Rune Factory Articles RSS Feed | Rune Factory RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Rune Factory Special Archival Edition Pre-Order Available in Europe Thu, 17 Oct 2019 14:42:12 -0400 Rena Pongchai [Kazurenai]

Although Rune Factory 4 pre-orders have been available for North America since September, European pre-orders are available now. 

The Archival Edition offers a physical copy of the game, along with a 160-page artbook, a soundtrack CD featuring 33 tracks from the game, and new DLC featuring the lovable cast in a "Swimsuit" event.

This, of course, will be packaged in a beautifully illustrated box, which many fans, including us, hope is plastic or metal. However, considering the 55 Pound price tag (~$70), it will probably be cardboard.


Rune Factory 4 was originally released in North America in 2013, but the developer, Neverland Co., declared bankruptcy later that year and the original team behind the game was absorbed into Marvelous AQL. This left the fate of the Rune Factory series in question until earlier this year when Rune Factory 5 was announced. 

To prepare fans for the release of that game, Marvelous AQL decided to release Rune Factory Special, a high-definition release of the original Rune Factory 4 on Nintendo 3DS, now on the Nintendo Switch. 

There is no official release date yet for the Rune Factory Special, but the provisional date is listed as "winter" on the Marvelous Games website.

Why Stardew Valley is King of the Farming Games Sat, 01 Jun 2019 08:00:01 -0400 Josh Broadwell


Stardew Valley Vs Story of Seasons


Story of Seasons occupies an interesting position in the farm-and-life-sim genre. It is different from Harvest Moon, but not all that different. That's because it actually is Harvest Moon, thanks to the confusing name change and company swap mentioned earlier.


Either way, what it primarily does is expand on everything old HM (when it was HM still) already established. For example, in the original Story of Seasons, you get more characters, more personality, more crops, more stuff to do, and more animals.


It also tries to hearken back to the olden days of brutal farming with a sharp difficulty curve that makes money-earning very, very challenging indeed.


Trio of Towns takes it further, trying to improve on the Tale of Two Towns concept by, again, adding yet more. The towns are bigger, the themes in each are more pronounced, there are even more animals, people, and crops, plus you have a ton of activities to do outside of farming.


Unfortunately, it doesn't really establish an identity for itself other than the more colorful, playful Harvest Moon. That doesn't mean the games aren't fun, because they are, but it takes more than loading on content to create a champion game.


Take the characters, for example. Trio of Towns falls into the same trap Tale of Two Towns did. There are more places to go and people to see, but each is fairly limited because of that.


Stardew Valley's characters might not be the most detailed and complex ever. However, they're interesting all the same, since they each represent a specific personality trait or life problem that resonates with people — even Shane the chicken man. Sure, they'll say the same line for an entire season, but you want to learn more about them.


Stardew's other mechanics are fairly basic when you think about it. However, they work well together. Mining is simple, but serves an important purpose both in expanding your farm and getting special gifts; there aren't 50 million crop varieties, but you can do a lot with a few things and shape your farm — and life — around just a handful of crops.


In some cases, simple is just better.




Comparing these games and series isn't an easy task, since they're all top rank in what they try to do. With everything Stardew Valley has to offer, though, with the promise of even more single and multiplayer content to come, that's the one you'll find me going back to every time for a bit of quality farm fun.


Stardew Valley Vs Staxel


Staxel does a lot of things right. It's a bright and cute take on the blocky Minecraft style, and there's oh-so-much to do. Staxel even lets you customize your world and home, much like Stardew Valley, and there are plenty of relationships to forge as you go about your business.


Your days are structured much more effectively than Harvest Moon and even Stardew Valley to an extent, since you've got plenty of time to do what you want even after all your chores are done.


So why is Stardew Valley better?


For starters, Staxel treats farming a lot like Farming Simulator does. It's definitely a business arrangement before it's anything else. Farming gives you materials you need to create buildings and develop your town — and you need a lot of materials.


That's one of Staxel's biggest problems: the grind for materials. Farming is made easy, probably to account for the grind, but having the ability to cut your farming tasks short so soon, and making farming just the means to an end, takes some of the satisfaction away.


Stardew makes you work for a while before you can even get the materials for a decent sprinkler that hopefully works every day. True, the goal of farming is to make money for other things, but in most cases, that money is used to buy more goods for your farm, or it gets put back into the town in some form or another. It's not just fodder for Petals (Staxel currency) and materials.


It's an interesting drawback given how the game starts off so similar to Stardew and other farm-life sim games, putting you in charge of renovating a run-down farm.


