Final verdict: A-
Final playtime: 164 hours
Holy S. How did I miss this little gem. At nearly two years since it was released, this game is pretty old, but I only now got around to playing it. You know how it is. Sadly sometimes shit just flies by you and you never get around to playing it. That’s just how it is. Limited time and all that jazz. Limited time spent playing worthless trash when I could’ve been playing this game. But whatever. Not like you can avoid worthless trash when that’s what 95% of the market consists of. But let’s get to it yeah? As you may or may not know, Rune Factory is a spin-off of the Harvest Moon series and is very similar to it. So barring you being a douchebag, if you like Harvest Moon you will like Rune Factory. The interesting thing though, is that this game improves on the Harvest Moon formula so much that it actually makes Harvest Moon obsolete. I mean talk about fucking yourself over. They’re gonna have to pull off some serious shit if they wanna top this. I’m talkin’ some serious game design gymnastics here, ‘cause the limp-wristed shit we’ve been seeing on Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade? Not gonna cut it anymore.
But yeah, just like in Harvest Moon you come to a cute little town with nothing but the clothes on your back and SOMEHOW you find yourself in possession of a house and a field. From there you work growing crops and shit to get yourself out of poverty, improve your tiny little shack and life, make friends with the villagers, marry one of the girls, make a family, blah blah you know the deal. It’s a good formula and is extremely addicting. Rune Factory adds on to this though in that aside from all that there are also dungeons to explore with monsters to kill and loot to find and even bosses and all that shit you would expect from an actual RPG. What this means is that now the game also has character level which rises as you gain exp from killing enemies and actual equipment instead of just worthless wardrobe changes. This by itself is huge in improving the formula because it adds a whole other layer of things to do. So now not only do you have the goal of profitability and marriage but also of exploring the dungeons to get stronger and advance the plot.
Which brings me to the next point: the story is SO much better and more interesting than any Harvest Moon that finishing the storyline becomes another goal, rather than just something in the background that you don’t really give a shit about like it always is in HM. So already this game is better, but that’s far from all the improvements it has. There is so much more to do and so many things happening all the time, so many little mysteries all over the place you want to uncover, that it naturally takes longer for the game to fall into the pointlessly repetitive slump that all Harvest Moons inevitably fall into after a while. Aside from the fact that you now have character level and stats to increase, you also have a bunch of other skills to increase like weapon skill, magic, farming skill, hammer skill, lumber, fishing, cooking, alchemy, forging and crafting. Of those the last ones are especially interesting because it means you create all of your weapons, tools and armor with the loot you find in dungeons, giving you a lot more incentive to do so and thus making it more fun.
Also of interest is that now instead of having traditional livestock in your barn, you can tame the monsters you fight in the dungeons and bring them over. Which of course means that now instead of there being like 5 types of animals there’s, like, I dunno, a hundred or some shit. Some of them function like cows by giving you milk, some of them give you eggs or honey, others can help you with your farm work or let you ride them, but the vast majority are useless, although you can take them with you to help you fight other monsters.
Other than that, good art and voice acting as well as better dialogue and events help make the characters more compelling (and the girls cuter), although honestly there’s still very clear room for improvement in the dialogue front because even though it’s better, there’s still a lot of instances of characters sometimes repeating the same things a bit too many times. Don’t gimme that shit! It can be done. Here’s how I would improve it. Instead of giving you new dialogue only based on increases in friendship level, special events and randomly (though these are all fine and good), also give new dialogue every day based on whether the player talked to that character the previous day (so if you didn’t talk to someone on a certain day you don’t miss out on any new dialogue). And yeah, that might sound like an obscene amount of dialogue to have to write, but it’s really not compared to what a real RPG would have. Plus it’s important. And obviously you wouldn’t do it indefinitely, that’s absurd. You’d just do it for, say, the first year or so, maybe two tops. ‘cause who could be asshole enough to play for longer than that? Not very many people that’s for sure.
Another problem I have with the game, which is carried over from Harvest Moon, is that it’s just way too easy to make money and shit just doesn’t cost very much. By summer I already had way more money than I knew what to do with. Now, normally in a Harvest Moon this is about the part where the game starts going downhill because making money is such an important aspect of the game. The good news is that because of the dungeon aspect in RFF, even if you have an obscene amount of money, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do. The closest equivalent in Harvest Moon would be going to the mines, but the sole purpose of that was to get money, so once you had too much money going to the mines was pointless too. Clearing the dungeons in RFF is a separate goal in and of itself. Furthermore, even if you have too much money, that doesn’t mean you can get everything, since, like I said before, you have to forge your own weapons and equipment and the limiter on that is your skill level and materials.
But of course, that doesn’t mean making money too easily isn’t a bad thing. The lazy solution to this problem is simply making shit a lot more expensive. An even better solution would be to have a lot more things to buy, because the problem is that once you buy all the house extensions and furniture and shit, there’s really not that much you can do with your money.
As usual, thank fuck for smart developers that see the wiimote for the worthless gimmick it is and allow you to play with the classic controller, free of all motion and pointer bullshit. That’s highly appreciated. Another thing that’s also appreciated is that the game gives you good incentive to level up by making monsters pretty strong. Hell, even at level 90+ and the best equipment a boss could basically two-shot me once he went into rage mode and easily kill me if I wasn’t careful. So that’s nice.
But yeah, that’s how it is. Harvest Moon was already cool, and this game is pretty much that with vast improvements in art, story, characters, dialogue, music, and a bunch of other shit. Which means this game is fucking awesome. If you got a Wii don’t make the same mistake I did of missing out on RFF just because it’s not a high-profile release. It’s one of the best games on the console and far better than the big-name trash.
Final Verdict: A-
Final Playtime: 164 hours