riostarwind's Rune Factory 4 Special (Nintendo Switch) review

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As a time management game this one has a lot of good points that may start to overstay their welcome a bit

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I’ve been a fan of the Harvest Moon series since the first game on the SNES. I’ve not really touched another game like it since barely playing one of the PS3 Rune Factory games. Which is too bad since I do like this style of daily management game. So on a wilm I decided to pick up this game and now I’m hooked once again. Although I wouldn’t say these games are known for their storyline this one does have one so let me convey that to you first.

With this being a new version it does have some new features like dual audio.
With this being a new version it does have some new features like dual audio.

At first all seems to be well as our unnamed protagonist makes their way to the land of Selphia on an airship. They seem to be bringing something back that’ll help but before they could do anything they end up falling off the ship via surprise attack. By pure chance they land on the wind dragon that governs the town they will soon live in. Soon it becomes obvious that the protag has amnesia. Luckily it seems everyone thinks they are the prince/princess and now they must tend to the royal farm. Confused but willing to do whatever our protagonist starts their new life.

That reads like the most haphazard way to get from one point to another one but it works I guess. After the intro the game slowly introduces all the different things you can do each day. Which can be a little overwhelming once you have access to everything. I was not prepared for the amount of stuff it is possible to craft. Yet a lot like Animal Crossing you start to have a routine for every in game day. Still the core is about farming kinda so let’s start with that.

Not much has changed on this front. Till the land and water the plants so they grow. Managing the soil is a new element but I can’t say it really hurt my farming efforts much since all that requires is not using the same section of the farm for a few days. A monster barn gets added on to property and that ends up being your livestock area. So recruiting a cow like monster will give the player milk every morning. Throwing random items at monsters in the overworld is how the player can recruit new allies. Then they can also then help in any fights you might encounter as well.

The main way you can mix up the fights in the game is the variety of weapons/magic the player can use.
The main way you can mix up the fights in the game is the variety of weapons/magic the player can use.

Elsewhere the player can battle monsters and it is pretty basic. Every weapon the protag can use has a two to four hit combo attack . Along with a charge attack that can be learned by using it a lot. Special moves can also be equipped to the x and y buttons. They can be magic spells like cure or special attacks like an uppercut. None of the fights are very complex and you don’t even get a dodge roll to avoid attacks. It works well enough and is mostly used for continuing the storyline via different dungeons. Along the way a bunch of items can be picked up to craft a ton of stuff.

Early on you get access to cooking tools. Gathering the right items and then combining them together equals a new tasty dish. Doing that multiple times will increase a skill rank. No matter what you do in this game between sleeping and bathing in the hot springs you are likely to rank up something just by walking around. All the other things you can craft like weapons and farm tools all have their own level up tree. Really starts to feel like some MMOs that have different level up trees for crafters. But the only way to learn new things to make is via cooking bread. Yes eating bread is the only way to learn things in this world if you're a crafter. Since each item requires using rune points it makes sense not to let the player see some of the later items till you have enough to make em. All of this stuff can then be sold in your very own shop to make some extra money vs what you would get by selling them in the box every morning.

Getting all that stuff unlocked takes quite a while. Since most of it is either gained by using prince/princess points to decree something new to happen like a festival or just getting a cooking license. Like a lot of games the slow build up can be a little boring but once you get everything it is enjoyable to do an assortment of things each day. With this being a port of a 3DS game the graphics aren’t going to impress anyone. Reminds me of a DS game more than a 3DS game honestly. Additionally most of the characters are one note archetypes as well. They do get quite a lot of unique lines for whatever’s going on in the town and some skits that give a few of them a bit more than a generic anime archetype.

At some point money just doesn't become a issue. Although I never made my farm look this crazy.
At some point money just doesn't become a issue. Although I never made my farm look this crazy.

Yet as the game's storyline continues to ramp up it does start to become more like they are just padding things out instead of just ending the rather predictable story. The later half of the game really shows off how limited the combat can be. One note arena fights without any real way to block attacks other than healing is not a fun time at all. Then it just comes down to crafting the better weapon/armor to succeed. I didn’t mind doing some crafting as I was slowly going through the game but when it forces me to do it then I’m not having a fun time anymore. After I enjoyed so much of the game it is rather sad that my time ended on a sour note.

Yet overall I enjoyed going around doing this or that to improve the player character in some way. Truely a game built for people that like to multitask a lot. Even if you don’t like one element of the game it isn’t like you have to interact with it to finish the storyline if that’s what you care about. Or if all you want is an amazing farm that is possible too. Although I do think the game works at it’s best when you're doing a little bit of everything. If any of this sounds interesting to you then I think it’s a game worth playing.

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