Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

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While UK publisher Rising Star Games is developing a reputation for bringing many otherwise underappreciated titles to UK shores, their flagship series remains the ever-popular Harvest Moon. Two new titles from Marvelous Entertainment’s franchise have recently been released as part of the publisher’s agenda, Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar and this, the latest in the popular spin-off series, Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon.

As is quickly becoming tradition with the Rune Factory series, Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon begins with the player cast as an amnesiac taken in by a young girl fearing for your safety. The plot line is full of the typical 16-bit eccentricity that the Harvest Moon franchise is founded upon, with the player given a tree to live in as well as their own farm simply for being in the right place at the right time. Every named character is instantly your friend, though some may be a bit more awkward to get along with than others, and those without names will benefit from an abrupt meeting with the sharp end of your sword/spear/hoe.

It’s the combat element of Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon that has seen the biggest renovation, pushing the boundaries of the series far beyond the simple family-fun farming simulation it once was. Featuring real-time action, the player will progress through a level system that unlocks new abilities and combos, and allows them to create and wield new, more powerful weapons. What’s more, once having progressed past the basics the player will earn the ability to transform into a monster, offering a number of additional bonuses and significantly altering the style of play.

Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon features four dungeons, one which represents each season. While the player may grow, harvest and sell crops in their own fields, that’s just your bread-and-butter living. It’s the dungeons that hide the real treasures of Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, and also conceal the secrets of your new home town. Working your way through the dungeons will also unlock new locations designed specifically for the purpose of courting, another string to Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon’s bow.

The player may, as is customary in Harvest Moon, raise a family of their own. This element of the videogame is particularly awkward – perhaps intended to represent the similar qualities of a real-life relationship – but once the basics have been grasped things do become easier. Perseverance is the key, as the ladies of Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon have clearly been designed with the intention of baffling you at pre-empting your every move. To which, undoubtedly, many guys would also draw comparisons to real-world relationships.

The localisation of the videogame has been handled surprisingly well, with English language colloquialisms trickled into what could just have easily been a strict-tongued delivery. Many titles fall foul to having too direct a translation – including many previous Harvest Moon titles – but Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon could just as easily have been translated from a European language as it has been from Japanese.

The visual quality of Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a mixed bag. The backgrounds are never less than elegant: varied, brightly coloured and immaculately detailed environments burst at the seams with individual character, and each new location is a pleasure to discover. The character models however, are decidedly average. Glitchy, angular representations of people and objects that wouldn’t have pushed the original PlayStation console; they maybe acceptable given the splendour of the backdrops, but when viewed in animated sequences could easily be considered a mess. The soundtrack to Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is simply fantastic. A typically quirky Japanese theme tune is complimented by some perfectly delivered mood music in-game and on menu screens.

As one of two new releases in the Harvest Moon series, Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon provides the action-orientated presentation. It’s a videogame that borrows heavily from more traditional role-playing game (RPG) experiences, such as Square Enix’s 16-bit classic Secret of Mana, and yet moulds those widely accepted conventions into the world of Harvest Moon, coupled with the familiar farming and relationship mechanics. It’s not likely to be the title that will expand the audience of the Harvest Moon franchise, but for those already experienced with the conventions of the many instalments, Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon will provide a welcome new expansion of the formula.











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