Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon begins with your character wandering starved and memory-less into a strange town. As he reaches the town his starvation overcomes him and he collapses in front of a house in a village. The home is owned by a land owner, Mist. After nursing him back to health your character explains to Mist that you have no recollection of your past or even your name. Your character and Mist come up with the name Raguna (default). After this, Mist offers Raguna a house on her land in exchange for working the fields.
It turns out you are in the town of Kardia on the eastern tip of Adonia. After the initial deal with Mist the story becomes largely open ended with Raguna juggling between farming his land, fighting monsters in surrounding dungeons, performing various tasks (see skills), and building relationships with the characters of Kardia. Eventually, if a strong enough relationship is established, the player can marry one of the girls of the village.
Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest moon takes place in a real-time world where each day is comprised of 24 minutes and there are six days a week. Visually the game is reminiscent of other Harvest Moon titles, though the presence of combat in the Rune Factory series brings comparisons to the Zelda series on the SNES. The game contains the typical farming components present in the Harvest Moon series with the addition of RPG elements. The player has two status bars a health bar (red) and a rune point (RP) bar (blue). Practically every use of the action button in the game expends RP (hoeing, watering, combat, spell casting, etc.). When RP are depleated the player then loses HP when the action button is used. Spells cannot be case when RP are depleted. Both health and rune points are replenished by either consuming certain items, collecting runes, or taking a bath at the bath house, or retiring for the night.
Gameplay in Rune Factory is quite varied but generally revolves around the collection of resources for further character development. The primary resources utilized in the game are monetary (gold), lumber, and ore. All items in game require gold for purchase while construction of new buildings or equipment utilizes lumber and ore (of varying sorts). The primary source of gold in game comes from the farming portion of the game. Lumber and ore on the other hand come from the use of the axe or hammer tool on tree stumps or mineral deposits in the game.
One of the most significant aspects of Rune Factory is the ability for the player to marry one of the women in Kardia (of a potential 11) after achieving a very high "heart" and "friend" ranking (and sometimes the use of a special item). The game continues after the marriage with the players wife living in the house.
Beyond the core components that derive gameplay there is a wide variety of side tasks that the player can undertake. Some of these include: fishing, cooking, and taming creatures.
As in the Harvest Moon series of games, Rune Factory puts great emphasis on farming. The player starts with a weed, rock, and tree stump filled patch of land and must clear and till the land to make it suitable for planting. Seeds are obtained from a local store and vary in season, pricing, and difficult to grow.
Crops must be planted in the appropriate season and must be watered daily before they can be harvested. In Rune Factory there are four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Each season has a separate group of crops that can be harvested. The various dungeons in the game also have farmland and seasons associated with them.
When a crop is ready to be harvested a glowing blue sphere will appear over one of the crop squares. This sphere is known as a rune and can be collected by the player to replish the players RP. Having enough ripe crops in your field will allow the complete refilling of an empty rune bar. The runes reappear each day after a rune is collected from the crop. One strategy is to place crops strategically in dungeons to extend the duration a player can spend in a dungeon (without running out of all RPs). This is where the title Rune Factory comes from, as ripe crops act as a factory for production of runes.
Combat in Rune Factory is very similar to other action RPGs. The player equips a primary weapon and a secondary skill. The primary weapon can be multiple forms of a: sword, axe, hammer, or staff. Upgraded weapons are obtained from the weapon smith in town. If the player loses all his HP in combat it is a game over, whereas if the HP are lost out of combat the player simply faints and is brought back in his home.
There are three grades of attack in Rune Factory the primary attack (performed by pressing the action button), the secondary attack (pressing and holding the action button), and the spell attack (pressing the spell casting button).
Combat can also take place with the aid of a tamed beast. Beasts also feature special attacks and their health bar shows up on screen to indicate how they are doing in combat.
Enemies in Rune Factory vary in the typical fantasy fashion. Each dungeon has an associate boss battle as well which features significantly more difficult combad against a larger foe.
In Rune Factory the player can develop relationships with all the characters in the game. The player can only develop romantic relationships with the female characters of roughly the same age (11 in total). There are two relationship rating in Rune Factory the friendship rating and the heart rating. Relationships are built be conversing with the characters in game, giving them items of their liking, or asking them on "dates" for various in-game events.
Below is a list of potential Wife characters with a brief description of their characteristics:
- Mist - Her carefree pace makes her seem undependable, but she's a reliable girl at heart.
- Rosetta - Jean's daughter. She is a tomboy and will often tell her father what to do.
- Felicity - Mayor Godwin's daughter, who is burdened with a silent sense of responsibility.
- Sharron - A mysterious atmosphere keeps others from associating with this beauty. Everyone else is afraid and stays away, but Raguna doesn't worry about it and is willing to approach her.
- Bianca - A rich and incredibly self-centered girl. In an especially outrageous display of selfishness, she wants her father to buy the village for her.
- Tori - A shy girl with totally different dreams from her elder brother Zavier.
- Tabatha - Having come from a foreign country in pursuit of knowledge, Tabatha currently works in Jasper's Mansion as Bianca's housemaid.
- Melody - An optimistic girl and a magic-lover.
- Mei - A mysterious woman who lives at the Inn and tends to keep to herself while spending most of her time alone up in the mountains or out on the beach.
- Lara - A kind young nurse who simply cannot ignore an injured person.
- Lynette - A former commander from the Sechs Empire who doesn't really understand the townsfolk.
In Rune Factory, the player has the ability to tame any of the non-boss monsters they come across in game. Beast taming can only occur when the player has a taming glove, a Barn has been built, and is not currently occupied by beasts. Once captured and in the barn, beasts must be fed and interacted with so they maintain a positive standing with the player. To feed the beasts the player must keep a supply of "feed" in each of the barns. This feed can either be purchased or grown by the player.
Once a beast has been tames it can be used for several different purposes in-game. Below is a list of the possible uses for beasts:
- Combat Assistance - The beast can participate in combat with the player
- Honey, Milk, Wool - Certain beasts can be harvested for honey, milk, or wool at certain times during the game
- Farm Work - Some beasts can be assigned to automatically do farm work (harvesting, watering)