Rune Factory 3 Special

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: Sept. 5, 2023


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Switch/PC Preview - 'Rune Factory 3 Special'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 11, 2023 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

The Rune Factory series combines the fun and rewarding gameplay of Harvest Moon with the fantasy and excitement of an action-RPG, offering Harvest Moon fans and traditional RPG players the best of both worlds.

Pre-order Rune Factory 3 Special

Rune Factory 3 Special opens as all good Rune Factory games do: with the protagonist, Micah, falling from the sky and landing in a heap in a conveniently pleasant and idyllic farming town called Sharance. In Rune Factory 3, the protagonist begins as a shockingly adorable sheep monster that quickly transforms into human form. Before you know it, you're given a farm of your own and tasked with planting, harvesting and occasionally fighting monsters. The "monsters" thing gets more complex when you realize that your protagonist can also turn into a monster ....

The combat and farming in Rune Factory 3 Special are going to feel awfully familiar to fans of the franchise, even if they never played the original release. It's a touch backwards, since Rune Factory 4 Special came out beforehand, so a lot of things that RF3 introduced might feel like old hat if you're a newcomer to the franchise.  

Our preview build only contained a little of combat and farming, but we had a chance to see how the two interact. Like Rune Factory 4 Special, your stamina (or "Rune Points") governs everything you do. Swinging a weapon uses up precious energy, so you need to carefully plan what you're going to spend your day doing. Go out fighting for too long, and you might not have the energy to do some proper crop maintenance later. On the other hand, almost everything you do in the game is connected to a skill (including walking, eating and sleeping), so no matter what you do, you're gradually building up stats.

Rune Factory 3 Special is a very cozy game. The updated graphics and adorable models still show traces of their handheld heritage, but they're so vivid and colorful that it doesn't work against it. Sharance is basically the nicest place in the world, with every character being bright, chipper and quirky, which makes it a fun place to spend your virtual vacation. A mild disappointment is that the game only has a male protagonist and female marriage options, which does feel like a step back for the franchise, but at very least there are a lot of choices (11 in total).

What makes Rune Factory 3 Special, well, special? In addition to the updated graphics and presentation, the game will also include the Newlywed mode found in previous games, where you can go off on a cute little adventure with the character you've married. For those who want a tougher challenge, there is also going to be a harder Hell mode that makes the combat more punishing. If there are other big changes, they weren't instantly clear in our preview build, but that alone should be interesting to longtime fans.

Rune Factory 3 Special seems to be all set to be a proper port of the original title. The visual improvements were the bulk of the changes or updates that we saw in the preview build, but they were enough to make it a big improvement over squinting at the tiny screen of the original. The core gameplay isn't anything radically different, but does it really need to be? You're here to farm corn and beat up monsters, and Rune Factory 3 Special knows exactly what it needs to be. We're excited to see how the final build shapes up when it releases Sept. 5, 2023, for the Nintendo Switch and PC.

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