A Second Chance at Fun
I’m ashamed to say it, but I missed out on Rune Factory 4 during its initial bout on the 3DS. I’m not entirely sure why, either; I love JRPGs, and I love Story of Seasons (and Harvest Moon!). So, why exactly did I decide to play this game? I’m not sure. However, after finally being able to dig into it on the Switch with Rune Factory 4 Special, I’m now well-aware of just how much I missed out on when this game first came out. And, while I’m not entirely done with my crop-growing, monster-taming, dungeon-crawling experience just yet, I can already tell you that this is definitely a re-release to look forward to—whether you’ve played it before or not!
Adventures in Agriculture
As many of you already know (and it’s okay if you don’t!), Rune Factory 4‘s gameplay revolves around two primary mechanics—the first of which is farming! The player is, for reasons I won’t divulge in this preview, given a small farm to use as they see fit… which, you know, means growing crops. If you’ve ever played Story of Seasons, you most likely already know how this is going to play out. Each day you’re responsible for tending to your farm; planting seeds, watering crops, weeding, and the like. It seems normal so far, right? Sure it does! But things are about to get a little more fantastical.
You know how in most farming games you get animals like cows, sheep, and chickens? Well, Rune Factory 4 doesn’t entirely play by those rules. Instead of purchasing livestock, the player can venture out into the wilderness to recruit monsters for their farm! In some ways, these monsters work like normal animals—such as being able to get wool (well, “wool”) from the sheep-like Wooly—but they can also be ordered to take care of the farm, and even ridden around like mounts! Just keep in mind that, just like regular animals, these monsters aren’t self-sufficient. To keep your fearsome friends happy, you’ll need to feed them, clean them, and care for them – and bribing them with presents helps, too.
So, what’s a farmer to do when they’re done tilling the soil and harvesting crops for the day? Why, they go on an adventure of course! Okay, well, most farmers don’t actually do that. But you can bet that the one in this game does! Alongside its farming mechanics, Rune Factory 4 Special also offers a fully fleshed-out JRPG experience. Players can explore the wildlands south of town—which slowly opens up as the player progresses throughout the story—fighting monsters, collecting items, and even finding a few spots to farm as they do so. Of course, you won’t just be running around aimlessly. RF4S also offers many dungeons for players to trek through, each containing unique themes, treasures baddies, and boss monsters.
It would be easy to simply call this game’s combat “hack-and-slash” and be done with it, but I don’t think that that’s giving it enough credit. While the combat itself may be straight-forward, there are several different ways to go about it. Rune Factory 4 Special offers a number of weapons, spells, and skills for players to mess around with. That diversity of weaponry isn’t just for show, either; in true JRPG fashion, different monsters have different strengths and weaknesses, meaning that players will definitely want to bring along the right gear for the right occasion. And that goes double for those especially long treks into dangerous areas!
So Far, So Great
My time with Rune Factory 4 Special is far from being over. I’ve got more farming to do, more places to explore, and that newfangled Newlywed Mode to try out. Even with all of that still needing to be done, however, there’s already no denying how much fun I’ve been having with this game. It’s always nice when games as good as this one give players a second (or first!) chance to experience them, and, with everything that Rune Factory 4 Special has to offer, this is definitely shaping up to be a more-than-worthwhile experience.