The socialization falls short as well. Villagers don't have personalities that pop like in Stardew, and they are admittedly a bit creepy thanks to the otherwise-cute aesthetic. They do play into the game's lore, but ultimately they come across like fillers more than interesting personalities to befriend.


Stardew Valley vs. My Time at Portia


My Time at Portia is getting a lot more attention recently thanks to its Switch release, though not all of it is good attention. Still, it's a solid game with an almost intimidating amount of things to do in it.


Farming is but one of them, and it takes a side-role from the beginning. In a twist in the classic Harvest Moon formula, Portia has you work to rebuild your grandfather's workshop, not just his farm.


Doing that involves farming and raising animals, but the main emphasis here is really the crafting and exploration — which isn't all that surprising given the player's task to rebuild an entire civilization.


It really comes across more like a combo of Rune Factory and Minecraft or Dragon Quest Builders, especially when you add in the gigantic world to explore and the combat. The world in Portia is huge, and there are constantly new things to build to help you explore it even further.


That said, despite the game being billed as a life-sim in the style of Stardew or Harvest Moon, it really can't stack up in the farming department. Like Staxel, everything you do is done to get materials for accomplishing a bigger goal.


Crafting is fun, expansive, and addictive, definitely. However, when I think farming sim game, small-scale comes to mind.


Making 10 kegs to use those hops for something more profitable is small scale; building a bridge to explore new areas, make new things, and get people to come live in your town while you try and open up bigger areas for more profit is more like an adventure-sim game.


Where Portia can't compete, even with its bigger scale and fulfilling adventure, is characters. They're interesting and plentiful, but something about them felt shallow in comparison.


Now, you might think that's ironic when Shane's biggest motivating factor is his pet chicken, though what it really comes down to is the human element. Portia's characters fill a narrative purpose and have interesting backgrounds like a character from a novel — not like someone you know in your own town.


In short, My Time at Portia is good at what it does, but it's better suited for a long, sprawling adventure instead of an intimate story of building relationships with your neighbors.


Stardew Valley vs. Farming Simulator


If Rune Factory emphasizes the fantasy element and exploration too much, Farming Simulator does the exact opposite.


The series' focus shouldn't be too difficult to figure out, given its name. Farming Simulator is basically the agricultural version of Sim City or Cities: Skylines. You're in complete control of your farm, from purchasing plots and fields to buying machinery, keeping everything watered, and pretty much everything an actual farmer would do.


It's an impressive management and business game, and while the realism in the graphics isn't tremendously impressive, the more recent iterations certainly look good. Farming Simulator 19 even introduces John Deere machines for the first time, and you can't get more farm-y than that.


It also represents the main reason why it can't stack up to Stardew Valley. On its own, FS is fine, but there's no denying Stardew is a better game all around.


For one thing, FS is a rather lonely experience. Since the focus is farm management, you don't get the social aspect that's practically synonymous with "farming game" thanks to Harvest Moon. It's a business, so there's no place for getting attached to your animals either; they're just another asset to manage.


No magical or even monstrous small creatures to help make your farm a bright and lovely place either.


Stardew Valley respects the fact that people need to leave their farms and businesses every now and again, even if it's just to wander around in the forest — the forest that can't be bought and turned into another field.


Then there's the other problem of reality: it's too real. The appeal of managing one's own farm quickly withers when you live in a rural area. You see farms and John Deere when you leave the house, it's all anyone talks about, it's on the news every day, and unless you're really dedicated, it's the last thing you want to see when you jump into a game world.


Sometimes, a bit of fantasy isn't a bad thing.


Stardew Valley vs. Rune Factory


The Rune Factory series is probably one of the stronger contenders for the farm crown. A lot of it is built into Stardew Valley after all, including monster ranching and the mine acting as a sort of dungeon.


The Rune Factory games are also quite charming, though one could argue the series didn't really come into its own until Rune Factory 4 with its expanded story, more interesting character roster, and excellent localization.


Where Rune Factory fails against Stardew is in how the former deals with the farming mechanic, particularly in RF4.


The Rune Factory games aren't about runes or factories. They're about upgrading as much as possible — your gear, your farms, your relationships, and your crops and soil, but not your own farming or growing abilities.


Growing quality crops in Stardew is part RNG and part planning. Fertilize the soil, and you'll get some good returns, if you're lucky. Over time, you can expand your operations as you take back your farm from nature and plan everything the way you want. It's your corner of the world to do with as you see fit.


Rune Factory has you upgrade crop levels so they're consistently worth more, and there's even a Giantizer to help ensure giant crops more often. It fits the series' fantasy theme, and it frees up time to do other things, sure.


