Important Importables: Rune Factory

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If you keep up with GamerTell, you’ve probably noticed we’ve got a few Rune Factory fans on staff. We’ve got a soft spot for the game where players typically play some initially hapless man (or even woman) who winds up in a small town that not only is surrounded by dungeons filled with monsters, but also has a farm where he (or she) can live rent free.

So let’s celebrate the series this Friday! After all, a new entry in the series is out. We can look back at where Rune Factory has been, and then look forward to see where the series is going.

How did Rune Factory get started?

Rune Factory is a Harvest Moon spin-off. It was actually released as a way to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the original series in Japan. Harvest Moon was released on the NES in 1996, and then Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon was released on the DS in 2006. Yoshifumi Hashimoto, the game’s producer, also cited Dragon Quest as a major influence.

That initial experiment in blending farming and dungeon crawling went really well for Neverland Co. Ltd, the developers, and Marvelous Entertainment. It was well received, which lead to a sequel with a new hero and set in a new town. Meanwhile, a direct sequel to the original game called Rune Factory Frontier appeared on the Wii. Since then, Rune Factory 3 has also appeared on the DS and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny brought the series again to the Wii and for the first time to the PS3.

In more good news, almost every game has been released worldwide. You can get Rune Factory 1-3 and the console releases in North America, Japan and Europe. Australians only have access to the first two Rune Factory DS games, but since the DS is region-free, they can always import Rune Factory 3.

Personally, I’d say Rune Factory and Rune Factory 3 are the best entries in the series. Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is quite good as well, but it’s light on the farming elements. Rune Factory 2 is interesting, especially with the generation mechanic, but it isn’t as strong as the other handheld Rune Factory games. As for Rune Factory Frontier, I’d only suggest it to serious Rune Factory fans as it has a complicated and often frustrating farming system that requires the finding and gathering of sprites called Runeys.

So what’s next for the series?

I’m happy to report that the Rune Factory series is still going strong. The next entry was just released on July 19, 2012 in Japan! It’s Rune Factory 4 and will be headed to the 3DS on , 2012. The basic formula of the game is still the same. There will farming, relationship building and action RPG elements. A few new tweaks are making the formula fresh.

The biggest change is that there will be a male or female protagonist right from the outset. The only other game with an option like that is Rune Factory 2, and that only happened in the second generation. The second is a city management aspect, as your hero or heroine is royalty. He or she is the prince or princess of the realm, and as such has other obligations aside from farming and networking. Finally, there will be monsters that, when defeated, transform into people your avatar can marry. I suppose the addition of some slight steampunk elements is a pretty big deal, as there happens to be an airship in the introduction.

Speaking of marriage, the relationship aspects have been altered to make Rune Factory 4 more realistic. Your character will now be able to date bachelors or bachelorettes. This is called the lover state and the hero or heroine can have multiple lovers. The game will even zoom in when a romantic moment comes up. When the time for marrige comes, you can have your character marry whoever he or she wants.

Of course, it being on the 3DS means there will be optional 3D as well, but I doubt that matters much to real Rune Factory fans.

Sadly, importing isn’t an option unless you have a Japanese 3DS, due to the 3DS region-locking. Let’s hope Natsume picks it up!

COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Importables explains BlazBlue’s story, so you’ll be ready for Chrono Phantasma.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables talked about the Silent Hill games that never left Japan.

Follow Jenni on Twitter for more import game updates and general fangirl enthusiasm!

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