Rune Factory 5
Back On The Farm, Sword In Hand
Rune Factory 5 is the first game in the series in a decade, with Rune Factory 4 releasing in 2012 on the 3DS. Despite there being five games, the series has been mutually exclusive to appear on Nintendo consoles. This all changed with the release of Rune Factory 4 Special, an HD remaster of the 3DS title, releasing on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Originally, the series began as a spin-off of the Story of Seasons franchise. The first two titles reflected this by mentioning Harvest Moon as a subtitle, another series I mentioned as far as its history in another SoS title I covered.
Series creator Yoshifumi Hashimoto has managed to take the best parts of other games he had developed and combine them into one. Before the Rune Factory series, he had worked on dungeon crawling titles including PSP's Vahalla Knights. In Rune Factory 5, maintaining the protagonist's farm is just as important as going out there and fight monsters. They both coexist as one is required to level up and gain materials, which are used to supplement the farm. The inverse also applies, with helping the townspeople and creating an ecosystem that benefits all. Considering my track record with farm-sim games, they are either a hit or a miss. Let's see how Rune Factory 5 fares up to bat.
Rune Factory 5 Is A Passion Project
After a ten-year hiatus, Rune Factory 5 is sure to pick up a lot of new fans of the series. With the Nintendo Switch selling exceptionally well, more potential players have been possible than it ever was before. The developers at Hakama as well as Marvelous had done their best to win players over. This is first seen from the packaging in itself, offering a cute "pocket survival guide" as the game's manual. The physical manual goes in depth about the world of RF5, its characters, and what players can expect from the game.
The connection between the staff and its playerbase continues once the game is loaded, as there's a mode labeled "Voice Commentary" in the main menu. Initially, I thought this mode was similar to a Sound Test mode where players can hear voice lines of the characters. What it turned out was several post-game interviews with the voice talents of the game's characters. I sat and listened to the commentary of the protagonist, Ares, and I enjoyed how natural it felt.
The voice actor, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, gave his insight in a comedic way, reminding that he had just finished voicing his lines. Although he couldn't compare his role to other roles he played for obvious reasons, he's best known for the voice of Claude from Fire Emblem Three Houses and various anime roles. He's even done some voice talent for several otome games I've played. It always comes back to otome, huh? The one thing I wish was that the game did something similar for the English voice talents as it has a star-studded cast as well.
Welcome To SEED, New Recruit
The game begins with the protagonist hearing a young girl cry for help as she's being ambushed by a monster. The "monster," in question, is a cute little sheep. Considering there are other games that have slimes as the starting enemy, it's not too out of character. After saving the girl and choosing the starting protagonist, they succumb to their injuries and end up in a town. This town is where the protagonist resides, slowly becoming involved in missions in exchange for a place to stay.
The fighting gameplay is similar to the earlier mentioned Vahalla Knights as in you target an opponent and attack. Basic abilities include evading attacks, but it's a hack-and-slash at its core. Players can obtain weapons through materials gathered and crafting them at a forge. Eventually, players can own their own forge opening up more possibilities. Before the player can do any of that, it's time to discuss the cornerstone of any "Story of Seasons / Harvest Moon" title: The farming.
The Farming Is Heavily Simplified This Time Around
Players who dive into the Story of Seasons games will know the song and dance. Clear the farm from clutter, pull the weeds
do not eat the weeds like I did and get sick from it, till the soil, plant some seeds, and water them. Everything you need is given to you including a convenient watering hole to fill the can. Like other games, disposing everything in a chest will be collected and exchanged for money. In Rune Factory 5, the collection will take place the following day instead of the evening.
The emphasis on fighting monsters and tending to a farm is similar to another game I've looked at, Kitaria Fables. It would seem that Rune Factory was the inspiration for their gameplay. Players are then required to meet the locals in town, seeing what services they offer, and build relationships with them. Some can be friendly, others can lead to romance. What's special about finding romance is that same-sex marriage is possible in Rune Factory 5. The characters are all quirky and interesting in their own right which is helped by the 3D and animated cutscenes.
Overall, Rune Factory 5 surprised me as it managed to keep me interested in the townsfolk as well as the world itself. Usually, farming-simulators become a slog, but much like Kitaria Fables, the mix between Action RPG and Simulation is welcome. I've spoken praise about the former so it's safe to say that Rune Factory 5 is worth a try. Players who want a little action and battling in their lives as well as a chance to wind down will find this title an enjoyable experience.
Rune Factory 5 is out now on the Nintendo Switch.