However, it takes away some of the charm and satisfaction of seeing those gold star melons pile up in your inventory or waking up one morning to find a giant turnip peeking in your window.


That's because Rune Factory isn't really about that kind of satisfaction.


Farming is one of many activities, but after a short while, it clearly takes a backseat to other tasks, like relationship building or exploration, most of which doesn't rely on slowly creating a viable, vibrant farm. Shoot, you can even get a monster army to do everything for you, a lot earlier than you can recruit Junimos in Stardew.


In short, Stardew puts the farming first and lets everything else grow as a natural offshoot from that. Rune Factory has its place, but not necessarily as a top farming sim game.


Stardew Valley vs. Harvest Moon - To a Point


Pitting Stardew Valley against Harvest Moon (Natsume's Harvest Moon, old and new) is like demanding a grandparent fight their grandchild. Without Harvest Moon, there would be no Stardew Valley. However, there's also no denying that Harvest Moon has lost its way over the years.


You could argue the best Harvest Moon is Back to Nature, 64, or Friends of Mineral Town.


Harvest Moon 64 improved the graphics in a meaningful way, added a memorable soundtrack, and Back to Nature added further depth to the game and the characters of Mineral Town, and FoMT did it all again in a slightly different and even more robust flavor. Farming was the core focus, and everything still felt fresh in the series.


From there, things started to deteriorate a bit. A Wonderful Life and Hero of Leaf Valley, along with Save the Homeland, were interesting ways to add a different sense of accomplishment — though why someone thought making you die at the end of AWL was a good idea is beyond me. Still, they missed the point of a Harvest Moon game in the process by centering them around a definite point.


Later entries were fun, if iterative, including Sunshine Islands and Grand Bazaar. The last good Harvest Moon was A New Beginning, which despite not doing a whole lot to shake things up did at least include new design and customization mechanics.


Part of the issue is how Harvest Moon hamstrung itself with the adventure hybrid series Rune Factory, relegating the base series solely to farming with Rune Factory taking the more dynamic approach.


Today, the Harvest Moon we get in North America and Europe isn't the Japanese series Bokujou Monogatari, as it's traditionally been. Instead, recent Harvest Moon titles are unique games developed by Natsume, rather than the Marvelous-developed series we've all come to know and love over the years.


In the West, Bokujou Monogatari (which used to be called Harvest Moon here) is now called Story of Seasons, and that's seen its fair share of changes as well.


Harvest Moon: Light of Hope shows how that all's been going.


Stardew takes advantage of all those different styles, then wraps them up in the simplicity of an older Harvest Moon game. You've got the dungeon exploration aspect, farming, socialization, quirky townsfolk, building, and customization.


There are several, varied goals to work towards as well if you want to restore the Community Center, which goes a long way in keeping things interesting.


ConcernedApe's Stardew Valley took the world by storm when it launched a few years ago. It was yet another farming simulation game in a market full of them, and at first glance, it doesn't seem like it really does much different.


If you give it a longer glance and compare it to its biggest competition, you find Stardew Valley isn't just unique among the farming-life sim genre. It's the best offering out there right now.


Rune Factory has monsters, and Farming Simulator has...farms. Harvest Moon is an all-time classic, while Story of Seasons tries to improve on the formula with more and bigger of everything. Staxel and My Time at Portia take the farming sim in a completely new, and much bigger direction.


They each revolve around a specific trait or activity that gives them a unique identity.


Stardew Valley manages to combine elements of everything, though, including combat, exploration, crafting, and life-sim. The characters are a big draw too. Yes, Penny tells you a thousand times that she likes helping kids learn, but she's an easily recognizable character — a trope, but one that's tied more to everyday life instead of media conventions.


More importantly, it makes farming the core focus, which is typically what you're looking for in a farming game. It's not just a fun mechanic thrown in out of obligation. It's integral to progressing in the game and to getting a sense of satisfaction.

5 Classic Harvest Moon Games for Stardew Valley Fans Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:45:52 -0400 Angelica Dimson


Stardew Valley has drawn a lot of inspiration from The Harvest Moon series, now renamed the Story of Seasons series. Considering a lot of the games that made this list were some of the earliest Harvest Moon releases, it is clear that the series has a special place in fans' hearts.


But what do you guys think? What is your favorite game in the series?

1. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town

This highly acclaimed game in the franchise has a lot of charm to it. The characters in town will seem fairly familiar for those who played Harvest Moon: Back To Nature. 


The residents of Mineral Town make a significant contribution to the game, developing friendships with you (or not), formulating their own thoughts on your character, and more. You'll be able to woo them into your circle of friends with gifts and other trinkets, of course, but the power they have over the gameplay in this iteration of the series is more than most others. 


