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Rune Factory: Frontier

by James Jones - July 14, 2009, 8:36 pm PDT
Total comments: 20


Would you like to see my turnips?

Rune Factory Frontier is the third title in the Rune Factory franchise, and the first on the Wii. The first Rune Factory title debuted on the DS back in 2007. Rune Factory is a spin-off of Natsume's long-running Harvest Moon franchise; Yoshifumi Hashimoto (a long-time producer of Harvest Moon titles) described it as, "Harvest Moon where you wield a sword." Frontier is definitely a game that gives the player a lot to do, but the massive amount of playtime required to complete it may ultimately turn some players off.

For those unfamiliar, the Harvest Moon formula tasks the player with moving to a new town and taking over a run-down farm, making it profitable, all while courting one of the town's available young ladies. All of this makes it into Rune Factory Frontier, but it comes with the addition of dungeon exploration, cooking, crafting, blacksmithing, and many other forms of distraction.

The game has strong RPG elements. Combat increases not only your base level but the also the level of each skill you use. Swing the sword a lot and you'll level up your sword skills; water the plants and you'll do the same.

The addition of dungeon-crawling gives players four dungeons to explore, each of them having a seasonal theme. While four may seem like a small number, they aren't easy. The dungeons are long, the enemies are fierce, and your ever-decreasing stamina is a constant danger. Once your stamina is depleted, your health is next. Run out of health and you fall in a heap. Each swing of the sword, wave of the wand, or thrust of the lance moves you ever closer to collapse.

While these dungeons do reveal more of the game's plot, they also give you new opportunities to farm. While the crops you can grow in your field are limited by the game's season, the dungeons offer you year-round access to seasonal crops. Small plots of arable land dot the floors of the dungeons. Need to grow a summer crop? Go farm it in the volcano dungeon. Need a spring crop? The spring cave is the place for you!

The dungeons also offer you access to slave labor in the form of tamed monsters. If you can withstand trying to pet the monster while they maul you, you can earn a new critter for your barn. Some (cow and chickenlike creatures) provide you additional crops, some collect items like seeds and minerals, while others perform farming chores (such as harvesting, clearing land, and watering crops). This labor force frees you up to do other things, like fighting and engaging in crafts.

There is a lot to do in Rune Factory Frontier, but the catch is that it takes a long time to do things. Many of the daily events are based on the time of day; for example, mail comes at 7:04am, many of the townfolk start to stir around 8:00am, and the spa (where you can refill your stamina and health gauges once a day) doesn't open until 3:00pm. The spa is the worst, because if you have a lot of crops to tend it is very easy to burn through most of your stamina and health by 9:00am. This means you have to wait an additional six game hours (one in-game minute is about one real-world second) to get back to work. While you can talk to people during this time, the game does drag because of it.

It takes roughly thirty real-world hours to complete one year of the game. Like an Animal Crossing title, it’s clear that Rune Factory Frontier is meant to be played in short, daily bursts over an extended period of time.

Since many of your relationships aren't in place until year two, it takes a while to get one of the game’s little ladies to cohabitate with you. It's not an easy task either; each girl has likes and dislikes. Not only do you need to give them gifts, but you also have to do certain things during your daily activities in order to sway each girl's heart.

The controls come in two flavors: Wii Remote/Nunchuk or Classic Controller. Both of them work equally well. You move with the Analog Stick and the buttons allow you to interact, access menus, and use tools. Both schemes are easy to learn, and neither makes much use of motion control. The Wii Remote/Nunchuk setup uses the Nunchuk to knock on locked doors, which is about as minor a use as one could manage to contrive, and tools are used by swinging the Wii Remote. I primarily used the Remote and Nunchuk layout, relying on button presses instead of motion controls.

Graphically, Rune Factory Frontier is really beautiful. The color palettes reflect the current season, the character models and architecture are appropriately rustic, and the elements of nature do much to cement the image of a small frontier community. Everything looks sharp, and the world is diverse and vibrant. The anime-inspired 3D world is diverse, and a joy to navigate.

The audio is also well-executed. Music is diverse and enjoyable to listen to, and the game features a wide variety of sound effects (including a distinct Wii Remote sound for each tool) and a large amount of recorded dialog. The only issue is the lowfidelity Wii Remote speaker, but there's nothing the developers can do to fix that.

Overall, Rune Factory Frontier is a very strong title. The mechanics and presentation are well-executed, and there is an absolutely intimidating amount of content. There is a nice story, with the best collection of colorful characters I've ever seen in a Harvest Moon (or Rune Factory) title of this type. However, it’s hard to imagine Frontier keeping its momentum due to the huge amount of time it takes to really see the full breadth of what it has to offer. But if you have the time to put into it, you'll get a ton of play out of Rune Factory Frontier.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 8 8 7.5 8.5 8

Solid art direction coupled with sound execution makes this game easy on the eyes.


How many games today have a good soundtrack, hundreds of lines of voice work, tons of sound effects, AND Wii Remote speaker action? Not many. Rune Factory Frontier does, and it’s impressive.


The controls are simple and intuitive. Both schemes work, so pick the one that works for you. The decision to hold off on any forced implementation of motion control is appreciated.


Do you like to farm? Do you like to explore dungeons? Do you like to tame monsters? Smith weapons? Cook? Court? Craft? Mix? Fish? Build? Yeah, there's a lot to do. It would just be nice if you could do it more quickly.


This is a very long game. Depending on your preferences, this is either great or daunting. If you play it casually by picking it up a few times a week, it's great. However, if this is your main game, and you want to finish it quickly, the sheer amount of content can be oppressive.


