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Rune Factory 4 Special

Posted by GG Goblin On February - 25 - 2020

Farming with monsters on the Nintendo Switch.

 
The Harvest Moon games have been treating players to the more whimsical side of farming for a long time now. Of course, would be virtual farmers have always had other options, including taking things far too seriously and getting excited about some new John Deere machinery, but the laid back nature and charm of the Harvest Moon games have always provided a relaxing experience. For some though, the simple act of planting seeds and watching them grow, while also chatting with neighbours and getting involved with town events, is just not enough. Throw in a monster or two and things get a lot more interesting. This is where the Rune Factory series came in, mixing the laid back farming and social side of Harvest Moon with some monsters and action RPG mechanics. Rune Factory 4 originally launched for 3DS back in 2012, but has now returned with a visual upgrade for the Nintendo Switch. Grow some crops, tame some monsters, get married and even pretend to be royalty in Rune Factory 4 Special.

 


 
Anyone who has played any of the Harvest Moon games before, or games like Story of Seasons or Stardew Valley, will have a rough idea of how to get started in Rune Factory 4, but they may not be ready for the fun story. The player takes on the role of a young adventurer who is trying to deliver a package. However, things don’t work out as expected, and after a long fall and the involvement of a dragon, the adventurer finds themselves not only losing their memory, but also being mistaken for a Prince. Sure, the amnesia beginnings may have been done plenty of times before, but it is difficult to be offended by this repetition in Rune Factory 4 as it is all so charming. The real Prince does turn up before long, but decides to leave everyone thinking that the player is the actual Prince, leaving them with all of the associated responsibilities.

 
After all of that, the player will be happy to get to something more familiar. They have a small farm which, as is always the case, is in a bit of a mess. And so begins the process of clearing the ground in order to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow before selling them for cash. Play starts with a limited menu of seeds to grow, but it doesn’t take long before the player is making more money through growing more exotic produce. At this point, it is all fairly standard stuff. The player has to manage their time between sowing, watering and harvesting while still finding time to go and talk to all of the locals, building up relationships. Things can get more complex, through the player using fertilisers and the such to improve their yield, and there are plenty of other quite subdued activities to take part in, from the occasional festival or event, to a nice spot of fishing. It is all quite quaint.

 
Building up relationships with the other townsfolk is an important part of the game. Aside from the various jobs they may ask the player to do, simply interacting with them as much as possible will bring all manner of interesting conversations, all of which can change depending on so many factors, including the weather. It does give the town a wonderfully alive feeling. With that said, the personalities of the townsfolk can be a little lacking, with many of them simply following the usual stereotypes that players would expect in such a game. Still, as is customary, the player can build up relationships and even choose to get married, should they so wish, which leads to all manner of other activities. The reality is that making friends brings more benefits than just potential marriage, as the player may like some company while they fight monsters.

 


 
Rune Factory 4 is set in a fantasy world and stepping outside of the town will see the player having to deal with all manner of monsters. To be honest, not all of the monsters in Rune Factory are especially monster-like, but they must be overcome nonetheless. This leads to some nice action, raising the tension of the game a touch. There is no real threat to the player here, as losing in battle will result in the local doctor bringing the player back around, but this comes with a financial cost which can be off-putting, especially in the early game. Most of the monsters are not too difficult to deal with, but there will still be occasions where the unprepared player will struggle.

 
The combat itself is quite straight forward and mostly revolves around button mashing. There are plenty of different weapons for the player to find or craft themselves once they are able, offering different attacks, and there is even magic. It is not a deep system, but fits in nicely with the rest of the game. As already mentioned, the player can take townsfolk with them to adventure if they are friendly enough, but they are not limited to townsfolk. The monsters themselves can be domesticated in the right circumstances, which usually starts with building a special barn. Every monster can be tamed, and they can bring different bonuses to the player, from joining them in battle, to offering up some resources each day. With some work, they can even be trained up to take care of some of the farming work, freeing the player up to do other things.

 
Visually, Rune Factory 4 Special is actually quite impressive considering the 3DS beginnings. The colours pop nicely on the Switch and the HD improvements really make the game stand out. It is not perfect, and the 3DS roots can be seen in some places, and the text is still way too small. Still, it looks good. The sound has also been improved, and is pretty nice playing through the Switch speakers.

 


 
Rune Factory 4 Special is packed with so much to do, from farming to adventuring, that players will lose many, many hours to the game. The visual and sound improvements from the move to the Switch keep the game from feeling dated. In all, it is very well put together and any Switch owners who fancy their farming with a side of monster hunting will find plenty to enjoy here. A charming combination of farm sim and action RPG on Switch.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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