Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon published by Rising Star Games is the fourth installment of the series and the third to appear on Nintendo DS. If you’ve ever played the Rune Factory games before, you’ll know that these fantasy RPG’s are based around farming, selling crops and a healthy amount of dungeon crawling. I had never really been a fan of these types of games before, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much this game has changed my way of thinking.
The story starts with the rain pouring down and your character has fallen from the sky above. A local girl called ‘Shara’ discovers you lying on the ground and pulls you inside the local flower shop, where she and her grandfather look after you. The next morning you wake from your deep slumber and realize you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing in the Town of Sharance and wonder why you no longer resemble a monster. A transformation has taken place and you’ve discovered you are a human. Eager to understand what has happened to you, you wander outside to meet two girls, a quiet girl called Shara and a red headed girl called Raven, who then take you to a magnificent pink blossom tree. This is where you will reside and begin your adventure.
It is also here that you’ll be able to keep a diary, where you can save your progress, sleep and regain health in a small bed and contemplate cooking if you have the right equipment. A small calendar is stuck on the wall to keep you up to date with various events, birthdays and special occasions that happen throughout the month, making sure that you don’t miss out on any of the the festivities. You’ll also discover a trophy room, in which you will keep the various memento’s from your encounters, such as the first monster you encountered or how many visits you made to the bath house.
Once you’ve become acquainted with your new abode, you’ll encounter your first monster in the Forest of Beginning. After battling it out with the monster, by tapping the B button to thrash him around the head with your hoe, you’ll come across a few more monsters. Eventually a local blacksmith called ‘Gaius’, who works in the weapons shop, arrives offering you a selection of weapons to choose from, which is very good timing and finally you slay the monsters and begin your new life in Sharance Town. The local residents of Sharance are in conflict with the Uvir race and it’s your task to reunite them and restore peace in this village that has been shaken with such difficult times.
The game introduces you to a collection of weird and wonderful characters from the Sharance Town and before long you’ll be running back and forth resolving problems and fulfilling quests. Most quests can be found in your mailbox outside your house or by checking the notice board outside the local flower shop on Flower May. The majority of the game is based around tilling fields, sowing seeds, watering them and then selling the crops you’ve grown. You are given two fields to look after, where you’ll use a variety of different farming tools to begin the agricultural process. They are all pretty self explanatory and the game provides a brief outline of what you’ll need to do to begin farming. Once you’ve sown a few seeds and grown crops, you can place them in the shipping bin, from which everything is collected at 5pm each day in exchange for some much needed cash. Using the tools, weapons or magic will consume Rune Points and they represent your energy levels. If you run out of those, you’ll start to use your Hit points instead, which leads to depletion to your health and you may find yourself passing out. I think I did this on a number of occasions due to the fact that I hadn’t anticipated how much energy is needed when planting, growing and watering your farm. You need to keep an eye out for that as I awoke face to face with a witch who wanted to heal me, but who would also charge me of those services at a later date. Creepy much.
There are four types of crafting available. You can use the forge to create and enhance weapons and tools, you’ve got the kitchen to cook recipes and special dishes, the workshop to craft accessories and armor and the pharmacy to make useful potions. You won’t be successful with your first attempts at crafting, but with practice comes experience. If you eat recipe bread you will gain new recipes to be used in crafting. Players will have to gather ingredients for their crafting, but a lot still relies on the character’s level as to whether they are successful or not.
Before long, after you’ve become acquainted with the local residents, it will be time to own your very first barn. This is where you can actually keep monsters you’ve found through your adventures. You’ll need to tempt them with various foods to capture them, but afterwards they will appear in your barn where you’ll need to look after them. A pair of clippers and brush later, you’ll have some loose wool to make into yarn and an incredibly handsome looking wooly. The first time my monsters appeared in my barn, they went hell for leather and started tearing around the barn in some kind of mental state, which I found highly amusing. You’ll need to take care of them and feed them as they may be required to later stand next to you in battle. During the progress of your game, you can assign your monsters to look after your crops while you’re making steady progress battling it out with various other monsters in the different surrounding areas.
I’ve enjoyed the real time combat throughout the game and have been pleasantly surprised by the interesting monsters I’ve had to battle against. Wandering around the different environments, there is plenty to discover and it’s enjoyable to see it all unravel. As the story progresses and you’ve defeated the Raccoon in Privera Forest, you will be treated to a cut-scene in which you’ll discover an orb. This orb allows you to transform into a Wooly, further adding to the mystery.
The one thing I will say is that although there is a nice variety of adorable characters to talk to and get acquainted with, I did find the voices of these villagers a little bit irritating and I felt that they didn’t quite fit in with the whole feel of the storyline. I would also have liked to see more structure when it came to the festivities and special events, as I quite often found myself wandering around aimlessly trying to work out when and where they took place.
From watching my crops grow and fighting monsters in the desert, to having a small collection of monsters to call my own, playing Rune Factory 3 has been a really enjoyable experience. I have found myself returning time and again to the game, such is it’s addictive nature. Rune Factory 3 is a slow burner and takes a little while to get going. But it is more accessible than previous titles and, once it gets going, will transport even the newest player into a world of fantasy.
If you love time managements games, with a good storyline, interesting characters and a huge selection of monsters to battle against, Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon should be high up on your most wanted list of Nintendo DS games this week.