I’ve never understood the point of life simulation games. I mean, if you want to go out and get married and have kids (Sims!) do it in real life not in a game. The same thing goes for Harvest Moon. I enjoy gardening, and I do it in real life. I don’t want to play a game that simulates farming, no matter how cute it is! What’s the point? I don’t really get anything out of it. I can’t eat the pixel food I’ve grown. However, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon surprised me and not unpleasantly.
Story (3 out of 5)
You play a boy who is wandering around with no memory. After you get a name, a hoe and a watering can from quite possibly the dumbest game character ever (yeah, I’m talking about you, Mist! He’s laying on the ground dying of dehydration and the first thing you give him is a hoe? What’s wrong with you?) gives you a spare field and a house. Talk about your lucky day (considering how you define lucky. Free real estate seems pretty sweet to me).
The rest of the game is you maintaining your farm while trying to earn money, build up your home and clear caves in the surrounding area filled with monsters for the right to grow your food there. I would have found it more interesting if he had been trying to unlock his dark past, but the main character seems perfectly content to make a new life for himself without worrying about it much.
While not totally original (and a little bit silly) the story’s only really there to give the main character a place to start. Besides the combat I don’t see how this is much different from any other Harvest Moon game.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
Like I said before, the gameplay is focused around building up and maintaining your very own farm. Sounds like a hoot, doesn’t it? Well, it can get a little bit addicting (how ridiculous is that?) You have to clear the land, till it, plant seeds, water them, pick the fruits and vegetables that spring forth and sell them so you can start the whole process all over again.
You can also fish (to eat or sell), learn to cook so you can sell fancy cooked fish, raise monsters and hit on local girls until one of them gives in and marries you. I guess the end goal of Rune Factory, as with most Harvest Moon games, is to get married and have a baby. Talk about sticking to social norms!
The RPG aspect of the game is what made me think it might be different from other Harvest Moon games, and Rune Factory is. It’s just not different enough. There are a variety of caves surrounding the village of Kardia and each of them are full of machines which generate monsters, and the ideal conditions for growing season specific fruits and vegetables. Never mind the total lack of sunlight in a cave, by the way. The monsters provide heat lamps so it’s all good.
You have to gain passes from the mayor to even enter a cave, and once you do you have to kill the boss and till enough of the land inside the cave to move on to the next one (with another pass from the mayor.)
This is the first Harvest Moon game to involve actual combat, but that might not be a good thing. The combat (which can be done with actual weapons or farming equipment) can be clunky and annoying if you are using said farming equipment. Buying a sword is a necessity, but even then the combat is little more than mashing the B button until the monsters die. It makes battles feel like a chore, even though it’s real time combat.
The controls are pretty intuitive actually, although the touch screen is underused. Most movement is controlled by the directional pad and other commands such as weapons, magic, and so on are done by using the A, B, X and Y buttons.
Graphics and Sound (3 out of 5)
Sound-wise I really like Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon. The songs are cute and varied enough that they never get annoying. There is the fast paced ‘there be monsters here’ tune, the peaceful home song and so on. Sound effects are also well placed and realistic enough.
However, I’m really torn by the graphics. On the one hand, the anime versions of people and the backgrounds are well done. The backgrounds, with trees and flowers and the changing seasons, are quite beautiful. But the actual 3D versions of the characters that walk about this lovely world are downright frightening. Picture an ant-like alien being who came to earth, skinned a human, fit the skin over its body, drew two really disproportionate eyes on the face (I mean huge!) and started walking around. That is what the 3D rendering looks like. Not good!
Fun (3 out of 5)
Well, if you like Harvest Moon games, Rune Factory will probably do it for you. I will admit I was suckered in at first. I worried about my crops and had a good time growing them and trying to build relationships with the townsfolk, but then I realized I was doing the same thing over and over. This game is not for everyone. If you are like me and want a story and a point to a game, you probably will not enjoy it.
Overall (3 out of 5)
I can’t say Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a bad game. It’s just not my style of game, that’s all. If you like other Harvest Moon games, I suggest you give this one a try. If you are looking for a cool new kind of RPG, play The World Ends With You instead.