Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a strange hybrid of a farming/life simulation game, and a hack-and-slash dungeon crawling role playing game. Throughout the game, you'll be tilling the land, planting seeds and raising crops to sell for money, completing various requests for the villagers to build relationships with them, whilst romancing the various bachelorettes about town with the intention of eventually marrying one and starting a family. On the other side of things, there are also dungeons to explore, boss monsters to stop before they invade the peaceful town, and two towns, one of humans and one of monsters that need uniting again.
Generally the controls are quite straightforward - the A button interacts with people and things, the B button uses your equipped tool or weapon and the X or Y buttons have your choice of spells attached to them; pressing the L button brings up your inventory and the R button alternates between running and walking. About the only thing that might be initially awkward is working out how to change what tool you have equipped - you just need to open the inventory with L, scroll to what you want to equip and press B to equip it. After that, while you're out and about, you just need to press B to use it.
While the game itself isn't inherently difficult, and does have an easier difficulty setting to allow for younger players, it does require a large amount of reading to properly enjoy, as there's no real voice acting from any of the characters. Your child will need to be able to read sentences as complex as:
- "Don't you DARE make a prejudiced comment against my metabolism! It holds grudges you know!"
- "I want to drag you out to the wilderness and let the monsters have their way with you! Repeatedly." then they should be fine here.
Assuming they can tackle the above sentences, they'll find an entertaining game with some genuinely interesting and funny characters. It's bright, colourful and happy, with plenty to do. Got bored of farming? You could always go an do some fishing for a bit, or help out one of the other villagers who've posted their problems on the town's bulletin board or stuck a letter through your postbox. Making friends with the villagers and getting married before raising a family are as bigger part of the game as the farming and the exploring of dungeons, making this a game that appeals to anyone.
A large part of playing Rune Factory 3 is the ability to go exploring in the dungeons, deserts and forests that surround the town - but these are full of monsters (not really scary monsters - things like giant apples with faces, or sheep), so you'll need to fight your way through. Battles are simple mash-the-B-button-near-a-monster affair, and once defeated, the enemy disappears in a puff of smoke, sometimes leaving behind items. There's no blood, guts or gore at all.
And while we're on the subject of blood and guts, Rune Factory 3 may be a farming game, but you're limited to growing flowers and other crops - you're not raising animals to slaughter for meat, so there's no risk of upsetting young children.
One of the goals of the game is to meet an eligible young woman and marry her, before starting a family. There's no sex or anything like that - your wife will magically become pregnant, and a few weeks before you'll get to choose whether you want a boy or a girl. When the due date comes, she'll just pop out a baby, a year will pass and then you'll have a child wandering round your house - it's not realistic, but it's thoroughly family friendly, and should save you any awkward questions at the dinner table.
If you know people who also have a copy of the game, it's possible to enter the Labyrinth World with up to two other players and work together to level up your characters and collect items over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The stuff you collect, and the skills you increase down there, all get carried over into your single-player game too.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS