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   Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon - Reader Review  

A Fan's Fantasy
by Cyllya

PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
15-50 hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Overall, this is a rather nice game, which I recommend to anyone who likes Harvest Moon games, who would like Harvest Moon games if not for the fact that the gameplay gets repetitive after a while, or who liked a few Harvest Moon games but became annoyed with how they all seem to be remakes of each other.

   This game has all the Harvest Moon features fans love, but with enough original qualities to actually consider it a new game. The action RPG aspect of the game adds an extra dimension and breaks up the monotony of the farming, but it doesn't have enough substance to carry the game on its own, so those who don't like any other Harvest Moon games probably wouldn't like this either.

Riding on a tamed monster. Riding on a tamed monster.

   The farming aspect of the gameplay is the usual Harvest Moon thing. Seasons are 30 days long. There are a variety of fruits, veggies, and flowers to cultivate, but each type grows in one season only. However, the interior of the caves near your farm are protected from the outdoor climate and stay like one particular season all year round. Some plants can only be grown in caves because they take longer than 30 days to grow. You can level up a plant by putting fertilizer on it, then harvest it and put it in the Seed Maker to create a bag of seeds that will produce a whole set of nine leveled-up plants. You can keep doing this to get very high-leveled plants that sell for a lot of money. Plants sell for their base price multiplied by their level. You can use the stylus to work in the field, but this feature seems a bit half-baked. You can't charge up your tools with it, for example.

   Instead of animals and Harvest Sprites, Rune Factory has monsters, which you domesticate from the selection of enemies in the caves near the farm. There are monsters that give produce (e.g. cow-like monster which can be milked), monsters that work on your farm (watering or harvesting), monsters you can ride, and monsters that are only good for taking with you into combat. With the exception of those that cast healing spells, I never found monsters very useful in combat. They can't be used in boss battles. The game lets you keep about 80 or 90 monsters at a time, and they feed themselves so long as they have food in the barn. They can't reproduce.

   The battle system has smooth control and functionality, but it's a little shallow and simplistic. It's still enjoyable as an addition to the game's farming aspect. The game is fairly easy, and most of the challenge comes from the fact that your weapon works the same way as your farming tools, meaning it depletes your energy to use it. If you want to try to play the game without any fighting, you will severely limit your choices of livestock, farm work help, and potential wives, and you won't be able to upgrade your farm tools.

Harvesting strawberries with the stylus. Harvesting strawberries with the stylus.

   Once you upgrade your house, you can forge tools, weapons, accessories, and medicines to help you farm or adventure.

   With the variety of ways to farm, some "secret" plants, a large selection of potential wives, and the storyline to delve into, the game has a lot to do to keep you busy for a long time if that is your desire, but the main storyline will go by pretty fast if you want it to. Once you beat the storyline, it becomes a more typical Harvest Moon game, and there's not much point in replaying it.

   The plot is a fairly generic as RPGs and fantasy stories go, but it's well-told and enjoyable. All of the characters have distinct personalities and are fleshed out enough for you to feel for them. You'll see very little new from this plot. Also, as you might expect from HM, the main character is the biggest hippie ever.

   The environment graphics are 2D, and the characters are 3D models. Generally, everything looks great! There are nice environmental details all over the place. However, the 3D models look really bad when the game shows them up close, which is fortunately rare, and the poor collision detection on some larger monsters allows the main character and other monsters to walk into them, which looks silly. Though the game is easy, make sure you die at least once so you can see the beautiful game over screen.

   I was pleasantly surprised by the music. Most of it is fairly nice, and there are two pieces that make me want to leave the DS sitting on so I can listen to it while I do other things. However, the town music gets old quickly.

   Now, this wouldn't be Harvest Moon without glitches, would it? I ran into a seemingly unfixable glitch that prevented anyone from using magic, ever. There's also a graphical glitch that makes rooftops disappear and makes Ragna appear on top of things that are supposed to be in front of him (such as trees). Sometimes it cheats you out of livestock produce if you try to get it from a monster that's standing close to the same kind of monster. This review is written about the Japanese version; the English version may be more or less glitchy.

   Despite a few downsides, this is an excellent addition to the series. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

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