Harvest Moon may be fun for Farmville fans seeking a more substantive cultivation centric game, but it is a little too tranquil for my tastes. Hardcore gamers such as myself (the kind that is one game over screen away from a rage fuelled rampage, if the mainstream media are to be believed) demand video games with a little more action. Thankfully the folks at XSEED Games have us covered with Rune Factory 4. This 3DS release sees budding farmers make an income by selling off the phallic shaped vegetables they grow. Once your harvest of cucumbers and carrots has been sold you can purchase a sword to penetrate the nasty creatures that guard the various dungeons you need to clear.
My Rune Factory 4 adventure began with a couple of unsavoury characters tossing me off an airship. From there I plummeted down to the countryside town of Selphia – the homosexual chef who resides there must have been overjoyed to see that it was literally raining men (hallelujah.) After miraculously surviving the descent, I was appointed Selphia’s monarch by the mouthy dragon that protects the settlement. Hurrah I thought… I can now spend my days playing Polo and amassing a large collection of Welsh Corgis. Alas, it was not meant to be. My princely duties demanded that I aid Selphia’s populace with their humdrum lives in addition to saving the region from a hostile foreign kingdom.
A good chunk of Rune Factory 4’s early game is spent planting seeds, watering soil and selling off the crops you grow. By abducting the cute critters that roam the nearby forests it is also possible to acquire egg laying chickens and milk producing cows. If farming chores are not your thing fear not, as the animal slave labour you procure can be ordered to till the land in your stead (somehow I don’t think that PETA would approve of this game.) Once enough coinage has been accrued players can purchase tools allowing them to dabble in other activities. Pacifists for example could learn how to fish or become a blacksmith, whilst those with a more violent disposition can buy weapons or learn how to cook the veggies they have grown. Cooking isn’t a violent career? Just watch Gordon Ramsey work in the kitchen.
In addition to advancing Rune Factory 4’s story, which is accomplished by clearing the world’s numerous dungeons, players are also encouraged to interact with Selphia’s citizens. Much like in the Harvest Moon series, it is possible to wed one of the town’s eligible bachelorettes/bachelors. Sadly, due to my inept flirting skills, I was unable to date anyone during my play through. Looks like my virtual love life is eerily similar to my real life one. I spent many months showering Forte with tasty chocolate bars only for the blonde knight to continually reject my advances. Perhaps I should have tried courting the underage butterfly girl instead? She is partial to fruit so I could easily lure her into the bedroom with an orange… although I fear doing so would place my name on a sex offender’s list.
Heartbroken and on the cusp of weeping into my anime body pillow, after being spurned by Selphia’s ladies, the time has come for me to wrap up this review. My final rating is four stars, which is rather poetic given that this is the fourth mainline title in the Rune Factory franchise. Hopefully it will not prove to be the final game in the series, as Rune Factory seems to get better with each passing sequel. The future is uncertain however due to the status of developer Neverland. Said gaming studio may be based in Japan, but when it comes to finances they feel like a Greek outfit. Neverland was declared bankrupt back in 2013, which may explain why Rune Factory 4 never got a physical release in Europe. UK players looking to enjoy this title will have to download it off the Nintendo e-shop.
And download it you should, as the game is a lot of fun. I especially liked the combat system, which is reminiscent to the classic Zelda games. There’s a good selection of weapons/magic to use in battle and from a design point of view I admired the synergistic relationship between the game’s action/farming sections. Cooking up the produce you grow rewards you with meals that restore any health lost whenever an enemy smacks you. Befriending townsfolk allows you to group with them during the spelunking expeditions in monster filled caves. Chopping up wood increases your stamina, allowing you to swing a sword with greater ease. Everything you do in Rune Factory 4 is beneficial so nothing feels like a waste of time. Well, almost nothing. I wasted a lot of Mars bars on that ungrateful Forte. The frigid cow didn’t even give me a thank you kiss… I hope the chocolate gives her diabetes!