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The Storied History of Rune Factory

by Kimberly Keller - September 14, 2013, 9:08 am EDT
Total comments: 2

Let's get geared up for Rune Factory 4's eventual release with a history lesson!

After a double delay and with anticipation mounting, Rune Factory 4’s North American release can’t come soon enough. The game was already released in Japan last year to rave reviews, and was also shown off with an extensive demo at E3 which we were able to play…extensively. Rune Factory 4 is not only exceeding expectations as Japan’s highest selling game of the series, but is also already leading towards the announcement of a Rune Factory 5. So, in spirit of the game’s eventual North American launch, let’s take a look back at the history of Rune Factory.

Developed by Neverland Co., Rune Factory was published by Marvelous Entertainment, famously known for their other series, Harvest Moon. According to Rune Factory Producer Yashimoto Hirofumi, the first game in the series, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, was created as a special product to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Harvest Moon but took off with a life of its own after receiving high reviews.

The game contained a lot of similarities to its predecessor: players can grow crops, players can upgrade their farm equipment, certain actions require stamina (or Rune Points), and the passage of time is relative  to the real world (one minute goes by  for every real world second). However, Hirofumi wanted to expand the world of Harvest Moon and add in more “western ideas” into his game. Inspired by the exploration allowed by Dragon Quest, Yashimoto set out to create an open world game with a focus on exploration and giving players a choice long after the end credits.

Unlike Harvest Moon, players in Rune Factory are able to choose what they want to spend their time on. They can battle their way through dungeons, focus on friendships, develop their farm, or even start a relationship and get married! NPCs all have personalities and backstories, reacting to the world around them and thus extending the game further. The game’s freedom even spreads into the linear storyline of each game: players are never forced to pursue the story’s end, and even the final boss battle can be ignored.

With the seemingly infinite choices a player has, planning ahead is always important. Time, weather, and seasons all affect NPCs and available actions. Different events occur often, and NPC birthdays are important to keep track of if you want to grow a friendship.

There are six games so far in the series, all beginning with Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon for the Nintendo DS, released in Japan in 2006. North America received it a year later, and it was brought to Europe and Australia in 2009, a year after Rune Factory 2 was already out in Japan and North America. This first game introduced players to the town of Kardia, where an amnesiac male protagonist collapses in front of a kind villager’s house. Every game in the series begins with an amnesiac character that learns the ways of the town along with the player.

Though most games in the series feature a male lead, Rune Factory 2 allowed players to partly play as a female protagonist by introducing a second generation to the story. After completing the main storyline and getting married, players were able to choose their child’s gender. The game speeds forward some years, and begins a second part centered around the child’s nine-year-old problems.

The Japanese release of Rune Factory 2 dropped the game’s original reference to Harvest Moon from the name. Due to the first game’s success, Marvelous Entertainment decided to grow it as an independent series and even released multiple manga series in various magazines to help promote the game’s release. Interestingly, Natsume, the NA publisher for most of the series, kept the Harvest Moon reference on their numbered releases.

Rune Factory Frontier, for the Wii, was released only months after Rune Factory 2, and became the only game until Rune Factory 4 to be published in North America by Xseed Games. One year later, the series would return to the DS for Rune Factory 3.

Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is the only title to be released on a Sony console. As a PlayStation 3 and Wii release, the game took advantage of both the Wii Remote and PlayStation Move controllers to greatly add to game mechanics. This was the second game to allow players to play as a female protagonist again once the main storyline was completed.

All the games take place in the fantasy continent of Adonea, which contains two large nations: the Kingdom of Norad and the Sechs Empire. Some species, like elves, have their own, smaller nations on islands or in certain regions. The games take place in villages in the Norad Kingdom where people focus on magic, while the Sechs rely on machinery. For the most part, the world is peaceful, with Kardia being the exception due to its status as a border town.

Rune Factory 4 will be the first game in the series released on the 3DS and will take relationship elements even further. With the game’s theme being described as “passionate love, sweet marriage”, more dating events and drama will be brought to the game. For the first time, players can choose their character’s gender from the beginning of the game and must rule over their town as a prince or princess with the help of a god-like dragon who hangs out in your castle.

Long term relationships will also be introduced and defeated monsters can even transform into humanoid characters that can even become potential mates, because why not? Taking the theme even further, players not wishing to be separated from their families can even bring them into battle, including children!

For fans of the whole series, a nod to the past can be found in the form of cameos from Rune Factory 2 and 3. These characters can even be recruited into the player’s party, hopefully saving the protagonist’s children from the horrors of battle.

I will be reviewing the North American release when it finally arrives stateside, tending my crops, marketing my town to tourists, falling in love with perfectly drawn anime men, and laying waste to any monster foolish enough to challenge me – all while battling through amnesia and befriending dragons and townsfolk. Will I remember all their birthdays? Will I declare endless festivals? Or perhaps, will I destroy all of the furniture in my castle in a fit of rage? Weirdly enough, all of these are viable options in the insane microcosm that is Rune Factory.



KDR_11kSeptember 14, 2013

I played RF2 (which came out much later here than RF3 did in the states) for a while but never figured out how to get deeper into the dungeons and ended up so vastly outleveling everything I could reach that it felt pointless. The girl's storyline that I pursued had what was supposed to be a boss fight at the end, the pet I took with me killed that boss in one hit. No more quests left on the board, couldn't find new areas to explore, got bored and quit.

I've always been interested in this series but have never gotten around to it. Since the most recent traditional Harvest Moon is a bit too much like Animal Crossing: New Leaf for me to want to play both simultaneously, this seems like the perfect time for me to finally jump in.

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