Rune Factory is an RPG spin-off from the Harvest Moon universe and it brings a much more narrowed emphasis on storytelling and character progression to the table. Not only does it still retain the traditional tasks from Harvest Moon, like farming, harvesting, trading and marriage, it also combines these simulations with RPG elements, like a battle system and the standard RPG-esque storytelling.
Developed by Neverland, Rune Factory 3 is the latest instalment in the franchise to be published by Natsume for the Nintendo DS in North America. It is the tale of a young half-breed lad who is sent on a quest to try and reunite the human and monster world together again. For some reason, both humans and monsters stopped communicating with each other and as the ages passed, that reason was lost and yet neither race seemed willing to contact the other.
Since the main character is a half-breed, players will be able to transform into either human or beast form, which is a rather cute wooly humanoid sheep. In relation to Harvest Moon, players are able to start their own farm, harvest and sell their items. Players will also be able to find a soul mate for the hero and there is a good selection of NPCs to choose from. Inviting them to the party, giving them certain items and just interacting positively with them will boost affection levels and determine who the hero falls in love with. Unfortunately, marriage does not offer any beneficial statistical boosts to the player and seems more of an aesthetic feature. NPCs invited to join the hero in his quest have their own specific abilities and can prove to be very useful depending on who and what the hero will be fighting.
Rune Factory 3 will also include multiplayer coop, allowing players to visit each other's farms and trade locally or over Nintendo Wi-Fi. There are also extra missions available just for cooperative play and while the single player campaign can be finished quite easily by solo players, the extra coop missions can be impressively hard and the extra set of swords are definitely appreciated when going head to head with a level 200 beast.
Rune Factory 3 certainly plays like a JRPG with its charming cast of characters and story. The story does sound fun and interesting and the core mechanics play quite well. Fans of the franchise and of Harvest Moon should definitely keep an eye on this. The game is set to be released on July 27 this year.