Rune Factory 3 Special Review – A Forgotten Rune from the DS

    Title: Rune Factory 3 Special
    Developer: Marvelous Inc.
    Release Date: September 5, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: XSEED Games
    Genre: Farming, RPG

Whenever a class game receives a remaster, especially one from the Nintendo DS era, is a cause for celebration. After all, it means that the game is no longer confined to older hardware and allows it to become more accessible to gamers. When I saw that Rune Factory 3 would finally be getting the Special treatment on modern consoles, I was very excited, but unfortunately, I feel that the remastered effort is lacking needed updates.

In Rune Factory 3 Special, you play as Micah, an amnesiac protagonist who suddenly wakes up after being rescued by Shara, the town’s local florist. What makes Micah different from other Rune Factory protagonists is that he is half-human, half-monster, and as you clear through each of the dungeons, you’ll discover more about his past.

In combat, there are various weapon types to choose from. The more you use a particular weapon, the more you’ll level up your skill for it. Furthermore, after defeating the first boss, Micah gains the ability to transform into a monster. By accessing his Transform Belt, you’ll shift between both forms. While in monster form, your attack is scaled on your level rather than the weapon you currently have equipped.

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On that note, if you thought Rune Factory 3 was too easy on the DS, then Special has your masochistic urges covered with the new “Hell” difficulty. As the name implies, this difficulty greatly increases the damage you take, with some enemies even being capable of killing you in one hit if you’re not careful enough.

Each of the dungeons in Rune Factory 3 are themed after a season, but every time before you get to the boss, there will be some sort of contraption that prevents progress. Other than some vague hints from characters, by and large, you’re sort of forced to either fumble around for the solution or look it up in a guide.

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Similar to Rune Factory 4 Special, this version of Rune Factory 3 contains the addition of Newlywed Mode, which unlocks after you’ve married one of the eleven possible female characters, with no option to marry the males. To get married, though, you must first beat the game. It’s not a particularly hard task because if you know what you’re doing, there is a straightforward path to get to the final boss before you end the first in-game year. Even if you’re not rushing it, there isn’t a strict time limit.

Still, to unlock a cutscene in Newlywed Mode, you must first marry the respective girl, which means you’re essentially required to get married eleven times. Unfortunately, there is no New Game+, so you’re sort of required to load from a point before the final boss, or you’ll be forced to go through the tutorial all over again. Thankfully, when it comes to Save Files, you have a whopping twenty-one of them, as opposed to the DS’s three.

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That being said, the story isn’t half-bad because of the “amnesiac protagonist” plot. Rune Factory 3 uses how Micah is both a monster and human in a clever way. While you solve the world’s problems, you also try to close the rift that has been created between the human race and the monster race.

One of the new additions to Special is a new dungeon located in the basement of the Sharance Tree. As you progress through the story, you’ll steadily unlock segments of it, which contain a wave of enemies you must defeat in order to proceed. You can even find several kinds of items, such as food and even Levelizers, which are potions that will instantly level you up. Still, completing all of these dungeons will earn you nothing but a trophy, though it is an easy accessway if you want to grind for some levels.

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However, don’t let the recommended level of each of these dungeons fool you. There’s a bit of challenge in these dungeons, especially at the bottom, where a big boss waits to deal heavy damage. In an encounter where you don’t have the proper weapon skill, you’re likely to be chugging down on healing items as you try to chip away health.

Unfortunately, that’s about where the new additions end. There are hardly any quality-of-life improvements over the DS version, and unfortunately, that means that some of those systems are really starting to show their age. Most notable is how swinging your weapon can deplete your RP, something that can take you by surprise, especially on the earlier levels, where you have barely any to your name.

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Further, the in-game backgrounds clearly feel like they were just thrown into a rudimentary upscaling algorithm, as all of them look incredibly smooth and a smeary mess, especially in places where there were signposts with text on them. The controls also feel overly responsive sometimes, especially in combat, where it’s difficult to properly aim your combos toward the enemy.

Worse, the option to adjust this can only be accessed from the title screen, and you must restart the game in order to change such a setting. In fact, the only settings accessible in-game are options that will invert a button layout or turn off the BGM entirely. Options for Anti-Aliasing and Post-Processing can only be adjusted from the In-Game Configuration Tool launched before the game on PC.

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There’s also no way to customize your home however you like, as any furniture or crafting stations that you purchase from the shops are placed in a fixed location. However, if you happen to own Rune Factory 4 Special or Rune Factory 5 on the same device you’re playing Rune Factory 3 Special, you can change Micah’s outfit into one worn by the male protagonists of those titles.

One of Rune Factory 3’s most memorable features was the zany dialogue that hooked you in, but in Special, all of that dialogue has been retranslated or changed in some way. This new translation itself isn’t bad, but the delivery was lacking, given that some of the jokes you might’ve recalled from the DS not being present. On the other hand, there are a few inaccurate instructions found, such as, in the Bean Toss Festival dialogue implies that if you are hit by a Failed Dish, your score is zeroed out, which is completely incorrect.

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Rune Factory 3 Special is a great way for both new and old fans of the series to experience this DS classic. Still, I wished it had gone a bit further with the remastered effort, as many of its systems haven’t aged well. The added features here don’t make up for the lack of quality-of-life improvements that would’ve done the title a big favor. It’s not unplayable by any means, but this remaster isn’t as “Special” as it claims.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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