Developer: Marvelous Inc., Neverland, Hakama Inc.
Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED)
Release Date February 25, 2020
Edited by AlexKnight2005
The Rune Factory series is a spin-off of the Harvest Moon series that I have enjoyed throughout its releases. Rune Factory 4 originally released on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2012 and there hasn’t been a large release on the series since then. I am very excited about the upcoming Rune Factory 5 and its nice to play this title again on my switch. The appeal of Rune Factory isn’t just with the Anime RPG look and feel but it also mixes the casualness of Harvest Moon to bring an enjoyable game. Working a farm, living in a town, experiencing the events and holidays, and adventuring out to fight monsters and experience a fantasy story all encompass all the Rune Factory games. Rune Factory 4 got the re-release as it was the last major one on the Nintendo 3DS before the series fell silent.
Rune Factory 4 Special is about a boy or girl of your choosing that is traveling to the town of Selphia. During the end of your trip, you fall from your airship and onto the town’s guardian and a dragon god Ventuswill. Your character has no memory from their past life in this accident and soon you are mistakingly taken for the prince that is meant to arrive and take over duties in the town’s development. This is quickly corrected by the arrival of the actual prince that welcomely lets you be the prince here as he takes other duties in town. The story goes through a few arcs with some breaks in between but brings changes to the town. It can be simple but fits perfectly with the world you experience. In almost every way if you enjoy anime then you will enjoy the story, looks, and feel of Rune Factory 4’s fantasy world. Everything is bright and colorful with suiting music to different areas. Most of the world’s music and designs are based on different seasons. Many may fight each segment too short as you travel from area to area, its seamless with a fade to black style transition but can be annoying as it happens a lot. I think this mostly divides up encounters and made it easier to run on the 3DS at the time. The game seems somewhat less pixilated than the 3DS version but this may be from the screen size. The game is somewhat voice acted as most vocalize actions with some phrases but the complete sentences are not done constantly. It is better than nothing to me, there is also an option to have the Japanese voices instead of the English. Characters you meet are fully fleshed out and as you befriend them and see events you can gain what each one’s likes or dislikes are along with their personality. Some may note it may seem slightly few compared to other games but the number of people in the town never bothers me if there are done well. In other similar games, there are more NPCs along with those you can marry, and that can limit the options of the player connecting to someone in town.
The gameplay is a mix of casual farming and town life of games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley with the simple RPG real-time combat. The farming side is nice and well worth it as it is not only your best way to get money but also harvesting crops has a chance to drop something to pick up that permanently increases your stats or gives a free level up to a random skill. It happens commonly as well and you want to level as many skills you can since all of them raise your stats. This feature is what helps it be a casual game experience along with many quality of life features like teleporting instantly back to the entrance of a dungeon and your home. Instead of normal livestock, you can befriend the same monsters you been fighting to take with you to a party or help work to care for your farm. Crafting plays a critical role in Rune Factory 4 from cooking, making your own potions, armor, weapons, accessories. Most items and equipment can be re-bought at a shop but only after shipping it. This includes monster drops and as time goes on it adds to the pool of items that can be in the respected shops. The game does help you by showing in the item details if it’s been shipped yet combat is simple but fluid. Adding to the casual fun and quality of life of the game you can use any weapon you choose and do great with the game. Combat skills that use the magic slots can also be used with any weapon, making fun combinations that suit your playstyle. Upgrading is simple as almost every item adds some stats or even gives effects, including making the item invisible when equipped. Combat and farming both take a casual but fun approach but many wanting something complex will be disappointed. The quality of life and casual approach is a welcome change to many fantasy games always being complex. This was the big appeal to me that got me in the series although it can clash with those that are not looking for a farming/life game with their RPG fantasy. As you do tasks, quests, and progress you can another set of points meant to improve the town and yourself. Mostly you choose what major unlocks you want to do first then just getting them another way. Some of them can be seen as optional as others are milestones like being able to do better crafting or unlocking room expansions.
Most flaws with Rune Factory 4 still exist but I would be very surprised if they could have changed them for the special and not for Rune Factory 5 coming up. Though the game you get the furniture you can place anywhere you want but it is a very clunky system in total. Mostly snaping to places that clip a lot that makes it hard to arrange. The plus side is you can place these anywhere you want including your field or even have a shipping box in your home. It was very annoying even trying to line up my cooking tools in a nice counter and they clip over each other and near impossible to line up, or having a large crafting station going half in the wall when you just want it in the corner. Besides the hassle of decorating, some could see the combat as being very easy or very hard depending on your progression. I did enjoy the harder play and you can always adjust in the settings but that wasn’t going through my mind at in playing on the normal settings. Though the crafting and storage use the touch screen of the 3DS’s screen it doesn’t translate as well to the switch. Notably, the upgrading weapon/armor screen could be seen as a hassle to use then how it did on the 3DS. The town itself is nice but it mostly feels like a market than a town. It does help as you live in the center but the game feels like the town should have been twice as large as it is in-game. I feel other titles did better at the town/life part better than Rune Factory 4 but it does better on the combat, farming, and mechanics better than other titles as well.
The most part I’m excited and happy what’s to come and happy this was on that got a re-release. I feel the game runs and looks better just being on a bigger screen than it did on the Nintendo 3DS. The additions of extra fan-service segments’ stories, voice, and animations almost feel like it was cut content they couldn’t do before. It runs solid on the switch and didn’t run into bugs at all. Though it seems like a niche title to those wanting a casual fantasy RPG game with farming it is very much so the game to look into if you’re a fan of anime or want something fantasy that’s more casual. I’ve been a fan of the series since I first played them and have recommended them to anyone to look into it. At the time this series height there was not much farming like games. I’m looking forward to what Rune Factory 5 brings as many games that have farming it in. Games like Stardew Valley show there is lots of love for more light-heart games and to see this series come back makes me excited about what new and different things they will add in the design and art style they have made in world-spanning multiple games. And is still one of my favorite series after all these years.
- Great Fantasy World
- Great Anime-styled Game
- Casual but Fun Gameplay
- Menu in Crafting Odd from 3DS port
- Maybe too Simple for RPG lovers
FoxieEXE gives Rune Factory 4 Special a Drastik Measure of 7.9 (79)