[Review] Rune Factory 4 Special – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Marvelous Inc., Neverland, Hakama
  • Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED)
  • Release Date: 28/02/2020
  • Price: $39.99 / £32.99
  • Review code provided by Marvelous Europe

Video Review

Intro

Rune Factory 4 is a game I always wanted to play on my 3DS. To avoid adding it to my ever growing backlog of games, I decided to wait for the right time. Soon after the Nintendo Switch came out. As the Switch library continued to grow, I spent less and less time with my 3DS. Needless to say, I never got around to playing Rune Factory 4. That is until it was ported to the Switch, which has been consuming all of my gaming time for the last few years. I was excited to join the people of Selphia, and I hope you enjoy my review.

For Selphia!

The story is relatively straightforward. You once again control an amnesiac protagonist. Only this time you get to see how this ailment is brought about. After selecting between a male of female avatar, you find yourself on an fast flying airship. Holding a mysterious object in your hands, you’re soon ambushed and the object is broken into pieces which fall overboard.  These fragments are scattered across the land but you hardly trouble yourself with that. More pressing matters are at hand. Like getting amnesia from your fight and being tossed overboard yourself. 

Fortunately your fall is broken by landing atop none other than a powerful dragon. The dragon is housed within a castle in the land of Selphia. With guidance from Ventuswill, the dragon, you’ll soon start to unravel the mysteries of Selphia and the importance of the mission you embarked on in the first place. The thing I enjoyed about the story in Rune Factory 4 is that it let me syphon off parts of it at my own pace. Tidbits are shared off and on by towns folk and I could tend to my daily chores and farming as I saw fit. This was a great way to allow for pacing that ensured I didn’t get bored of doing any one thing for too long.

Will You Take My Hand?

Rune Factory 4 is indeed special as it places more emphasis on combat than other farming sims I’ve played. The battle system is real time, making it an action RPG. You can use various weapons, and a combination of spells and skills to conquer the land. In addition to the combat, you’ll be able to tame the wild life and recruit them to ride, battle and do chores at the farm. There’s also a robust crafting system. Rune Factory takes a unique approach in that you have to eat special bread in order to learn new crafting recipes.

Rune Factory wouldn’t be a decent slice of life sim without courting. You can befriend the people of Selphia and work up to dating someone and eventually marrying. From everything I could see, you can only become intimate with those of the opposite gender. Hearts and Smiley faces are depicted next to each resident and the selection was somewhat limited and didn’t allow for same sex relationships. Freedom of choice is pretty prevalent in these types of games today. Sure, this is a port of an older 3DS game, but I was surprised nonetheless that the option was unavailable. 

As for the meat and potatoes, or rather the turnips and potatoes of the gameplay is the farming. Rune Factory 4 gives a cohesive farming experience with four seasons, storms and the ability to level up crops. Soil can fetter and typhoons will wreak havoc. You’ll utilize standard tools to churn the earth and care for your crops. Over days and weeks you’ll watch the fruit of your labors.

There are a lot of gameplay aspects to Rune Factory 4, and it handles them all surprisingly well. There’s a good balance between all of the available tasks so nothing feels too mundane. Tired of fighting? Take a break and go fishing. Whatever you decide to do, just be mindful of your rune points. Rune Points are power from the earth and act as your stamina. If you exhaust all your rune points in a day, you’ll lose hit points. Drop to zero and it’s to the Doctor for you. And the cost is outrageous. 

Perfectly Polished Like a Gem

When it comes to the graphics, I’m a bit torn. The updated character images are gorgeous. The art is well done with fair variety. It is however clear the main game is scaled up from the 3DS. Images often over lap or flicker in and out. Especially during combat. I even ran into a few cases where my crops were no long centered in designated squares which marred my otherwise perfect garden and triggered my OCD. And for whatever reason, when you partner with someone from town, they look stubby and awkward in the menu system. Other than that I only ran into a few sparse bugs every now and again. Nothing game breaking, just little oddities.

The music was relaxing and peaceful throughout the game and the sound effects were polished. There’s little voice acting and the cast did a great job breathing life into the otherwise stiff characters. The only other thing that annoyed me was the lack of personality in the NPCs. Sure, they had their own daily tasks, goals and schedules, but their interaction with the main character was hardly organic. Only after I beat the game and got some of them to level 7 on friendship did they go out of their way to interact with me. Aside from Clorica who wakes you each morning, only one other person visited my room.

Final Wrap

Despite a few random bugs, and my squabble with the character AI, Rune Factory 4 pulls off a fantastic blend of slice of life farming sim and action role playing. If you’ve sunk years into an indie farming valley and plan to get stranded on a deserted island with nosey animal neighbors the next month or so, rune Factory 4 Special is likely right up your alley and will fill the time in-between. There’s a lot of content, even when you complete the game and credits roll, it’s not really over.

Pros

  • Packed Full of Content
  • Excellent Blend of Genres
  • Addictive Gameplay

Cons

  • Scaled Graphics
  • Occasional (minor) Bugs

Verdict
Rune Factory 4 Special is a magical place to visit and will hold your heart for years to come.
4/5

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