don’t get animals in Rune Factory III. No dog, no cat, no horse. It’s only natural, really, considering you fell from the sky. What you do get, however, is the ability to make friends. What you do, is you go out into the dungeons and find a monster that looks useful, such as a buffamoo, which is essentially a cow. Or a wooly, which is pretty much a sheep. You have to buy a barn before you can start befriending monsters, though. I always find it ironic when you tame woolies, since they’re probably your distant relatives. Some monsters leave things like fur, eggs or milk for you each day, but these guys are far more useful than the animals in Harvest Moon. You can assign your monster friends to a section of your farm and they will water your crops, chop wood, smash rocks and get rid of random plants. I’m not sure if they actually sell the plants for you or if they just disappear, but whatever, at least you don’t have to do it. You have to switch your animals around since they get tired after a day or two of working, but aside from taking care of them you don’t have to do anything else. One thing that bugs me about the monster system, though, is the grass. You’re supposed to grow grass and put it in the barn. You don’t have to feed them or anything, but if you run out of grass for too long they stop dropping things for you. The thing is, though, you can only grow grass, you can’t buy it anywhere. So if you run out of grass, you’re kind of out of luck until new grass can grow.
Cooking, Crafting, Forging and Mixing
Unlike in the classic Harvest Moon games cooking is not the only thing you can do. Where in the old games you had to try putting things together to find recipes in this game you have to buy them. You buy recipe bread from the diner to learn how to make pretty much everything. It doesn’t just apply to cooking either. You can also craft, forge and mix medicine once you’ve gotten the appropriate area. Again, I find it funny that you put a forge in a tree house. Anyway, you have to craft your own tools if you want anything better than the old rusty stuff you’re given or that you buy from the blacksmith’s shop. You can also forge new and better weapons or upgrade the ones you have. This is a very good idea when preparing to face off against the bosses. You have to gather material from the monsters you ‘kill’ in order to make things. This can get kind of annoying when you’ve killed about four dozen woolies and not one of them dropped a cursed fur ball.
Naturally you are expected to get to know the people in the town. This is easier to get to know people in this one as you get friend points for just talking to them. You can also do requests for them to get bonus points and so on. There’s also a nifty little space in your bag that tells you what you how much people like you. It makes things sooo much easier to keep track of. The more friends you have the more gifts you’ll get on your birthday. You have to talk to people to get gifts, but it’s a small price to pay for free stuff. What bothers me about this is, though, is that rather than turning into friends when you get married the other bachelorettes keep their heart levels and continue to flirt with you even after you’re married. It can get really awkward, especially when you’re out with your wife. The other thing is they can invade your house now. Once you get up to like heart level seven, people start waltzing into your house any time they want, whether you’re there or not. This gets really bothersome when you’re running around town looking for said person and then you see them coming out of your house. I suppose it’s only fair, though. After all, you can run in and out of their homes any time you want as well. Doors are never locked in Rune Factory.
Requests help you make friends and gain items or money, most of the time. Some of them are a little weird, but most aren’t too hard. They’re a nice way to get you involved with the townspeople, rather than leaving you to your own devices. It also gives you something to do while you hang around waiting for crops to grow or whatever. You can get requests from the message board, in your mail box, and from the owl in the monster’s settlement, but you can only do one per day. One thing that drives me crazy about it, though, is the fact that it doesn’t take into account where you are in the story when the requests pop up. I got a request from one guy asking me to make some sweet powder for him before I could even get a pharmacy. I don’t know enough about programming or whatever to say if it could be fixed, but it bothers me just the same.
As is traditional, Micah is quite the ladies man. There are a bunch of girls you can woo and marry, but it’s not quite as simply as just giving a girl flowers every day until she loves you back. You have to work for it in this game. Rather than having seven colored hearts with heart scenes to go through, you have ten heart levels and nine requests to complete. These requests come first on the message board and then in your mail box once they like you enough to send you letters. In my experience the farther in you get the more like heart scenes the requests become. I married Raven so one of her requests was simply to come out to a dungeon spot and talk to her for a while. Still, you get something for each request, no matter how trivial it may be.
Proposing in this game isn’t easy either. In the traditional Harvest Moon games all you have to do is get a red heart and show a girl a blue feather, after you’ve built up your house and everything, of course; can’t get married with a single bed, after all. You still need a double bed, but there is no blue feather to be bought. You have to make your own engagement ring. You can’t even buy the recipe for it, though. Your home is invaded by the two elders of the town and they give you the recipe after informing you on the traditions of the town which you must follow while proposing. First you make the ring. Once that’s made and you have a double bed you have to invite the girl to go out with you. She’ll say ‘yeah, let’s go to –insert name of favorite spot here-’ and off you’ll go with her following you. Once there you will go through a lengthy conversation until you finally come to the conclusion that she will not reject you and does indeed love you back. That’s when you whip out the ring and ask her to marry you.
So you live happily ever after with your girl now, right? Wrong. Your girl gets kidnapped on your wedding day and you have to go save her from this ridiculous sea unicorn. It’s like a seahorse, only bigger and a real pain in the ass. It’s the final boss and it’s a bitch to beat. I say, distract it with little plant things and stock up on health potions. Anyway, once you’ve finally beaten that thing you can actually get married and the game is ‘done.’ BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
In all Harvest Moon games the overall goal is essentially to make a family. What family is complete without a couple of kids? As is traditional, after a month of being married you will get your wife pregnant. A couple weeks after that she’ll give birth to a beautiful little baby. You get to choose the gender of your baby in this game when she asks you if you want a boy or a girl. The whole thing happens really fast compared to the old games. I got my wife pregnant after maybe three weeks of being married and two days after we’d been married a month our daughter was born. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Anyway, after your baby is born the game skips a year… kind of randomly, actually. Here’s what annoys me about this game. Your kid is useless. She doesn’t leave the house, she doesn’t appear on the map, you can’t give her gifts and she says the same things over and over again day after day. What’s the point in having a kid if you can’t do anything with her? You can also have up to three children, unlike most other harvest moon games.
So, one of the big things in Rune Factory III is the fighting. You chose your weapon in the beginning and then find or forge anything else you might want. There are short swords, long swords, knives, staffs, hammers, axes and so on. Each weapon has three different moves that you learn. They’re all the same movies, done the same way but you have to relearn them for each weapon. I can’t go into the magic system since I don’t usually use magic and didn’t really fiddle with it. You’re given two spells, a transformation spell to go from your wooly form to human form and a teleportation spell to get you from where ever to the beginning of the dungeon, in front of your house, or inside your house. When you fight monsters you don’t actually kill them. You send them back to the Forest of Beginnings where they came from. Apparently that’s more humane or something. The fighting system itself isn’t so bad. Sometimes aiming and moving gets a little bothersome, but overall it’s not terribly.
As always there are several festivals you can attend throughout the year. Most of them involve fishing or harvesting. Participating in the festivals are much less tedious than in Harvest Moon since they don’t take all day and you get recipe bread out of it. However, I do miss the fireworks festivals and so on that you could spend with your girl. Ah well, at least the whole day isn’t wasted
So, did I like Rune Factory III better than the traditional Harvest Moon games? That’s hard to say. I did enjoy the game, both for the elements of Harvest Moon and the new elements, such as story and real character development. Some of the elements can get a bit tedious, but it’s the same in all Harvest Moon games. I enjoyed playing Rune Factory III and I look forward to playing Rune Factory and Rune Factory II but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite just yet. I hope you enjoyed my review. It might very well be the last.