And on top of that, those friendly interactions trigger events and cutscenes that, while appearing modest enough, have long-term consequences on how your game plays out. So if you want some more feels, I suggest this entry in the franchise.

2. Harvest Moon: Back To Nature

Harvest Moon: Back To Nature is a classic in the franchise. So much so, that there are forums where fans debate whether Harvest Moon: Back To Nature is better than Harvest Moon 64. 


This comes at number two on our list because it has an 82 rating on MetaCritic, which means it's a quality game. Unlike other Harvest Moon games, you only have three years to bring your grandfather's farm back to thriving condition -- adding a sense of urgency to a game that can at times be lackadaisical.

3. Harvest Moon 64

Harvest Moon 64 is a classic farming simulator that starts with you taking over your grandfather's farm (sound familiar?). Reminiscent of Stardew Valley, the gameplay here is so engaging that you won't mind the grinding and micromanaging involved. There is a lot to do. Harvest Moon 64 focuses heavily on farm and town life. And if you like festivals, there are a lot of seasonal festivals to attend. 

4. Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

For dungeon crawlers and monster lovers, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a mix of the traditional farm life found in the original Harvest Moon games and dungeon crawling found in The Legend of Zelda games. Plus, it is portable -- using the Nintendo DS platform.


Both farming and dungeon crawling work hand in hand, helping you reach new areas and to craft items for your adventure. Plus, you can fight, befriend, or capture monsters, the latter of which can be used to help out on the farm or fight in dungeons. 


Did I mention that there are three more sequels for this fantasy Harvest Moon? So the adventure doesn't have to end when you finish the first game -- there are still more monsters to catch!

5. Harvest Moon: Animal Parade

If you want a wider array of animals than Stardew Valley has to offer, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade is a fun game where you can befriend not only farm animals but also more exotic animals such as silkworms, pandas, and penguins. 


The game follows the same formula of growing crops, improving your farm, and nurturing a family. However, it stands out because Harvest Moon: Animal Parade allows the player to do more with all the animals: walk them, teach them tricks, and even ride some of them. So instead of parading around the town on your horse, ride an ostrich instead!


Stardew Valley has steadily become a massive bestseller ever since it hit Steam in February 2016. Estimated by SteamSpy to have earned $24 million in the past year, it's hard to imagine it was a one-man project. What we do know is that creator Eric Barone, who is a huge Harvest Moon fan, started Stardew Valley as a Harvest Moon clone to teach himself how to code. 


Now, it is its own beast, and Barone still updates it to this day. So while you wait on those updates (or have already played Stardew Valley through several decades of seasons), take a look at these five Harvest Moon games for Stardew Valley fans. 


These games will be ranked in terms of popular opinion, game review scores, and how similar each is to Stardew Valley. So let's get started!

6 JRPG Series' With Unique Game Mechanics Mon, 06 Feb 2017 08:00:01 -0500 Rena Pongchai [Kazurenai]

JRPGs are a complex genre as they can span a variety of subgenres within them. However, the most common ones often have the same gameplay with random encounters and a similar story about needing to save the world. This can get too repetitive because of the constant grinding and turn-based battles. Not to mention, while you are a hero travelling the lands to save the world, sometimes the world is just a bit too big that you may need to consult a walkthrough or your characters will probably roam the earth until they die.

The time travelling mechanic in Chrono Trigger, despite not being a series, definitely deserves a special mention.

However, there are some JRPGS that have proven to have a solid theme and gameplay that have managed to span several entries into their series that'll keep you not only entertained, but have your RPG craving filled until the next entry hopefully comes out. While they may still have their grinding and turn-based battles, they provide some new gameplay mechanics that bring something fresh and unique only to their series.

The games in this list not only provide interesting gameplay mechanics, but also, a considerable amount of entries in their respective series so that you can play to your heart's content (if you wish).

Fire Emblem

Personal favourite entry: Fire Emblem (2003)

I'm sure many people have played or heard of Fire Emblem by now. Coming into prominence with Fire Emblem: Awakening, it has since become one of the most popular games in Nintendo's lineup, releasing not one, but four games within the next two years.

The first mechanic I want to mention is Permadeath. It's common knowledge in strategy games that "every move counts." And that is emphasized in Fire Emblem by how once your characters die -- they're gone for good. While the newer entries added a casual mode to make it easier for new players, it should still be acknowledged it was still one of the game's defining features and it really created that extra importance in planning your moves. Even now, you're not truly playing if it's not with permadeath on.

