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Game Info:

Rune Factory 4 Special
Developed by: Hakama Inc.
Published by: Marvelous Inc.
Available on: Switch (originally on 3DS)
Release date: February 25, 2020
Genre: RPG
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Teen for fantasy violence, mild language, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol
Price: $39.99

Thank you Marvelous Inc. for sending us this game to review!

Rune Factory 4 was originally released in 2012 on the 3DS. The Switch exclusive special edition adds a new opening sequence, animated cutscenes, CGI illustrations, a newlywed mode, and optional DLC (Another Episode). Completing the three main story arcs took me approximately 105 hours. Given that the newlywed mode unlocks for each eligible candidate after marrying them, there is a lot of replay value in this title.

The newlywed mode takes place in an alternate game world and is not impacted by the game save/state of the main campaign. There are new quests specific to your spouse and gives you a little more insight into their life before you were in it. The Another Episode DLC pack also adds more character development, but the only free fully-voiced and animated story available is about the elder dragon, Ventuswill.

The main story begins with your character on an airship headed to Selphia to bring an offering to Ventuswill. Depending on your character’s reaction to flying in the air, the game makes an attempt to guess their gender. It guessed wrongly for me and I had to alter my response to play as a female, Frey. Her trip is sabotaged and she is thrown off of the ship and lands on Ventuswill alive, but without her memories.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Good story, voice acting, and cast of characters; catchy music; enhanced visuals
Weak Points: Huge difficulty spike in the 3rd story arc; a couple of glitches; visuals don't look good on a big screen
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence with no blood; mild language (d*mn; dumb*ss, b*stard); demon themed enemies including one named Baal; dragons are given offerings and treated as gods; minor innuendos; some negative remarks are made at characters of different races (dwarf, elf, etc); there's a swimsuit festival

Everyone in Selphia is unique, but most of them are very kind and welcoming. Frey is mistaken for a princess and is provided lodging in the castle. She is also given a garden to maintain. It’s a lot of work to till, plant, and water the crops. Thankfully creatures can be tamed by throwing stuff at them, and if you get them to like you enough, they’ll help with farming chores. Feeding and brushing your monsters daily will improve your relationship with them. Another method is taking them with you when exploring dungeons. Some monsters will produce helpful items like milk and eggs on a daily basis.

The villagers are also willing to go on adventures with you if you invite them while conversing with them. You have to press the L or R button to trigger the additional conversation menu. Giving characters gifts daily and especially on holidays or their birthdays will strengthen your relationship with them. Although you can tell villagers of the same sex that you love them, marriage can only happen between opposite genders.

Eligible partners have backstory quests and dating events that need to be completed before a marriage proposal can take place. Males have to have a double bed and an engagement ring on hand before proposing while females don’t have to worry about those requirements. The randomized town events and festivities keep things interesting. Participating in the town festivals and contests will increase your friendship levels with the townspeople. Be sure to talk to everyone before and after the events. After the festivals, you’ll get some loot and I’ve gotten many powerful weapons this way. I’m not sure why, but one time I won first place in a contest and my loot disappeared seconds after opening the treasure chest.

If you don’t want to wait for random drops, you’re better off crafting your own weapons, armor, and accessories. Before you can cook, craft, forge, or fly an airship, you’ll need to spend prince/princess points and obtain a license. Princess/Prince points are earned by defeating bosses and completing quests from the townspeople. I strongly recommend increasing your backpack size sooner rather than later so you won’t have to worry about inventory space as much.

Rune Factory 4 Special
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay: 19/20
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Stability: 4/5
Controls: 5/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence: 6.5/10
Language: 6/10
Sexual Content: 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural: 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 7.5/10

Without giving away too many spoilers, the story mostly revolves around the elder dragon, Ventuswill. You’ll begin by investigating dungeons per her request and fighting various bosses. After their defeat, they return to their human form, but without their memories. Somehow, they’re connected to Ventuswill. The story unfolds through three story arcs. The final arc has a massive difficulty spike that will require you to significantly boost your crafting and forging skills in order to survive the various elemental traps and much stronger enemies. I must confess that after numerous hours of grinding, I found the final ending to be a bit lackluster for all of the effort put into experiencing it. I still had fun, but the ending had me thinking “That’s it?!?”

Visually, Rune Factory 4 Special looks good on the small screen, but when docked and enlarged, it doesn’t scale well. The animated cutscenes when meeting characters are interesting, but an unnecessary addition. There’s a wide variety in monsters, crops, weapons, and bosses. The visitors in Selphia tend to only wear the same three outfits and hairstyles though.

On the audio front, the background music is catchy and got stuck in my head on multiple occasions. The dialogue is not fully voice-acted, but each of the characters have several audible greetings and phrases. Some of these greetings get repetitive after a while.

Morally speaking, Rune Factory 4 Special earns its Teen rating for language (d*mn; dumb*ss, b*stard) and innuendos. The battles are in real time and bloodless. Some of the enemies are demons and sometimes leave behind a bowl of their blood that you can use for crafting. Wine is an ingredient for some food recipes, but I don’t recall any characters drinking it. Selphia has a dwarf and an elf who are a little self-conscious on what others think about them because of their race.

If you don’t mind those moral issues, Rune Factory 4 Special is bound to entertain for many hours and is worth the price of entry. I’m not sure if the enhancements are worth re-buying the game if you already have it on 3DS. I did enjoy playing it for the first time on the Switch though.

About the Author

Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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