Title: Rune Factory 4 Special
Release Date: February 28. 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: XSEED Games
The Rune Factory series is a mix of farming and dungeon crawling, with the former being something that I greatly enjoy. Now with Rune Factory 4 Special on Nintendo Switch, I’ll have a chance to get an understanding of what it has to offer. Being new to this entry of the series, I found that there’s plenty more to do outside of running errands for townspeople and growing crops. With the inclusion of runes, exploring dungeons, battling monsters, and marriage proposals, I was introduced to a whole new world that I’ve been missing out on.
Rune Factory 4 Special begins with your character falling from an airship into a village located in the region of Selphia, a land ruled by a dragon named Ventuswill. Your character has amnesia and gets mistaken for the town’s prince/princess. The actual prince comes into town and gives you permission to act as a stand-in and take care of the land, the people, and give orders. As you progress the storyline, you find there are little town mysteries to be solved that add on to a bigger story being told.
In Rune Factory 4 Special, not only can you do the typical farming tasks like growing and harvesting crops, fishing, cooking, and mining, you also have the dungeon to explore. The dungeon aspect of the game is where you can forge weaponry, battle, befriend and catch monsters, and even battle boss monsters. There is a linear storyline that takes you through the dungeon adventure part of the game while the farming part feels more like the tasks you need to complete to power yourself and your equipment up. There is a nice balance because if you get tired of farming, you can go into the forest and battle with monsters.
The farming aspect of the game is comparable to other farm simulators, but a noticeable difference is the requirement of a license to start anything. A license required to cook, forge weapons, or make medicine has to be obtained by paying a fee and taking a test. A license, purchasing equipment, and eating special bread every time you want to learn a new recipe or skill are all required to progress your abilities and knowledge. It’s an added hassle, but I find the progression of skills much faster this way than in other farming games.
However, when you need to expand a room or backpack space, hold a festival, or even bring a new shop into town, an Order is required, which costs princess points. For me, it’s an extra unnecessary step, especially when raising princess points is harder and takes longer versus just paying with regular currency. Still, the town’s festivals are a fun change of events because they sometimes include mini-games like the Turnip Festival or a bit of fan service like on Beach Day.
One thing I noticed is that you can stay up multiple days without passing out. In other games, your health would drop drastically as the night continued, but in Rune Factory 4, the days will keep on passing. Your character does get affected but not to the point where you’re forced to put them to bed.
Dungeon design is that of a maze where the themes change, but the explorable areas are kept small and easy to manage to get where you’re going quickly. Each dungeon brings with it a bit of charm that adds to the fantasy nature of adventure.
Evolving the romantic relationships took a while, figuring out what the love interest liked as gifts, and realizing that some characters can progress faster than others. Once you find what they like, it’s much easier and just requires daily repetition of gifting them to increase their love level. Getting to the marriage or even the dating aspect will still take many seasons, but such is life. Some aren’t romance-able too, so it’s good to figure out who before spending too much time gifting them.
If you already played the game on the 3DS, there is a Newlywed mode located on the main menu. Every time you get married within story mode, you get access to that character in that mode. This new feature offers more game time and cutscenes after the marriage. Also included is Another Episode mode which just adds to the possibility of new events for long time fans.
The character artwork and cutscenes are well done with anime-like quality. However, some interiors are still similar to the DS quality graphics, which I feel could be improved upon. Another thing that could be developed is a grid system for the farm and bedroom so you can line up furniture or face them in different directions. If you place objects like a refrigerator or an oven too close to a wall, they get cut off or will stack onto other objects that they’re next to, which gets annoying.
The layout of the town is easy to follow, and the map is accessible at all times. Switching back and forth from different menus is seamless, and swapping weapons or rune abilities is quick. One rune ability that has served useful is the teleporting ability known as Escape, which teleports you back home. I’ve found it most helpful as a quick command for escaping when I was overwhelmed by monsters.
Rune Factory 4 Special is entertaining for hours. There is never a moment where I felt like I had nothing to do. The Switch version is an improvement and makes everything look much prettier, but the original 3DS renders still pop up from time to time. Still, farming is an addictive repetition, and the dungeon crawling offers the adventure of exploration, making the romance the cherry on top. Overall, Rune Factory 4 Special is one I can see myself playing for many more hours to come.
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