Just a few years ago, the future of the entire Rune Factory series seemed greatly in doubt. The developer had become bankrupt and the rights seemed to have gone with it. Now we’re about to get our third Rune Factory game on the Nintendo Switch, with a remake of the third in the series. I’ve been able to sit down with it for a couple of hours, and I’m in love with this classic all over again.
Rune Factory 3 was originally released back in 2009 on the Nintendo DS. It wasn’t known for being innovative with the formula. You play as a guy who can switch between human and monster forms, but who has lost all of his memories. You’re welcomed into a small village, given a farm to look after, and then largely left to your own devices. There are plants to grow, fish to catch, pretty girls to woo and monsters in dungeons to slay.
As you go about your daily chores, your abilities in those activities level up, and so you’re constantly being fed a steady diet of positive reinforcement. You even level up in the ability to walk around, so you are constantly seeing the “level up” icon appear above your character’s head. Days fly by pretty quickly, and the world isn’t all that large to explore, but it is filled with a bunch of truly eclectic characters, each with their own little daily routines and behaviours, so you’ll find yourself bumping into different characters at random, but then also struggling to find the one character that you actually want to talk to.
For this Switch remaster, the developer has maintained the top-down, isometric camera angle of the original, but has (obviously) increased the level of detail in the graphics. Rune Factory 3 is immediately pleasant to look at, with plenty of colour in the world, and some exquisite character portraits to admire.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test either of the remake’s major two additions at present. The first is “Newlywed Mode.,” and that’s an endgame thing well beyond the scope of the preview. Here we’re promised a bunch of new challenges and adventures once we’ve married one of the game’s 11 bachelorettes (sorry, folks, this Rune Factory came before these “Harvest Moon-likes” started allowing you to choose gender and sexuality, so you’re stuck playing as a guy chasing skirts). If that’s 11 totally different sets of challenges I’ll be genuinely surprised and delighted by this bonus, though I shudder at the idea of playing through the game 11 times just to unlock them all (and forcing myself to chase after Marian and Karina in particular – shudder).
The other major new feature is “hell” difficulty mode, which seems totally pointless to me. Yes, I know Rune Factory is a JRPG, but surely – SURELY – no one actually goes into these games looking for a challenge, and instead just sees the combat system as another casual system thrown over the top for the sake of variety? Rune Factory is meant to be comfortable and relaxing to play, so I would have thought more plants, or even more bachelorettes, would have been the way to go to call this a “remaster” over a thematically inappropriate additional difficulty level?
But anyway. My first moments with Rune Factory 3 have been warm with nostalgia. The game looks great on the Switch, but it will immediately remind you of those times on the Nintendo DS, and the many, many hours of wholesome goodness Rune Factory gave us back then. It’s out in just under a month, and you’re not going to want to miss this one.