The second mechanic, which has become one of the main appeals for the newer entries (to the dismay of longtime fans) is the Support System. The whole point of having supports between characters would be to build up their stats when they were in close proximity with one another in the battlefield, but also to reveal backstories between different characters and thus add some characterisation. However in Awakening, they took that one step further by having characters support increase the chances of tag-teaming or shielding one another from attacks. But in addition to that, characters who've achieved full support can lead to marriage, and then even have children with combined stats of both the parents, leading to incredibly overpowered units in the game.

In addition to the mechanics, the game provides class changes aswell which allow for alot of replayability and customization for your units. With an expansive lore for each story and different difficulty levels to suit your needs, Fire Emblem has hours of fun for both casual and hardcore fans alike.


Personal favourite entry: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (2013)

You've probably never heard of the Atelier games if you aren't a big fan of JRPGs but the series has been quite popular, releasing 18 titles (13 localised for the west) showing that that it is a solid contender among JRPGs.

The Atelier series is surrounded on the concept of Alchemy as you spend your time either crafting up new items or exploring dungeons for new ingredients and recipes.

Certain entries in the series give the player a time limit in which they must complete a task in order to advance the main storyline (or even continue the game at  all) so management is a big key in the game. To get items such as weapons and armor, you need to synthesise the required items which you need to explore dungeons to find -- and to get even better items, you need to find raise your alchemy level to do so, making it integral that you don't just fight your way through dungeons, but explore them thoroughly.

Despite the battle mechanics bringing nothing new to the genre and can be a bit of a grind, this is forgiven due to the intriguing plot and charming characters that  bring a new twist on the old RPG formula.

Monster Hunter

Personal favourite entry: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (2013)

Monster Hunter is definitely the epitome of "Role-Playing." The feature of the game is explained in the title itself. You hunt monsters in the game, but it is no easy feat. You can't just hack and slash them, you need to learn the way they work such as their movements, their attacks, their weak spots. When you defeat them, you then skin and take their parts in order to create better weapons and armors to power yourself up. (There is no leveling up, you simply improve with your own skill.)

This always keeps the game fresh and exciting as you always have to be on your feet and while some monsters are easy, some monsters -- no matter how strong your armor or weapon is -- if you just rush in, you're gonna get a good beating even from a monster you already beat.

Even if you somehow expertly defeat all monsters, there are also a variety of weapons to choose and master, even if you get a strong weapon, its effects may be inferior to a weaker weapon you have. Work with what you're comfortable with.

It also encourages multiplayer too, as not only are the monsters sometimes impossible to defeat without friends, but also the streetpass players you get can be sent on missions to get freebie items. Despite being a fan of turn-based systems (because I basically suck at playing real time), this game really brings that sense of adventure and fun that you really want to be looking for in a RPG.

Rune Factory 

Personal favourite entry: Rune Factory 4 (2012)

Rune Factory is a spin off of the Harvest Moon games. The main mechanics are to fight monsters and farm. This game is more focused on the social aspect as the plot is focused on the player talking to the citizens and saving the world. As a spinoff to the popular Harvest Moon series, farming is fun as its one of the ways you earn income in the game. Of course if you want, you can just go to the dungeons outside of town and hack and slash your way and gather stuff.

Outside of the plot, there is an array of things to do and absolutely no time limit. You can farm, you can fight, you can craft things, you can even tame monsters and either get produce from them (milk/wool/honey) or even use them to work on your farm or as companions. Also, there is no limit to which monsters you can interact with. Want to ride a giant tomato monster into battle? No problem! Want to raise your affections with your giant turtle monster? Just pet and brush them everyday!

In a way this game pokes fun at the RPG game, breaking the boundaries such as growing giant fruit, the in jokes, and absurdity of the character portrayal in the game. And the best part is, there is no end-game. Even when 50 years have passed and your character is married with a child, you can play the game forever. There's also a debate regarding what the maximum level your character can achieve is, with the most I've seen being 600 but apparently some have said you can go up to 30,000 (I've only gone up to level 40...)


Personal favourite entry: Suikoden 2 (1998)

I'm sure you may have heard that Suikoden 2 is one of the "best" JRPGs you need to play. But the reason I included the series in this list is that all the plots, while connected to its prequel or not, all revolve around the 108 stars, which are characters you need to collect in the game. While some are generic and you can miss some, this doesn't change the fact that there are 108 characters to recruit. It really brings that personal experience into the game and there is a variety of combos and parties you can play, not to mention the characters and the conversations you may also miss out on. As part of the plot, you manage your own castle in which your party members reside, so it's pretty fulfilling to see your army getting bigger.

