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The web statistics and article site AllFacebook.com revealed that in 2010 there were 80 million active users of the game application Farmville. In fact, it is estimated that of the 200 million users that log into Facebook every day around 15% were playing Farmville.
It's in interesting issue for the gaming world, once upon a time gamers were seen as reclusive geeks. Now, thanks in large part to successful marketing by giants like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, consoles, webapps and smartphone games are familiar territory for many new players who are being aggressively targeted by companies like Zynga wanting to exploit their free time and open wallets.
Resource management though? What is it about Farmville that attracts so many players?
I can't hope to answer that, I've played it and I suppose there is something satisfying about watching things grow and selling the efforts of your labours for whatever reward. But it's not a new concept, the Harvest Moon games for example, have been around since the early 90's.
Rune Factory Frontier is part of the Harvest Moon series. It's technically a spin off, since it deviates somewhat from the basic premise of the original series, but to my mind it improves on the concept a great deal. Perhaps I'm not cut out for the basic grind of plant:wait:tend:harvest:sell:buyseeds etc but I need something more from a game.
Yoshifumi Hashimoto, who produced the original Harvest Moon series describes Rune Factory as Harvest Moon where you wield a sword. It's a fair approximation; it's basically a farming game with a dungeon crawling element.
RF: Frontier was the first of the Rune Factory games to be released on a console, the previous two games were both DS only, and Frontier is technically the third in the series. The storylines are not linked in any way however and it is entirely possible to play them each independently.
Characters and Story
Harvest moon games in general have a habit of rehashing old character names and personalities and Rune Factory is no different. You play Raguna, a young man with amnesia who knows only that he came to town searching for a girl, Mist. As in previous Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games you are given a disused farm and a house in which to live. If only real estate were so easy to come by!
Mist is indeed living in the town, she and the inhabitants of the sleepy Trampoli are just plodding along through life, enjoying festivals and trying to stay out of the way of the occasional monster than wanders in to town.
Raguna is a pretty easy going guy, he doesn't seem too phased by being offered a place to live and it's easy for him to make friends. He seems to be possessed of a relaxed charisma that people find attractive, they want to help him, and often give him gifts to help him on his way.
The people of Trampoli do have secrets however, the inhabitants have backstories and personalities that you uncover as you play the game. The timeframe here is vast, you spend years in Trampoli, and your relationships develop slowly as you speak to people, use their services or give special gifts. There are 9 bachelorettes that you can woo and eventually marry and they are, in fact tied into the fate of the town itself. For some reason there is a large, sentient island floating above Trampoli, that is in the shape of a whale. To find the connection the maidens have to the island, which is slowly losing power, threatening to fall on the town, you must work the land, court the girl(s) and explore the four elemental dungeons below.
In Harvest moon you could woo girls, grow crops and raise animals and that is all still present in the Rune Factory Series. You buy seeds, clear the land, plant them and sell your crops. This all results in cash to upgrade your house, it's decoration and interior and buy equipment to cook, brew potions or forge gear.
There's actually a hell of a lot to do! Sometimes I feel like time is getting away from me to be honest. A day passes incredibly quickly, in fact in ten real seconds, ten minutes of game time passes. Crops grow if you water them, and take a set number of days to mature. Watering crops, tilling land, breaking up rocks or chopping wood all use up rune points. Your rune points can be restored with food or by relaxing at the spa (once a day) Here's the catch though, food is cooked by you, and it consumes rune points to make it or fish for ingredients or grow the veggies...etc. The balance is about finding the best foods you can make and stock piling it ready for a day of crafting, or fishing or dungeon crawling. (swinging your weapon also consumes it)
If you run out of rune points you end up collapsed and back in the hospital, possibly with a cold.
Learning how to pace yourself is important, if you work too hard you end up exhausted and can't run through town, walking takes forever to get anywhere.
However, if just seeing to your farm is running your rune points down too quickly (which might be a sign you've bitten off more than you can chew) there's hope. Firstly, you can upgrade your equipment with resources found in dungeons. This saves time and effort, for example, the watering can only waters one square of field, but upgrade it and it will water a line of three, so that eventually you can cover whole areas of your land with one move. The resources are hard to get to sometimes and require levelling in the dungeon both to reach them and to be strong enough to wield the upgraded tool.
There is also a monster raising element to the game. You encounter monsters in the dungeons that will try to kill you, if you use a taming glove you can send them back to the barn where if you keep them fed and pet them every day they eventually become domesticated. They will then perform tasks on the farm that can save you time and effort. Elefuns for example, will water crops for you, and some humanoids will harvest crops, helpfully placing them in the collection bin ready to be sold. Shiny!
The relationship mechanic is based on you finding out what people like, what their favourite gifts are. You can do this for every inhabitant but it is especially important for your chosen beau. She will eventually become your wife (after a few quests) and you can have a child with her later in the game.
