Nintendo DS Review: Rune Factory – A Fantasy Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon spin-off touches down on DS with some good results

You awaken to find yourself in an unfamiliar village with no memory of who you are or how you arrived. Mist, a beautiful young woman comes to your aid and helps you start to build a life for yourself… on a farm. Till the land, grow crops, raise animals, catch fish and battle monsters! Battling against fierce beasts is very important for your survival, but making friends with them is essential for your farm life. What mysteries lie ahead…

I have a confession to make. I haven’t actually played a Harvest Moon game before; somehow it’s a series that I’ve somehow avoided. The closest thing I can think of is Animal Crossing, but from what I’ve heard from fans of the years, it’s a much deeper game than that. Can a non-player like me enjoy a spin-off of the famous series or will I wonder why it’s so popular?

I went into playing Rune Factory with no expectations and it came across as a wonderful game. It’s deep with plenty to do like making friends with monsters, mastering swords, growing crops and falling in love. You can even exchange items and communicate with friends over Nintendo’s WFC service. It’s a great addition that helps it compete with Animal Crossing DS, although Ninty’s game is clearly much better for the handheld.

Combining the elements from Harvest Moon and battling enemies is a strange mixture, but it works quite well in Rune Factory. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but fans should enjoy it overall. I am a little confused though about the Rune Factory series for DS, it seems that there are 2 games in the U.S. with one being released in 2007 and a sequel in 2008. Has the first game been delayed almost 2 years for Europe or has it been combined into one title? If it has been delayed for 2 years, why? It makes no sense as there is a clear audience for these games.

It’s also quite confusing since both games got the same scores when it came to reviews. I personally really enjoyed playing Rune Factory, but it lacked something and was a bit heavy overall. The RPG elements are a nice inclusion to appeal to fans of that genre and maybe will entice them into the series. It’s a great game to just pick up and play, especially if you have a long journey planned. If you don’t travel much, then you may find it that bit harder to enjoy.

The Harvest Moon formula has become a little dated and luckily, Rune Factory mixes it up well. Although it doesn’t exactly breathe new life into it, it does a lot to compensate for the series’ low points, even though there have a small number of them. It’s good to see that they didn’t just play it safe, they tried to take the series in a new direction and it seems the gamble has paid off. Sure, it’s not without its problems…but as a reviewer, I’d rather they took the risk and failed instead of bringing out the same old crap every year, which they seem to have taken onboard with Rune Factory.

The visuals are impressive for a DS game as is the game’s soundtrack. Dialogue is only done with text boxes and little noises, which is expected but a tad disappointing. Overall though, the presentation is fairly strong.

The Verdict

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is another great DS title. Oh sure, it won’t appeal to the masses…but it will appeal to long-time fans that have been waiting ages for the series to move in a new direction. They won’t be disappointed and neither will first-time players, just don’t expect it to be perfect and you’ll be just fine.