Game Info:

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
Developed by: Neverland Co. Ltd.
Published by: Natsume
Release Date: August 14th, 2007
Available on: DS
Genre: Simulation, RPG
Mode: Single Player
ESRB Rating: E
MSRP: $50 new, $15 used

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a new spinoff of the existing Harvest Moon series that combines farm simulation elements from Harvest Moon with dungeon crawler/RPG action.    The story starts off with the main hero Raguna (you can rename him) stumbling into the outskirts of Kardia.  He's suffering from starvation, exhaustion, and amnesia.  Mist, a sympathetic but naive girl, discovers Raguna and tries to help him by giving him some water, food, a hoe and some radish seeds.  Thinking that he has some earth skills, she lets him live on her abandoned farm house and tend to her field.  

To farm, you must first pull out the weeds and then till the dirt with a hoe.  Once the ground is ready, you can plant some seeds and water them with a watering can. The watering can and other tools such as the axe, scythe, basket and milk pump, can be obtained by talking to and befriending the villagers.    To find uses for the milk pump and basket you'll have to tame some animals in the nearby caves.  

While there are many caves close by, you can only enter them if you have the proper permit issued from the mayor.  In order to obtain these permits you must plow the fields inside the previous cave and defeat the boss lurking within.  Even though it's a pain, farming inside the caves is essential since the crops produce rune crystals.  Rune crystals are used to recover your rune points.  Your character has both health points and rune points, which act like stamina. Every time you swing your weapon, axe, hoe, or use magic, you'll use up rune points.  After your rune points are gone, casting magic, farming or attacking will deplete your health points.  If you run out of health points inside of a cave, your game is over and you'll have to resume from your last save point.  If you pass out from working too hard outside of  a cave, you'll wake up in the doctor's office the following morning.  


Strong Points: A fun mix of farming and dungeon crawling.
Weak Points: Even though this is a game, the chores are still boring.
Moral Warnings: Mild violence; drinking references; magic use.

The time system is rather unique in this game.  Ten game minutes pass for every ten seconds played.  Your day begins at 6:00AM and you can choose when to go to bed.  If you go to bed too late you'll wake up with a cold.  The seasons last thirty days but the caves offer steady temperatures year round.  I enjoyed the unique background music for each season. There are six days in a week and the weekend is lumped into one day called a holiday.  On holidays there is a traveling merchant named Ivan who can sell you various accessories for your house.  

There's a lot you can do in your home but you'll have to expand it before you can create your own medicine, accessories, weapons and armor.  To expand your house you'll have to acquire 200,000 gold and 2,000 pieces of wood.  It takes a while to get there but it's worth it.  Once your house is expanded you can get a large kitchen and a double bed which is required before you can get married.

While Mist is the girl intended for you to marry, you do have the freedom to woo and propose to a dozen girls in this game.  Every girl has preferred gift items that they like to receive and times to talk to them.  Each villager has a daily routine that is good to know if you're attracted to them.  Once married, the girl you choose will live in Mist's house with you and provide you a daily lunch that will restore a little bit of your health and rune points.    

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 89%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

The character development is pretty good and there are some side quests that really add to the storyline.  For example there is a single mother whose ex husband also lives in the town.  If you do the quest correctly, you can reunite the family and watch them get re-married.  Surprisingly, the town consists of many broken families and there are a lot of single dads with teenage daughters that think you'll make a great son-in-law.

The dating and marriage modes are tastefully done and this game for the most part is family friendly.  There is a tavern in town and some villagers are known for their ability to hold their liquor.   The library sells magic books and while I bought them, I rarely used them.  The only magic I used was to heal or teleport out of caves and back to my home.

The magic spells look decent but nowhere near Final Fantasy quality.  The villages, caves  and your house are nicely detailed.  There's ample amount of variety in monsters, but like many RPG games, they reappear in different colored variants.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the detail put into the growing plants. My only complaint in the graphics department is that once the plants have bloomed, its hard to tell if they have been watered or not since you can't see the soil getting darker.

The game interface is rather clunky at times too.  There are plenty of moments where you have to hand inventory to other characters in the game.  If your aiming is slightly off, the item is discarded.  Fortunately, the mayor's house has a lost and found that will save critical quest items that are accidentally thrown away.  Everything else is forever lost unless you have a recent game save.

Like many games, saving early and often is a good practice.  You can save your progress in your home and many caves have at least a save spot or two.  Be sure to exercise caution when saving in a cave; make sure that you are not poisoned or seriously low on health.  While the enemies fall pretty easily, the bosses have weaknesses and immunities to be aware of.  They usually follow an attack pattern, so many of their devastating attacks can be avoided.  I like how they start to flash red when they are low on health.  If you don't like violence, you'll be happy to hear that these creatures are merely sent back to their world instead of being killed.

Overall this game is pretty mellow and if you enjoy the Harvest Moon games or RPG's in general you'll probably like this series.  I haven't played Harvest Moon games before and I found the farm work to be rewarding, but tedious at times.  By crafting your own weapons and armor, you can become super powerful.  If you have friends that play this game, you can trade items back and forth to improve their quality.  I like how you can continue the game after you beat it, though I think I'll stick to real gardening for a while.


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