Rune Factory - Staff Retroview  

One Misty Moisty Morning
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

40-60 Hours
+ Beautiful still environments and character portraits.
+ Charming soundtrack.
+ Adorable townspeople to interact with
- Dim-witted partner AI
- A few graphical glitches here and there
- Localization errors are noticeable
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   Back in Christmas of 2007, I received a wonderful gift from my boyfriend titled Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon. My boyfriend classified the game as Harvest Moon meets Pokémon, two series that I enjoy in their own right. Unfortunately, I hit a few hurdles in the game that caused me to stop playing for a while. After completing Rune Factory 3, I felt compelled to return to the first Rune Factory to see what I had been missing out on.

   Rune Factory is developed by Neverland as a spin-off from the Harvest Moon series. This spin-off distinguishes itself from Harvest Moon by incorporating not only that series' trademark farming aspect, but monster taming and combat that grant an individual personality to Rune Factory. These new features, while unique for the series at the time, have evolved nicely since the humble beginning seen here, this first entry a touch rocky in places.

   Players take on the role of Raguna, a young man with a touch of amnesia. He is found on the border of Norad near the village of Kardia, there taken in by a young woman. Named Mist, this woman is an outsider to Kardia's culture who helps Raguna discover his memory loss, and decides to help him via the loan of a neighboring farm as a way to create new memories. Mist also learns that Raguna, despite his memory loss, can communicate with monsters, a skill only known by Earthmates. As the plot progresses, Raguna slowly regains his memories and comes to realize that his very presence alone will endanger the villagers of Kardia.

Mist is such a stalker. Mist is such a stalker.

   The story of Rune Factory is fairly clichéd, but this manages to work in its favour. The townspeople that Raguna can interact with and court all have very interesting, quirky personalities. Raguna can also participate in a ton of festivals that will increase his friend points (FP) and love points (LP) with the other villagers. Progressing the plot requires Raguna to complete eight caves, none of which can be entered without a permit granted by Mayor Godwin. As Raguna completes the dungeons, he regains bits of his memory, allowing the player to discover what his true purpose in Kardia actually is.

   One downside of the story comes from Rune Factory's botched localization. There are editing errors, such as being able to buy radish seeds in spring, and once they are grown they turn into turnips. There are also plenty of typos and missing punctuation marks plaguing the text throughout, which definitely devalues the story and the player's interaction with it. It's not all bad, but the game could have benefited from a few more proofreadings than it received.

   Combat becomes a very important aspect of Rune Factory, Using a simplistic action-RPG style, Raguna can equip one-handed swords, two-handed swords, axes, staves, lances and magic to fight off hordes of enemies that appear in each cave. In order to progress in a dungeon, players must destroy the many monster generators planted throughout. However, instead of simply killing all his enemies, Raguna can tame monsters as party members. The problem with this is that the tamed monster AI is horrendous, and more often than not, the monster will die before contributing anything worthwhile. The hit detection also tends to work against the player, as strikes often do not connect to the enemies, and foes will end up taking free hits while players scramble to attack.

   Unlike the game's poor hit-detection, Rune Factory's farming and crafting systems are quite good. Players can farm plenty of crops, and are encouraged to do so as they play integral roles in the completion of some dungeons. The farming system is so easy to use that players will waste many hours tending to the crops. The same can also be said about the game's easy-to-use crafting system, though there is a noticeable issue, in that crafting and forging items takes a fair while, though with practice and patience, players will be able to create some of the best items available to make some of the later, more challenging dungeons appreciably easier.

Sheepie! Sheepie! Sheepie! Sheepie! Sheepie! Sheepie!

   Another area where Rune Factory takes a bit of a dive is in its graphics. While the still portraits and town graphics are absolutely stunning, the 3D models are less than flattering. To make matters worse, when fighting certain enemies, a black line indicating a graphical split will appear. This becomes more noticeable during boss battles, as bosses sometimes begin to flash, and graphical rips show up to further exacerbate the chaos. It's really disappointing that this occurs throughout the game, as it ruins what could have been a mostly smooth 3D graphical experience.

   While the game's graphics have a few hiccups, Rune Factory's audio is fairly pleasant. It fits the overall rustic tone of the game, giving Kardia a lot of charm and personality. Most of the music is soothing and easy to listen to, and won't prompt players to turn down the sound on the DS. It won't be every player's cup of tea, but it's still fairly good compared to most Harvest Moon soundtracks. One knock against the audio comes from the voice acting which, is bland and feels completely unnecessary, dragging the tone down from the otherwise agreeable music.

   Depending on how much content is completed, Rune Factory can be finished between twenty to sixty hours. It's fairly easy to rush through the storyline, but most players will find themselves grinding for levels, and practicing the various crafting abilities to get the best weapons and items possible.

   For those who have yet to try out this charming series, I recommend beginning with Rune Factory 3, as it's, by a fair margin, the most evolved of the four main games, fixing nearly all the errors in previous entries. However, if players wish to see where this humble series began, then Rune Factory is a good game, though not without some flaws. It has its fair share of problems, but for most RPGamers they're easy to ignore. Rune Factory has just as much charm and personality as most of its successors (barring a certain game that this reviewer refuses to grant the honor of being named), but unfortunately suffers from a lack of tender love and care.

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