Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Review

Farming, monsters and romance all come together in one game

Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Review
6th October, 2011 By Sarah Morris
Game Info // Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Boxart
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Natsume
Players: 1
Online Multiplayer: 1 - 2
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Life Simulation, Role Playing Game (Dungeon Crawling)

Around this time last year, I was writing a review for Harvest Moon: Animal Parade on the Wii - which, somewhat surprisingly, was the first Harvest Moon game I'd ever played. Fast forward a year, and here I am again, writing a review for Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on the DS - the first of the Rune Factory spin-off series I've tried. Like any good game, it kicks off with a surprisingly catchy tune that'll stick in your head for days...

Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Screenshot

"Fly higher and higher, the wings of love come flying over me, while my heart is calling out... for you." - argh, get out of my head!

Drawing a lot of inspiration from its stablemate, Harvest Moon, the Rune Factory series mixes a farming/life simulation game with a hefty dollop of hack-and-slash dungeon crawling role-playing - two genres you wouldn't ordinarily think of mixing, but, similar to when I once combined pasta and Marmite, you find they actually work quite well together, and not only for the variety it brings. One moment, you'll be tilling the land, planting seeds and raising crops to sell for money, completing various requests for the villagers, whilst romancing the various bachelorettes about town in an effort to marry one and start a family, and the next, you'll be venturing off into a dungeon, tackling a boss monster before it invades the peaceful town, or trying to unite two warring towns - one of humans, and another filled with monsters.

Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Screenshot

You're an amnesiac, who's living in a tree and can also turn into a sheep at will. Can you tell it's Japanese?

The game begins on a stormy night, where a young woman - Shana - finds a poor little Wooly monster (Rune Factory speak for a sheep, seemingly) collapsed outside her door. Taking pity on the bedraggled thing, she takes him in for the night, much to her father's disapproval. Come morning, the sheep has now transformed into a man - your character - who wakes up in a strange bed in a strange village. Escaping the house, he bumps into Shana again, who asks if you're alright, before presenting you with a massive tree to live in and a farm to tend, as you do. She then shows you the basics of tending to your farm, through planting seeds, watering and selling, before she trundles off back to her flower shop.

The following day, she talks you through 'Requests', which are little jobs various villagers would like help with, which are usually posted on the Bulletin Board in town, located next to Shana's flower shop, or posted directly into your postbox outside your front door. Requests can be as simple as finding someone a certain number of an item, or could be a bit more crazy - like a Bath Census, or being tricked into feeding hungry, hungry women in the name of a 'contest'.

One (minor) problem I did find with the requests was that there were sometimes requests up that you couldn't actually complete yet, because you hadn't unlocked the right stuff - like when Rusk asked me to bring him "Something powder... If I had a pharmacy, I could make it with two apples...". I tried everything from sugar, to apples to dumpling powder - in the end, I found out on the internet that he was actually after something called 'Sweet Sweet Powder', prepared from two apples in a device called a 'pharmacy' that you get from Marian and Marjorie later in the game.

A Day In The Life

Seeing as there are so many different things you can do in Rune Factory, it's probably easiest to explain what the game's all about by talking you through a usual "day in the life". Your average day starts when you wake up at six in the morning, and head down the ladder to your field inside the Sharance Tree (which does beg the question - how do your flowers get sun all the way down here?!), to care for your crops by watering, planting, harvesting and the like, before lobbing the ones that have grown into the shipping bin, for someone to collect and sell on for you.

Chores done, you're now free to spend the rest of the day doing whatever you like. Generally, I tend to spend my time doing requests for people, helping them out of sticky situations and getting to know them better as a bonus - you can do a maximum of two of these per day, one from your post box up the longest staircase in the world in front of your house, and one from the bulletin board in town, next to the flower shop. Every request you complete nets you a funky reward for your trouble, too.

If you don't feel like doing any requests - or if you've finished your daily quota before bed time, there's plenty of other stuff you can do to pass the time. You can fish in rivers, bash rocks to find ore, or chop branches and stumps to find lumber - all of which can then be sold. There's also all sorts of places outside of the main village for you to explore, including a forest, desert and icy place - all with different enemies, and each location is harder than the last. Or you could take the safer route, and just spend some time chatting up the ladies and giving them gifts.

Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Screenshot

Yes, I am attacking a giant sheep with a swordfish.

Every so often, there'll be a festival or contest in town, which seem to differ in name only, as they both really amount to the same thing - the shops are all shut and the townsfolk are normally wandering around town, talking about nothing but the event. Each event is themed, like the catchily-named 'Catch The Most Fish Contest', a 'Bean Throwing Festival', where the object is to get hit by as many of the beans the villagers throw at you as possible, or the 'Wooly Festival', which involves beating up a sheep to knock its wool off. The first day of winter has a 'Turnip Fight' booked in too, which sounds... interesting... and painful...