The game also allows you to have 6 party members, yet the battles are fast-paced and require you to think about both the speed of your characters (which determine who attacks first)and the combos and group attacks that you can do (depending on the characters you have in your team). But the most interesting mechanic I find about battles is that, no matter if human or monster, you can bribe them to flee from battle. (Which I would say is weird but then again, you get gold from monsters when you defeat them so... actually it makes sense.)


Personal favourite entry: Disgaea 4 (2011)

To be perfectly honest, I have never completed a Disgaea game before. But I had to include it into the list because of how well done the battle mechanics are. In particular, the introduction of Geo Symbols, which control the field and can change anything from stat effects to completely disabling your character's moveset. Geo Symbols can only be destroyed by using your turns to move your characters across the field to remove them. This, along with being able to throw items and characters, and group attacks can make for some intricate strategy tactics.

The game's most defining feature is that due to the multiple endings that can be acquired, the game offers new game+ and the ability to carry over characters and items, which can lead you to bring your characters to the maximum level of... 9999. Yes, if you so may wish, you can raise your characters to be level 9999, leading to a lot of game time. The game also has a "complicated" gameplay mechanic during battles as your environment can affect your character's abilities leading to quite some thinking.

The party can be entirely customized also, as you can choose plot characters or create your own based on the available characters you have. I would say this game is for the hardcore players who love tactical strategy RPGs, as there are countless of missions, both storywise and optional, to get through -- you also have multiple ending depending on choices you have made.


In the end, these are just my own personal favourite JRPGs and I am in no way claiming they are the best. Have you tried any of these game series out? Do you have any others you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Are "Life Sim" Games RPGs, or Its Own Genre Entirely? Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:45:01 -0400 Rena Pongchai [Kazurenai]

Everyone has their own favorite game genres, whether it's strategy, horror, platformers, or just plain "action", you can usually find a middle ground to the kind of games you enjoy. For me, it's JRPGs, preferably mixed with strategy, but as long as it has a good plot and battle mechanics, I'm not too picky. However, there is one game I particularly love that I felt didn't really "fit" with the rest.

And that game was Animal Crossing.

Usually when the term "RPG" comes to mind, people think of games that follow the trend of fighting monsters, travelling across lands while honing your skills -- and basically partaking in some epic journey that bards will sing tales of for generations. Animal Crossing, however, is limited within the realm of your new town and the player partakes in social events with the other villagers. Doesn't really fit the RPG description, does it? 

If you take RPG literally, then doesn't the genre essentially mean to "role-play" as a character? In Animal Crossing, you "role-play" as a new villager that starts a new life, making friends and generally enjoying life in the process.

The Harvest Moon series, which is a farming simulation at its core, and its more RPG inspired spin-off, Rune Factory fall into a similar middle ground between well defined genres. Rune Factory was even initially marketed as "A Fantasy Harvest Moon" For instance, you farmed monsters instead of animals. It also offered similar traditional RPG gameplay elements and introduced combat mechanics - which was a big part of the game. Perhaps most importantly, it offered a storyline, as opposed to the open-ended storytelling present in Harvest Moon. All of this only further serves to blur the lines between genres. 

You can already tell from the cover art which is more fixated on farming and which seems to have a more fleshed out story. 

What makes a game an "RPG?" Is it fighting? And since so many modern RPG's have employed almost non-existent stories, can that even be said to be essential anymore? And what about the travelling to faraway lands and honing your skills?

Both Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon take place in a fictional world, both of which require the player to explore and discover new things. While Harvest Moon does actually have skills that you level up (such as walking, sleeping, farming, mining), Animal Crossing doesn't necessarily have skills but allows for a sense of personal achievement through collecting fossils, fish, bugs, furniture. While it's not the tried and true EXP based progression system, it follows a very similar structure. 

Some "goals" you can strive for in Animal Crossing include filling up the aquarium, collecting fossils for the museum, or getting badges from special events. 

Personally, I feel what prevents them from ultimately entering the realm of the RPG is the fact that the player is essentially doing what I would call, "Virtual Chores". Anything that can be done in the game, such as talking to your neighbours, catching bugs, or planting crops, can easily be done in real life. Even Stardew Valley, which is also in a similar vein as these titles, has caused many reviewers to joke about how addicting these normally mundane tasks are in-game.

Yes! After 13 in-game days, I'll harvest these babies and earn me some mad money in-game which I could do in real life but eh, who has the time for that?

So ultimately, while you can say that these games do have RPG elements, they're probably better suited to their own brand of gaming. Genres are supposed to help you understand what a book, movie, or game are about in short form and it doesn't any justice to the term RPG to just lump Harvest Moon in with Final Fantasy and call it a day. It's like comparing horror films with thriller films: just because they both shock and fill you with suspense, doesn't mean you're going to feel the same about both of them by the end. 

