Rune Factory 4 on Nintendo 3DS comes from Marvelous AQL and arrives in the United States thanks to XSEED Games out of Torrance, California games who have really know about their JRPGs and have an amazing lineup of games that include: Killer is Dead, Ragnarok Odyssey, and The Last Story. Each of their games have had a huge amount of polish on them and have great reviews across the board. This particular title was originally developed by Neverland Co. and first saw release in Japan on July 19, 2012 while the European release date is expected some time in the first quarter of 2014.
Rune Factory 4 has a relatively strange story-line. The player will find the main character Lest who is the male protagonist or Frey who is the female protagonist attacked while aboard an Airship. Suffering from amnesia the player will find their character falling from the sky and landing in the town of Selphia where they’ll be questioned by a dragon called Ventuswill, a native dragon to Selphia. Lest / Frey doesn’t know what he / she is doing there and is mistaken for royalty as a prince / princess to help run the town only to find out the real prince Arthur comes to town and there is some confusion but the prince lets Lest/Frey stay and help run the town anyhow. There is also a lot of dungeon exploration early on as well.
Most of the story is told in-game with dialogue on-screen and can be read as the player sees fit. There are also choices that the player can make to interact with the rest of the dialogue. Lest and Frey are examples of the first time in the series that the user has been allowed to choose between playing a male or female character from the start and I think that is a great choice to be given as a player. A great deal of the game is spent battling monsters, which is always a fun part of any JRPG, unfortunately this game is really frustrating to play and seems to have failed in creating a gameplay experience worth paying for.
Gameplay is Rune Factory 4 leaves a lot to be desired. The game starts out very exciting with the user finding themselves in an airship on what seems to be a very huge quest, and then gets attacked by two men in a very brief combat scene and then the user gets knocked out. From there the game really took a dive into boring-land with a huge amount of dialogue and little-to-no actual gameplay. There is a lot of discussion to be had, and yes the story is a very important part of Rune Factory 4, but the feeling of clicking through story non-stop really isn’t that fun. At times it felt like this wasn’t a game but rather a graphic novel with bits of gameplay thrown into the mix.
One of the first big breaks from all the dialogue is going into the farming simulation where the player can build up and farm their own patch of Earth and the nice thing is that it isn’t a grid-based farming system. The user can set their farm up the way they like. One of the other important mechanics of the game is having the user build up their town and bring in new tourism so there is a lot of various simulation-based activities to do in the game. The ‘love system’ in Rune Factory 4 is very intense and a lot has been added to let the user really get involved with the story.
The controls for Rune Factory 4 is quite simple actually. Most of the game can be controlled with the A and B buttons on the Nintendo 3DS and most of the actual dialogue can be chosen by selecting options with the D pad or circle pad. The user can open their items with the left shoulder button then scroll through their items and select / equip their items.
In terms of characters beyond the main ones, Volkanon is one of the butlers that the user will first meet in the game and works for the dragon in town and always seems to be over emotional when the user talks to him. Ventuswill is the dragon that the user will first encounter in the game and will question the user a lot about so much stuff but has a great tree of dialogue (if you’re into heavy reading) and on the other end can also talk forever, until your eyes hurt and you’re wishing for more gameplay it seems. In addition to these there are a lot of bachelors and bachelorettes in Rune Factory 4’s character roster.
The graphics produced by the game’s engine look great in cut-scenes, are crisp and beautiful, but most of the game is fully pixelated. It’s very interesting that each time a new character is introduced there is a short anime video of the character but then the rest of the time we are met with a strangely designed 8 bit character. While this does fit Rune Factory 4’s art direction choices it does eventually hurt your eyes but looks cool in its own way none-the-less.
The replay-ability of Rune Factory 4 is low to medium for most users with all of the dialogue to go through, all of the farming, and all of the town upkeep I can’t say I would see a lot of players returning to this game after they’ve beaten it. There is a lot of crafting to be done to keep busy during the time playing the game and there are ruins to explore as well as monsters to kill, so there is plenty to play. Often times the dialogue is just so heavy though and the gameplay, when it finally comes, feels like a chore.
Final Verdict: While I feel that Rune Factory 4 isn’t the greatest title, it has a niche crowd out there that will enjoy it anyways. Some of the major problems with this game are the dialogue and story feeling very dry and drawn out where the user can sometimes go through what feels like completely pointless dialogue before even getting to play a scene of the game. The farming and grinding doesn’t seem to be the funnest parts of the game which is a bad thing because the player just went through a lot of reading to get to it. Rune Factory 4’s gameplay only gets to be more and more taxing as the game goes on. The music, like the rest of the game, could have really used a switch-up so the same thing isn’t being heard over and over again. I do believe that the combat is quite good and having choice in conversations really adds to the experience to keep it fresh, but a complete lack of variety in every other way makes Rune Factory 4 considerably below our RGN Bronze Rating.
Overall Score: 5/10
RGN Rating: Below Bronze
Developer: Neverland Co.
Publishers: Marvelous AQL / XSEED Games
Available On: Nintendo 3DS
Review Copy Info- A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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