After ten years of wholesome, non-violent, socialist farming games, the Harvest Moon series is suddenly shaking things up and taking a slightly different approach with Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon. In this new title, gamers can expect that the original formula of tending to crops and livestock will be adhered to, but with the addition of monsters and combat.
The story of Rune Factory begins in the town of Kardia. A young boy, the protagonist and a stranger to Kardia, awakens with amnesia in this new and unfamiliar place. He meets a girl named Mist who, when asked for food and water, offers him a hoe, a watering can, and a plot of land for him to grow his own food. Thus, the young boy begins his new life as a farmer. However, not everything is peaceful, for the caves near Kardia have been found to be infested with monsters. It is up to our amnesiac hero to journey out, make things safe, and at the same time, unknowingly discover his long lost memories.
"...what's most interesting about the addition of a battle system is that it isn't always necessary to fight monsters."
The bulk of the fighting in Rune Factory will take place in caves on the outskirts of town; each cave will have a powerful boss at the end. However, what's most interesting about the addition of a battle system is that it isn't always necessary to fight monsters. In fact, it's crucial to the game that players befriend these seemingly threatening beasts. Players can turn these creatures onto their side by petting them with an item called the "Friendly Glove." Keep in mind, that not all creatures will like this or will allow it to happen in the first place. This is why there is a need for a trusty sword, just in case things get dicey. Once befriended or captured, these monsters can be named, used to plow and defend fields, or kept as livestock. The protagonist can learn spells and skills; he can also craft hundreds of items and tools for farming as well as battle.
In addition to battles, players will have to watch their Rune Points (RP) which gauges their stamina. Whenever players make an action such as watering crops, breaking rocks, or sword swinging, the RP gauge will deplete; when that reaches zero, the player's Health Points (HP) will start to drain. To make sure that never happens, players will have to keep an ample supply of RP by growing crops. When crops grow, they also produce Rune Point Crystals. These crystals will replenish Rune Points. So, not only is there profit to be made from goods, but it's essential to keeping the hero alive by manufacturing Runes, hence the name: Rune Factory.
Also, with the introduction of battles, long-time fans of the series might be worried about a possible removal of other Harvest Moon elements. Well, worry no more, because nothing has been taken out; only new content has been added in. Interaction with the townsfolk, marriage to that special someone, and communal festivals will all continue to play a major role in the game.
Rune Factory utilizes the strengths of the DS. The stylus is used for easy access to the inventory, moving around the game field, and picking up items in the field. The game also connects via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, allowing players to trade items or send screenshots and messages to one another.
Onward to some extra details, the opening theme song is titled "Rune" and was performed by J-Pop artist Lil'. The game's producer, Yoshifumi Hashimoto, was also a producer on Valhalla Knights and a scenario designer for Riviera: The Promised Land. The game's director, Masahide Miyata, was a scenario designer for both Lufia & The Fortress of Doom and Lufia II: The Rise of the Sinistrals. Diehard fans of any of those games might notice some of the influences from those games playing into Rune Factory.
Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is set for a release some time in July 2007.