And that's the thing. By the end of an RPG, the story will conclude with the hero completing his main goal, leaving the player to feel accomplished in the journey that they have travelled. Whereas with Animal Crossing and life simulation games in general, you feel accomplished everyday, yet it just goes... on. You can "complete" everything you possibly can, but it never really ends and it lets you continue on indefinitely.

As games get more ambitious it doesn't seem fair, or even possible, to categorize certain games anymore. Nowadays so many games represent mashups of several different genres and it seems almost no game is safe from the addition of at least a few superfluous RPG elements, like unneeded crafting systems and skill trees that offer uninteresting perks. Sometimes all we can do is try to explain games as best as we can, and enjoy them the rest of the time.

What do you think? Are there any other games you know that fall into different, sometimes poorly defined genres?

10 Ways to Improve the Rune Factory Series (If They Ever Made Another One) Wed, 07 Sep 2016 06:41:14 -0400 Rena Pongchai [Kazurenai]

The Rune Factory games were created as a spin-off series to the popular Harvest Moon (now known as Story of Seasons) franchise. It kept the signature farming and dating sim aspect, but introduced new gameplay such as fighting and taming monsters, giving it that RPG flavour you didn't even know you wanted. 

Moderately successful, it came as a shock to many fans when the developers filed for bankruptcy in 2013, despite releasing Rune Factory 4 (2012) which had been one of their most sold game to date. This was especially upsetting to those in the EU such as myself, who thought they would never even get to play the game

However, the publishers at XSEED pitied EU players so much that they graced us with a digital copy on the Nintendo eShop in 2014. While I am on the fence about digital purchases, I was so happy that never have I been so throw away my money (digitally).

Rune Factory 4 did not disappoint and had many improvements, such as the option to play as a girl. But already, I was waiting for more... except there was no more right? 

WRONG! (I hope.) Marvelous commented that there may be more releases on the RF franchise in the future, so not all hope is lost. 

Thus, to keep this hope burning, I decided to come up with a list of features (which I've painstakingly reduced to 10) that would make the next installment a much more smooth sailing experience. 

1. Character Customization

Our preset heroine/hero.

How I could spend hours trying out different looks for my character before ultimately choosing a look that I'd end up regretting later on. Sadly, in all the RF games to date, there has been little chance for that. You're presented with a pre-made default character that may have a few costume changes, but most of those are just outfit recolors or costumes that don't change your character's text sprite, leaving you feeling a little detached.

The HM/SoS games have gradually been introducing customization in its newer entries, and I think RF should follow suite. 


2. Rank / Job / Profession 

My "Love" skill basically consisted of me feeding and petting my monsters everyday.  

One of the things that makes the games unique is that you can gain stats from everything. Fighting, farming, eating, sleeping, bathing and even walking.There is such a vast amount of activities that you don't even need to farm, despite that being the main selling point. 

So, why not create a little ranking or title that is dependent on what skills you've invested in? You can be the most famous tourist shop in Selphia -- or the best monster tamer in all of the land. What about the best warrior? The best cook, becoming a new chef at Porcoline's? The possibilities are endless. This could be an extra that's added post-game, perhaps. 

3. Royalty/Shop System

166 Gold for 1 strawberry? I'm not a thief, I'm a business(wo)man!

RF4 also introduced a shop system where you can open your own shop to sell items to NPCs passing by. While a neat game mechanic, it was a little lackluster. Apart from earning more money than shipping, there was no other benefit for the extra effort. I earned so much money, and I was hoping there was an option to upgrade the store so it's more a tiny shop in front of your house.

It became a chore and I just ended up ditching it. I did deeply enjoy it though and they should definitely bring it back, provided they add some intricacy and upgrades to it. 


4. More "Realistic" Romance System

The romance and dating-sim aspect is one of the main objectives of the game. Give gifts = get love. Once your affection level with a character is high enough, you may confess your love, get married, and have a child.

In RF4 however, once you view all the love events, you basically annoy them into agreeing to date you. That would be fine if it weren't for the fact that it includes saying "I love you" being told "Don't joke around" -- even when you've been saying it every day for the last 60 days. If I was joking, why would I be dedicated to run to your house until you wake up at 7am to give you your favorite dish and profess my love? Psycho? Maybe. Obsessed? Definitely. But joking? Now YOU have got to be joking.

Nothing weird about this...