Perhaps the biggest difference I found between this game and Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands (bar the obvious dungeon crawling), was how much more personality all the villagers had. While Sunshine Islands - and also Animal Parade - each had their own decent characters, they all seemed by and large rather normal. But Rune Factory 3's script is lightyears ahead of the other games, because, basically, everyone's a weirdo. There's a person who turns into a mermaid in the rain, a girl who eats tons and gets rather defensive over her lightning-fast metabolism, a father and daughter who enjoy talking in opposites, a woman who makes clothes from rather unusual things like fish or iron ore, a reclusive artist who enjoys yelling 'RAINBOW!' at strange moments and a five hundred year old elder with a horn who's a massive racist when it comes to the human race.

If I know people like I think I know people, she really likes me. Awwwww.

Soon, the time will come when you ought to be thinking about settling down with a woman of your choice (unfortunately, you can't play as a woman). As in real life, to woo the lady of your dreams, you'll need to increase your relationship with the lucky girl to a certain point, where you'll eventually be able to marry them. Then you get to start a family! But who would you pick out of all the crazy wenches this town has on offer?

  • Shara: A generally nice girl who runs the flower shop in town. She was also the one who helped me that one stormy night, so I kind of think I owe her one. She is a bit boring though...
  • Collette: A small girl with a huge appetite - I'm a bit worried if I'll manage to make enough money to feed her, especially if she gets pregnancy cravings...
  • Marian: A crazy witch/doctor who'd probably kill me with exploding medicine, or experiment on me while I'm asleep - possibly best left tormenting Collette...
  • Karina: A very lazy girl - although at least she won't eat me out of house and home, or make me explode. Probably a safe bet, although I better not expect any help on the farm or anything...
  • Pia: The ditzy bathhouse assistant, who also happens to be part mermaid. Could be quite interesting - if we could ever have a conversation about something that wasn't baths or fish...
  • Sofia: Follows her father's habit of talking in opposites, and as such, is very difficult to talk to - or at least, make sense of. She would probably drive me insane, but it would at least be quite entertaining...
  • Sakuya: Works at the inn and enjoys travelling, selling all sorts of knick-knacks she picks up in dungeons. Probably couldn't be relied on to still be at home with the kids when I get back...
  • Carmen: Very into fishing, and easily excited. Almost scarily so. Also seems to have a bit of a strange relationship with her brother. Not sure I want to intrude...
  • Raven: A mysterious girl, who doesn't talk much. Although, once you get to know her, she has a 'warm' side to her. Might be worth the challenge of getting to know her...
  • Daria: An exceedingly excitable and eccentric artist who lives in the forest. And really likes rainbows. Almost disturbingly so...
Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Screenshot


Levelling Up

When you're playing the game, you need to keep an eye on the two bars in the top left hand corner, one marked HP, corresponding to your 'Hit Points' which represent the amount of health you have, and one marked RP, standing for 'Rune Points', which is essentially your stamina. Your stamina/Rune Points drain by a small amount with each thing you do, like watering your plants, swinging an axe around or casting spells. Once your RP bar runs out, your health will start to deplete too - at which point, you'll need to use runes or rune spirits to restore them, or just head home for a good night's sleep.

As you play, your character will start to level up his skills - for example, if you use a watering can loads, you'll get better at watering and use less stamina every time. Pretty much everything seems to have a level associated with it, from watering plants, fishing and various spell skills to stranger ones like sleeping, walking and love. As you get more powerful, you'll be able to venture further into the dungeons and surrounding areas of the town, discovering more about yourself and your lost memories as you go.

Rune Factory 3 A Fantasy Harvest Moon Screenshot

Making this and another statue face each other will open up somewhere new for you to explore...

Once you build up a bit of a relationship with some of the villagers, you can get them to accompany you on your adventures into the various dungeons around the outskirts of town - and while they aren't as strong as you, every little helps. Unless they die, anyway, as that's sure to put a downer on your relationship - although, who goes on a date to a dungeon anyway?

Once you unlock your memories that correspond to your ability to transform into a Wooly, a new room opens up in the Sharance Tree, where you can journey to the Labyrinth World with up to two other players (who each have a copy of the game too) over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Here you can team up and explore randomly-generated dungeons, collect items and level up your character - all of which will then carry back over to your single-player game. Don't worry if you don't have any friends though, as it's still possible to play it all on your lonesome too.

Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is seriously awesome, and every one should go out and buy it right now - particularly if you're a fan of games like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing and maybe even The Sims. Farming and role-playing seem to go together so well, you wonder why no-one thought of it before, and the well-written characters make Rune Factory 3 one of the best Harvest Moon-style games yet, maybe even topping my old favourite, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

Awesome factory
  • +
    Well-written and entertaining characters
  • +
    Requests from villagers give you something to do besides farming
  • +
    Role-playing and farming work surprisingly well together
  • -
    May be too open-ended for some people
  • -
    Would be good if your Trophy Room gave you hints on how to get some of the trophies
  • -
    It's possible to pick requests that you can't actually complete
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