Product Type: Rising Star Wii games
Newest Review: ... 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 hous... more
Rune Factory, a fun Frontier for Simfarming
Rune Factory: Frontier (Wii)
Member Name: nevikrose
Rune Factory: Frontier (Wii)
Advantages: Great graphics and good, indepth character development
Disadvantages: oddly paced, might be too slow moving for some impatient gamers
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.
Summary: The best of any of the Harvest Moon or Rune Factory series
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