They also included the option to date ALL the bachelors/bachelorettes at once with no consequences whatsoever. I even confessed to someone WHILE on a date with someone else and they did nothing. I say, if you're going to include a "harem" option then go all the way. Get caught cheating, break up, terrible reputation. I feel that there needs to be some consequences. Don't just leave me to dwell on my guilty conscience! 

And one way to alleviate my guilt of marrying one and leaving the rest leads me to my next point...


5. Bring Back the Matchmaking

Some of the possible marriages in RF2 - Aren't they cute?

In RF2, if you aren't quick enough to capture the girl of your dreams, "rival events" will occur which will marry them with their canon-guy in the game. Similar to how you court your future partner, you also have to trigger these rival events before they are able to marry. It was essential because the second half of the game places you in the body of your protagonist's child and they, in turn, can have relationships with the other children,  fleshing out the world more and making it feel like time passed since the young characters were now adults themselves.






(Credits to the OP of this forum post for above screenshots.)

I think it's definitely nice to see your other bachelors and bachelorettes that you essentially rejected, have their own happy endings. I mean, its fine if you want them to cling and long for you after you get married -- but again, my guilty conscience won't let me.  

6. More Types of "Relationships"

By "relationships", what I mean in particular is having options to get closer to other villagers that aren't romantic interests but equally important.

An example could be having a "best friend" who could have more dialogue/events unlocked and give you stat boosts if you add them to your party, similar to your husband/wife or child.

This would be much more preferable for your remaining bachelors/bachelorettes, as they wouldn't become awkward third party members especially if you went the harem route prior. This would also add replayability and more importance to other villagers post-game. 

But I love you like a friend!  

7. Better Organization

With so much to do in the game, sometimes there are certain aspects that can be changed to make life easier. However, some of the shortcuts the game does give can become misleading, such as how expanding the wardrobe means to expand size and not clothes availability and combining cooking tools does not combine them physically or externally but put them into one "convenient" menu with no way to change it back. So here are some needed shortcuts that they should add:

  • Animal Book: A "book" to sort and re-order monsters rather than physically moving them to another barn by running back and forth.
  • Notes: A page for you to make quick notes on because there's so many things to do, it becomes incredibly easy to forget your place and your plans the next time you play.
  • Separate Pocket for Farm Tools: Farm tools and items are combined into one bag, making it tedious to scroll through thus, should be separate like spells, weapons and accessories.
  • TV: The only way to know if a storm is coming (which destroys many crops and is annoying) is through a random NPC. Having a weather forecast on a TV would make life easier for everyone. 

8. LOAD Button (Instead of Resetting)

I will win one day... and if not, I'll just keep resetting.

Reloading games to benefit the player is a common practice in gaming nowadays. While some outcomes may be set in stone, such as the weather or certain events, many other events such as contests can easily be fixed if you just reset everything you lose! Right? Right. However, in RF4, there is no load button, and you would have do a 'soft-reset' to restart the game. (Hold L, R and Start or Select button). 

But with forced resetting comes consequences, and many glitches occur when a player has reset too many times. Sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent, a variety of glitches have been reported -- from image and sound distortions to freezing in certain scenes and being unable to advance through the game. So by adding a Load button, it would save a ton of time, save files, and most importantly, prevent angry and frustrated players.

9. UNDO Button

Since the A button is used to attack, interact with things, pick up things AND throw things, it's probably not hard to assume that I've picked a rare item or something along the lines of being very important, and thrown it into a very convenient lake or monster or person and can't take it back. This most often happens in dungeons when I'm fighting a monster and while trying to change weapons and attack, I forget I accidentally picked up a rare drop I needed while doing so and -- whoops, splash, gone. 

Here's me re-enacting my fight-and-throw-by-accident moment using a giant pink melon...

And there it goes.. 

 Because of how fluid the controls are, I think it shouldn't be too hard to add some sort of "Undo" button for situations like that, although I do know I need to stop being such a klutz and learn my lesson...

10. Improved Story

Rune Factory

Now this last one isn't a necessary, but having a more in-depth narrative, or at least that doesn't start with the protagonist losing their memory and never getting it back, would add something new to the series. I understand that the whole point is for the player to assimilate themselves in the character's shoes and that what matters is the "now", but I'm hoping that rather than strong-willed, adorable and kindhearted soul, we get an angst, tsundere and silent (in personality, not dialogue) main character that has their own story, rather then one that becomes built up after losing their memory. 


And thus ends my list! Regardless of whether they add any of these changes or not, I'll be happy enough if they just released another entry! (Although I'll be wishing for a undo button because I can't take any more heartbreak of throwing my rare items in the lake!)

Do you agree or have any other suggestions? If you haven't played Rune Factory, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so and join me in my prayers for another game!