Rune Factory Frontier is a lot of game. It's more than just Harvest Moon with swords; it really is its own franchise now (perhaps that’s why there is no mention of its predecessor anywhere). Everything is done with attention to detail that makes the world you live in seem alive and fun. It's a shame that many players will likely tire of the routine before seeing their farm through to the end.


  • Diverse gameplay options
  • Great art style
  • Lots of ladies, gents
  • Amount of time required to "see it all" is an investment the average person may not want to make
  • Occasionally feels very slow
Review Page 2: Conclusion


StratosJuly 15, 2009

Thanks for the review. I've been meaning to get this for a while so it's nice to read this as a reminder and also to know it is a pretty good game.

vuduJuly 15, 2009

Haven't you been working on this game for like 3 months now?  ;)

Which do you prefer--Harvest Moon or Rung Factory?

StratosJuly 15, 2009

Say, Crimm, have you played the DS RF games? Which do you prefer out of those? Do you think the DS and its portable pick-up-and-play friendliness would be more beneficial for a game of this scale?

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 15, 2009

I'm back from vacation and this is the first game I revisited.




BeautifulShyJuly 15, 2009

Welcome back Pro.

You seem to have gotten a fan club.

StratosJuly 15, 2009

The fanclub was here before he left.

Though it is nice to have you back, Pro. The forums just weren't the same without you.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 19, 2009

This game is officially my Animal Crossing.

Why doesn't the review have a thumbnail at the top of the front page hur?

StratosJuly 19, 2009

That would be interesting if you could play Rune Factory with other people like Animal Crossing. You could help each other with harvesting crops and your could go through the dungeons together. Maybe the girls you are wooing will tell your friends things like how they feel about you or tell them what they like and that was the only way you could find out what they liked.

Quote from: NinGurl69

This game is officially my Animal Crossing.

Why doesn't the review have a thumbnail at the top of the front page hur?

Because I think I'm the only person that makes them these days and I haven't gotten a chance to make one for it.

I can't say how this game stacks up to modern Harvest Moon games.  You could play this exactly like a Harvest Moon title, so I guess in that respect this game would be better.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 19, 2009

This is my first Harvest Moon-style game.  I absolutely love using the Harvest Moon foundation as a means of supporting the combat/adventuring.  The activities are intertwined, each major activity having multiple benefits that support other activities, resulting in a circular relationship.  I'll constantly shift activities as soon as I think I've acquired ingredients that would help me reap the benefits of other activities.  When I think I have an opportunity to acquire something "better," I take it, and I'm pleasantly surprised with new STUFF.  This is related to all the time I spent with weapon/armor Synthesis in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of Fist.

I expect to play this for the rest of the console cycle; I'm getting a ridiculous amount of value out it on my terms.  The Conduit can wait.

EasyCureJuly 20, 2009

I was at a gamestop the other day, trying to see if i could find any decent gameboy games, maybe even some old DS games i've missed, with their buy 2 get one free (used) game deal. When i found NOTHING good, i decided to check out the GC selection, just in case, and still saw nothing worthwhile (not at those prices). I let my curiosity wonder into the wii section and found Rune Factory ("new" but probably opened/played) on the shelf and was sooo tempted to buy it..

I didn't.

Then i got home, and wished i did. My wii is offline so the two main games i've been playing recently, Animal Crossing and The Conduit, are pretty much bust. I get bored of AC without the interactivity, and i get more fun out of the Conduits online player mode as well so the single-player can wait.. i would of LOVED to of farmed and woo'd girls this weekend but no, i didnt buy the freaking game! Now its on my mind, festering in there.. i NEED to buy this even though i know i'll never have the time to put into it that it deserves...

Maybe after work i'll go check out a non-gamestop retailer to see if they have it in stock. I'll pick it up and be the best member of the pro/daisy fanclub by not only posting like him, but eating like him* and playing the same games!

*I had a ton of junk food this weekend, ugh it was so good

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 20, 2009

I also eat things from the sea.  You should too.

EasyCureJuly 20, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

I also eat things from the sea.  You should too.

Not that fanatic about ya ;)

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 20, 2009

The best part of the squid is the tentacles if they're cooked to be crispy, has actual natural flavor unlike the body portions which are like drywall so they're usually accompanied by sauce.  The squid needs to be close to a foot in length so the tentacles would be large enough to provide substantial eating.

There is a lot of value in this title.  It's just that sometimes it feels very repetitive.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 21, 2009

When people like doing something, they repeat it anyway.  Hence people play video games.

Quote from: NinGurl69

When people like doing something, they repeat it anyway.  Hence people play video games.

har har

EasyCureJuly 22, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

When people like doing something, they repeat it anyway.  Hence people play video games.

Couldn't of said it better myself, and I've tried.

The fact that outside wooing girls and farming you can go into dungeons and battle monsters makes this much more appealing to me than your standard Harvest Moon title. I'm still playing HM (SNES) on the virtual console and although its much more repetitive than later titles in the HM franchise, its still very much enjoyable. I see RF being no different; its very niche and you gotta dip your feet in first. Rent it, and if you like it you're hooked, if you don't, you'll just never even think about it again.

StratosJuly 22, 2009

I was actually surprised at how bored I got with the SNES one when I got in on VC. Back in the day I thought you never could keep up and do everything but this time I ran out o things to do and was dragging out my wooing of girls just because I didn't want to get married yet. I was too good and did everything too efficiently. I was dumping money on cows like no tomorrow because I had nothing better to spend them on. I still like the SNES one, but the N64 one has much more to do.

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Game Profile

Rune Factory: Frontier Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Neverland Company

Worldwide Releases

na: Rune Factory: Frontier
Release Mar 17, 2009
jpn: Rune Factory Frontier
Release Year 2008
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