Game Review

Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Farm-assured prime cut

Thanks to Rising Star Games, gamers in Europe have finally caught up on the Rune Factory series — until Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny launches on Wii in North America next week, that is. Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on DS is the third and so far final portable instalment in the Harvest Moon spin-off, and the strongest so far.

If you've not picked up a Rune Factory game so far, it's an initially strange blend of farming and real-time action-RPG. You own a large plot of land in the shadow of the mystical Sharance Tree, letting you cultivate crops and, later on, raise animals, using the results to make money that can be used to improve your farming tools.

That's really only half the story, though. Aside from the day-to-day grind of running a farm, there's a completely different grind lurking in the game's dungeons, when Rune Factory transforms into an old-fashioned hack and slash action game: goblins, iron ore, hit points. You know the drill.

So far, so familiar to RF veterans, but how does RF3 innovate? For one, your lead character — an amnesiac, naturally — can transform into a monster after collecting a magical leaf from a raccoon (that's right). Your monster form has totally different statistics and attacks, and you'll need to switch between both forms to progress during the story, which involves you needing to unite humans with monsters for some reason.

Combat is quick and clean: there's no complicated button commands, just B to attack and a double-tap on the D-Pad to dash in that direction. A dedicated evade button would have worked better, particularly as the R button's only purpose is to slow your character down, but generally a good slashing will put away most adversaries, though boss characters vary from laughably easy to unbelievably frustrating.

Speaking of combat, you're not alone this time, with the ability to team up with other characters; become friendly enough with townsfolk and you can invite them to tag along in combat but their AI is often appalling, turning them into little more than walking shields.

The box art boasts a familiar blue Nintendo WiFi Connection button, but you'll be disappointed to know this isn't online multiplayer. There's local multiplayer in a series of quick-fix dungeon attacks, and you can compare your best results for this and festivals with others over WiFi Connection, but that's all, folks.

The biggest problem with Rune Factory is that it doesn't sound like much — farming and fighting? — yet anyone who's played it can testify to its addictive qualities. Just as level grinding is addictive in the right context, watering and harvesting crops is a hypnotic and never-ending routine: as your crops improve they make more money, which lets you buy better equipment to progress in the action element of the game. It's powerfully addictive stuff, and there's no shortage of content to plough through depending on your preference: crafting the best equipment will take countless hours, or you can concentrate on finding a wife, raising a barn full of premium livestock or catching every fish in the sea.

Of course, that's been the case for the past two entries, and RF3 does little to rock the boat here: the new additions are intriguing without being essential. Graphically it's faithful to the series' style, with some nicely detailed buildings and well-drawn anime portraits for each character, although the frame rate noticeably chugs when the screen gets busy, whether it's villagers or monsters. The audio side is pleasant too, with decent (if forgettable) music and occasional voiced dialogue from townsfolk as you pass by them or stop for a chat.

Conclusion

If you've played the previous entries, you'll probably already know you'd enjoy Rune Factory 3; it's a prime example of "if it's not broken, don't fix it" at work. The new features are bullet points rather than game changers, but it's the biggest entry in the series so far and a must for fans of farming and fighting.

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User Comments (20)

BlazeX

#3

BlazeX said:

Great game but horrible english voice acting, great to get if you can undub it.

JayArr

#5

JayArr said:

Spot on review James. This was my first Find Factory game and I loved it, waaaaay than I thought I would.

Wheels2050

#6

Wheels2050 said:

I'm tossing up whether or not to grab this - I've got Rune Factory Frontier on Wii and Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands on DS. Would RF3 be worth picking up in addition to those?

SuperPeach

#7

SuperPeach said:

I have awesome memories of this game. Definitely worth pick up. Great review James!

RAAAAAIIINNNNBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!

Tryken

#8

Tryken said:

This game is amazing. I've owned it for about six months (however long it's been out in the US) and it's one of the best HM games you're going to play. If you're on the fence, get it.

Flowerlark

#9

Flowerlark said:

This is one of my favourite games. I've played every Rune Factory game and they're all amazing. Can't wait for Tides of Destiny next week!

komicturtle

#10

komicturtle said:

I think I saw this game for $15 at Gamestop's sale in April... Never played the RF games... May look for this to see. I love the HM games and I've been interested in trying these spin offs (if you consider them spin offs).

FonistofCruxis

#11

FonistofCruxis said:

This game does look pretty good but there was a moment in the trailer where its like "You can transform into your monster form" and then its... a sheep. What were they thinking when they designed the monster form?

Azaris

#12

Azaris said:

@blazex what the heck man the voices arent bad there actually quite well done(except 2 or 3 ppl) they fit the character(and any "cheesy dialog" is the scripts fault not the va) sounds like you one those that only like japanese things...
anyway this one of my top 5 tds games(partly because how much i love the va) one thing i dont like is that after you get married there isnt much reason to play anymore...

edhe

#13

edhe said:

I agree with blazex - the voices are pretty annoying. And don't call me a weeaboo for saying that.

Then again, A Harvest Moon/Rune Factory game was never going to have top notch voice acting. I just wish I could switch it off.

Everything else is looking promising - I hadn't played on it until tonight, but it looks like I'm going to have fun with it.

BlazeX

#14

BlazeX said:

See if we could just switch it off then there won't be complaints of bad voice acting even if it only lasts for a few seconds but the game lasts for much longer and if you can tolerate horrible american voices for that long then good for you but if you can't then undub it which I did and the game feels much better.

@JirachiFan lol I head the english voices and they sound horrible, not saying the Japanese is any better but atleast its more bearable can't see how one would like the english voices unless one hates girls sounding cute and guys sounding their age or your tone deaf.

Azaris

#15

Azaris said:

that's your oppinion but i know most of rf fans(by this i mean i ve talked to about 200 of them on various sites and and 180 of them agreed) agree with me (they literally said "the va may not be perfect but most of the characters are well done"

BlazeX

#16

BlazeX said:

Well I talked to roughly the same amount and they prefer the japanese audio compared to the english one, so liking the english va is just your opinion but alot of people like the Japanese audio and thats that.

James

#18

James said:

Anyone thinking of taking a chance on this: yes, go for it. It's great.

Mowzle2

#19

Mowzle2 said:

Thanks for the great revue James,
I was swithering, but you've helped me decide - gonna get it ASAP :D

Flowerlark

#20

Flowerlark said:

Ha, I got my best friend into this game about a month or so ago and she still refuses to play anything else.

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