I really like being forced to slow down and take it easy. There are so many games that foster the 'moremoremoreshinygimmegimme!' aspect of gaming that when you achieve something in Rune Factory Frontier it really does feel like an achievement. You certainly can't dedicate too long every day to chopping wood for a bigger house, but if you do a little every day and sell enough well grown crops you'll have enough wood and cash eventually and then, that bigger house will feel like a palace!
The other thing worth mentioning is the quality of the cutscenes. Every bachelorette is introduced via a short FMV anime scene that wouldn't look out of place in a feature length film. The graphics even in game play are, while being cartoony and comical, beautifully designed and polished. There are no glitchy animations and while I would prefer subtitled Japanese voices to the American voiceovers , they do suit the characters and it is at least well acted.
Another nice feature is the sound effects. They are brilliantly well crafted and very clear, and the designers have made use of the speaker in the Wiimote too, fishing is actually really fun for the sound effects alone!
The balance at the start of the game is a little off. It's far too easy to be overwhelmed by everything you have to do, and there's no real guide to how to make certain characters appear. My advice on that is to check a walkthrough for making characters move to the town, else you could actually miss a few, or have them move in years after you do.
Oh, and Winter.
If you enjoy resource management games, sim farming and so on, and you're looking for something that fulfils a deeper story and character interaction I can highly recommend this game. I don't know that people really need to own every Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game there is since the plot tends to take a back seat to the mechanics, but I played the old PS2 version of Harvest Moon, and I have the original Rune Factory on the DS, I can honestly say the Frontier is a better game than both of them. The Wii suits the game so well that I am actually tempted to get Tides of Destiny when I get a PS3 just to see how they compare.
== RUNE FACTORY FRONTIER ==
Rune Factory is a simulation role playing game available for the Wii. The game was developed by Neverland Co and the Europe version was published by Rising Star Games. Rune Factory is like the Harvest Moon games in many ways but it features something that not one single Harvest Moon game features and that's the ability to explore dungeons, fight and use monsters to do certain tasks. A few months ago I would of said Harvest Moon is the better game but now that I have played this more I'm starting to prefer this. The story to the game is much better than what the Harvest Moon games offer.
You play as a young man called Raguna who leaves his hometown to search for his childhood sweetheart Mist. He comes to a small village and stumbles upon her. He asks Mist to come back home but she somehow persuades Raguna to stay in this village and rebuild it to its full potential. Raguna is giving a small house to live in and a fairly decent sized bit of farm land. Raguna then finds out about Whale island floating above the village and he finds that it could fall on the village at anytime. Now he must do what he can to save and help the village.
=== GAMEPLAY ===
Rune Factory Frontier has a lot of similar gameplay to that of Harvest Moon. You can pretty much explore the whole island straight from the off and in Rune Factory there are numerous places you would like to visit or you would need to visit. Like Harvest Moon your goal is to run a farm, grown crops, water them and either sell them on or use them for other bits to make money. Your farm starts off like its been neglected for years and that's because it has been. The game is motion sensitive. I always seem to slightly move when playing this and I end up watering villagers or doing something else ridiculous. I'm not a massive fan of the motion sensor for the Wii, especially for games like this. You get your usual tools like you do in Harvest Moon. Farming tools and other tools and equipment such as a fishing rod. You only start with a few tools though. You start with a hoe, watering can and a packet of Turnip seeds. As you explore the village and talk to villages they will give you other tools such as the hammer and the axe. Upgrading your tools is much better in this game because you have to go find the bits you need to upgrade them. You could need 3 different ores to upgrade something which is a great idea because money is extremely easy to get on this game.
In the game there are a lot of places in the village to visit. There are 13 girls that you can possibly make fall in love with you. Each has there favourite things in which you can take advantage of to make them fall for you quicker. Doing this can make your life change completely because if you do this correctly you can marry your girl and have a kid with her as well as live together. You can get house upgrades from the local builder in the village. You need to get enough lumber for that upgrade or installment as well as the amount of money he needs. The guy is a little weird at times but hes harmless and will always be handy. You can install parts to your house to make it bigger. You can even find a peddler in town that sells items for your kitchen or other rooms in your house. You can buy utensils for cooking as well. You can also have buildings built on your property and these include a monster barn for your monsters. Another thing that's different is on Harvest Moon you can have chickens, cows and sheep but Rune Factory is just monsters but there are lots of different monsters. You have to care for your monsters like you would your cows and chickens by talking to them, brushing them and feeding them. Your barn can only hold ten monsters but every time you upgrade it you can add an extra ten!
