Review – Rune Factory 4 Special

The good old reliable 3DS was quite the handheld wasn’t it? So good, maybe you want to play some of those games again? The good news is, Rune Factory 4 Special is here, the remake of the 3DS version that was inherently less special than it would appear. It’s obvious right off the bat who Rune Factory 4 Special is meant for. This is a game that’s all about time management, farming, and slaying monsters. It’s more or less Stardew Valley with more updated graphics and more of a story.

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Are.. are we soulbonding?

A bit more on that; you’re a yet-to-be-named character who loses their memory, falls out of the sky, lands on a dragon, and somehow becomes a prince after all this. This is all before you get any REAL control over your character. Once you get going, your first task is to learn to farm and your patch of land will be covered in stumps, rocks, sticks, and whatever else can get in the way of your plants.

At the start you’re basically forced to work around them, as you won’t have money to buy tools. Also, don’t buy tools. You’ll get them for free as you finish “requests” which you get from some happy little box. The box, which is apparently named Eliza and apparently only you can hear talk, will provide tasks submitted by other characters. These tasks are generally along the lines of “bring me rocks” and then they provide a hammer to break rocks. Only one task can be completed per day, but aside from the little bit of farming and the one task per day, the first few days will pass quite quickly.

Rune Factory 4 Special

Do you like turnips? I like turnips.

The combat in Rune Factory is fairly simple; press a button and swing your sword. There are different weapons available, like a spear, a two handed sword, etc. You can also invite other characters to come along with you to provide support. Generally they’re not great at knowing when to go fight enemies, but they’re pretty good at healing you so it’s still pretty worthwhile. You can also bond with these characters, making them better friends and even possibly romantic partners. Alternatively, you can go off, do everything yourself and not really care about anyone else, no harm done.

The farming side of things is pretty easy; till the soil, plant seeds, and provide water. You’ll find it rains fairly often, so a lot of the times crops will be watered by that. One nice thing is that, unlike games like Stardew Valley, money from crops and stuff that’s dropped on your sales box are actually sold at 8am in-game time. If you’re quick enough about doing your farming, you can have your crops sold and see the money for it the same day.

Rune Factory 4 Special

Press button to slash.

Just like most games like this, the musical score is very relaxed. All the music fits well and most of the time it’ll feel relaxed. When coming up against enemies, it’ll pick up ever so slightly and bosses have semi-memorable themes to go with their fights. Graphically, the sprites look nice. Everyone is distinguishable, which is always a concern, and they actually look like their character portrait. The character portraits are also well designed, all of which are proper anime style characters which feels natural to Rune Factory. This is doubly true when you realise every time you meet another main character they have a fully animated, straight up ripped from an anime intro. Some of the intros are a little weird, because while you may talk to the character in the middle of the city, their intro might be them out in the forest. It’s a little bit jarring.

Rune Factory 4 Special

You can be very straightforward. You will be laughed at, just like in high school.

After a good twenty to thirty hours with Rune Factory 4 Special, I gotta say it was a good time. This is a game with quite a lot to do, between combat, farming, requests, and planning festivals, plus whatever other jobs you have as a supposed prince. It’s hard to tell how much there would be to do after finishing the story, but at least with a lot to occupy your time until then, Rune Factory 4 Special could be a good fifty to one hundred hour time sink if you need something nice and long to pass the time.

Graphics: 7.0

Although ported from the 3DS, this doesn’t look or feel much at all like a 3DS game.

Gameplay: 7.0

Easy to learn and even easier to get hooked. It’s a very good filler for games like Stardew Valley.

Sound: 6.0

The music is simple, but effective. The sound effects are forgettable, on the other hand.

Fun Factor: 7.5

There aren’t a lot of games I find myself wanting to return to after twenty hours of gameplay, but Rune Factory 4 Special is an exception, despite its fair share of issues.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Rune Factory 4 Special is available now on 3DS and Nintendo Switch. 

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Rune Factory 4 Special was provided by the publisher.