Rune Factory 3 Special Preview – A Relic of the Past

The Nintendo DS was home to many farming simulators, but Rune Factory was perhaps one of the few series that managed to cleverly merge both the farming and RPG genres. And my introduction to the series started off with Rune Factory 3 on the Nintendo DS, although I never really paid much attention to the “3” in its title since they’re pretty much standalone releases. Marvelous has proven once that the series doesn’t need to be stuck on the dual-screen handhelds, so the question is: Can they hit the home run once more with Rune Factory 3 Special?

In Rune Factory 3 Special, you play as an amnesiac protagonist who suddenly wakes up in the small community town of Sharance. With the help of Shara, you settle into the Sharance Tree, which is a huge tree trunk with some farming fields you can tend to. Unlike the other Rune Factory main characters, our main character is capable of turning into a monster.

A key charm about Rune Factory is how it blends RPG elements with the cozy aspect of farming. There is no time limit and you can take however many in-game days as you want. This can evolve into an addicting loop–especially with how many weapon types there are and how many types of crops there are to collect. You can also go into one of the four available dungeons and grind your levels.

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The first thing that caught my attention from this Special port is that all of the dialogue from the original DS version has been retranslated or changed to some extent. While this might not be an issue for me personally, I do miss some of the quirkiness that the previous localizers had put in it, even if it does give the game a fresher look.

Another thing that’s hard to ignore are the backgrounds. With the exception of character sprites and some objects, they’ve all been smoothed out and upscaled using a really outdated method. In some places, this isn’t that obvious, but objects such as signposts and in places with tons of bags such as the flower and general shops, it just looks very jarring to look at, especially on a higher resolution screen.

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Now let’s talk about romance. Rune Factory 3 was known to have the most amount of options yet, and that carries on here. You have a selection of 11 girls to choose from. Although I must say, I am slightly disappointed that you can’t romance any of the guys, but that’s more of a personal take since none of the girls particularly interest me. It’s okay, Gaius; you’re still my best bud.

One thing that did catch me off guard was the how time moved. While a typical Rune Factory game makes it so one second in real time equates to one minute in-game, here in Rune Factory 3, it’s sped up, by about double, even. This means an entire day or week can whizz by so fast you might not even notice it at times. This does match with the original, but I’m surprised that this was the only Rune Factory game to do so.

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Despite being a “Special” remaster, by and large, most of Rune Factory 3’s gameplay mechanics remain largely unchanged. This is great for the more purist of fans, but honestly, some of these systems are definitely starting to show their age, especially at the beginning. It would’ve been nice if some quality-of-life updates were added to improve the experience. While playing, I noticed my RP depleted when swinging a weapon. However, I remembered this was included in the sequels, such as Rune Factory 5 and even the Rune Factory 4 Special.

And on that note, this game has possibly the most useless Settings menu I have ever witnessed. On the PC version, adjusting things such as graphical quality are done through the configuration tool, which you boot separately from the executable. While the game is running, however, you can only completely turn off or on the BGM or invert a specific set of buttons. You can’t easily load your save to redo certain things, which is just incredibly inconvenient.

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Rune Factory 3 Special seems like a great way to experience the iconic DS game on a more modern platform. Still, this remaster could be so much more as some systems haven’t aged as well as one could have hoped, with the only added features not contributing much to the overall experience as they should. To me, a “game remaster” is more than just taking the original sprites and upscaling them, rereleasing them, and calling it a day. I hope that this game can improve on said aspects so it can truly live up to its ‘Special’ moniker.

Rune Factory 3 Special is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam on September 6, 2023.

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