There are festivals that you can take part in just like the festivals in the Harvest Moon games. These are without a doubt one of the best bits about the game. They're fun and very entertaining with mini games and so on. Other bits you can do on the game is go mining which is really good for finding rare items. You can mine things to use to make gifts for the girl or girls you like, you can also use the ores you've mined to upgrade weapons or tools. The weapons on the game are good. There are so many different types that include spears, single handed swords or double handed weapons as well. You can also buy armor to equip to make your defense better so you take less damage. A good thing is the armor you equip can be seen on your character as you move around. I also like the fact that every time you talk to the villagers they always say something different and this means its best to talk to them daily because you can find out secret bits about the game this way. You will also get new villagers that want to stay in the village and help rebuild it. Raguna has a rucksack just like the one from Harvest Moon but the best thing about this one is it can carry absolutely loads of items and you barely ever run out of space. This is a fantastic idea because every time with Harvest Moon I found my rucksack would always be full. On Rune Factory its never been filled yet!
Rune Factory is a fantastic game to play. I absolutely adore these games because of the things you can do on them. Farming is as good as it is on Harvest Moon games and this one even has dungeons which you can explore to find treasures or even monsters to recruit. I also love the fact you can start a family and make friends. There is only the main game mode available but it really doesn't disappoint. Rune Factory Frontier is one of my all time favourite games now and I would really recommend it if you like Harvest Moon.
=== GRAPHICS & SOUND EFFECTS ===
The games graphics are by far the best I have seen on the Wii. While most Wii games are fairly weak graphics wise they usually make up for it in other departments. Rune Factory has everything. The graphics are top notch and it features everything a game should. I loved the design of the villages and how the weather changes. I also think every character in the game is fantastically designed and even the characters that aren't important are nicely done. I loved the scenery in the game and would say its the best looking feature about the graphics. Also the overall design of the buildings, monsters and other aspects are brilliant and very impressive!
The sound effects are also fairly good to the game. The music is really catchy and I like how it fits into the game. Also the characters are voiced but they don't always speak and most the time its just reading. Other sound effects are good. I particularly liked the farming sounds and fighting sounds. It definitely made the game feel more special. Overall the graphics are fantastic for a Wii game and the sound effects aren't too shabby either.
=== DIFFICULTY & LONGEVITY ===
Rune Factory Frontier isn't a difficult game at all. Its suitable for most gamers and is easy to adjust to. The controls are very simple but the motion sensor can be annoying. You can however turn them off in the options menu. Its easy to get the hang of the game. It may seem a lot to cope with at first but its easily picked up. The hardest part of the game is probably finding all your tools and upgrading your house and other bits. The length of the game is really good in my opinion. You can keep playing the game through and through non-stop. There are four seasons in the game like Harvest Moon and you can just keep playing and playing doing what you do daily. It is a little repetitive but it doesn't get boring at all. Both the difficulty of the game and length are really good to be fair and are suitable for most gamers.
=== GOOD BITS ===
*Its like Harvest Moon but has more stuff available!
*Farm, mine, fight and fall in love.
*The graphics are the best on the Wii and the sound effects are equally as impressive.
*The game is very easy and fantastic in terms of length. It can last a lifetime!
*The story to the game is quite entertaining and the game is funny at times.
=== BAD BITS ===
*No multiplayer options and only just the one game mode but its not incredibly important or bad.
*The mini games are good but they're far too easy.
*The game can become repetitive at times especially when your doing the smae stuff just on different days.
=== FINAL THOUGHT ===
Rune Factory Frontier is a fantastic game and can be enjoyed by many different gamers. I'm more of a proper fantasy RPG fan but this is definitely one of the best. I like the fact you can level up in the game which enables your stamina to last a lot longer. Also you can level up your tools but that's not really that good.
I would recommend the game to fans of the series or to fans of the Harvest Moon series as well. I would also recommend the game to younger gamers because its fun to play. The game manual is brilliant, full of pictures and information.
The game is going for a reasonable price of around the £20 mark which is fantastic value for a game that has a lot to offer. The game has an age rating of 12+ and that's mainly because of the fighting and monsters. I don't really see why younger gamers cant play this.
A top game with lots to do. I would give Rune Factory a solid 9/10! Its definitely a game worth owning!
Review also on Ciao under the username: MrBrightside1987!
I think Rune Factory Frontier is the best of all the Rune factory games released so far!
Like all the Rune factory/Harvest moons games you have to farm the land gain forging, crafting, cooking and lab skills. Build a barn and make friends with monsters to help you with the farming. Make friends with the villagers and convince a girl to marry you. The part that is different to the other games is to complete the crafting or cooking you have to press the A buttons on your wii-mote when the cursor falls within a green zone on a toolbar on screen. This is a massive improvement on crafting in the other games where it appeared to be left up to luck. As your skill increases the green section gets larger and hitting it gets easier. You also have toolbars associated with each character that you have to make friends with so you can see how close they are to getting to the next level of friendship or love with you.
This games follows on from the first Rune factory game on the DS, you play as Raguna again, Mist from the first game has gone missing and you set off to find her. You have to explore the floating island above your head and find a way to access the caves and fight the monsters within. These caves each have several floors and the hardest part about is the negotiating the maze of rooms trying to find the stairs to the floor below.
This game take the rune factory games and gives them great visuals and uses the wii to make this a really fun and addictive game to play. Currently about £15 on amazon.