Archives by Day

December 2023

Rune Factory 3 Special

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


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Rune Factory 3 Special'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 5, 2023 @ 12:01 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.

Rune Factory 3 puts you in the role of Micah, a young man who awakens in the town of Sharance. The town is located at the foot of the Sharance Tree, a magical tree that isn't doing so hot. Like any good RPG protagonist, Micah has a case of amnesia — and a dark secret: He is half-monster and can transform into his monster form at any time. This is a blessing in disguise, as there's another village not too far away, and it's populated by non-human monsters. The only way to save the Sharance Tree is for Micah to find a way to make humans and monsters trust one another and unite, or it might be the end for all of them.

Rune Factory 3 is from a time before the game allowed you to choose a gender, so Micah is the only choice for a protagonist. The game does somewhat make up for this by having a pretty diverse selection of potential marriage candidates, but you can only marry women in this entry. This is how it was when the game was originally released, and Rune Factory 3 Special adheres very closely to the original. The characters are cute, and the storyline simple and fun. It doesn't break any molds, but it has a good solid core cast, and that is what a Rune Factory game needs.

The first thing you should know going into Rune Factory 3 Special is that it's a very familiar game if you've played Rune Factory 4 Special. Many of the core gameplay mechanics are similar, if not identical. Like that game (and indeed all the Rune Factory games), the gameplay is split between farming and dungeon crawling. The farming is all standard Story of Seasons stuff. You plant, harvest, earn money, and use the money to upgrade so you can do all of the above in greater ways. If you've played a Story of Seasons (or Stardew Valley), you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Dungeon crawling is fun, if not overly complex. You have a variety of different spells and abilities that allow you to be a big brute with a two-handed sword or an adept magic-wielding spellcaster. Combat is largely about button-mashing and avoiding attacks, but this isn't really a serious criticism. It's engaging enough to keep you interested while not doing a ton to lock you into specific roles. When it came out, Rune Factory 3 was a huge improvement over Rune Factory 2 in combat, but it doesn't stand out as well these days, so it might not be exciting if you're coming from the older games.

Rune Factory 3's most distinctive feature is the ability to turn into a monster. Initially, Micah is stuck as a human, but relatively early on, he gets the ability to turn into a golden Wooly, which lets him interact with the non-human townsfolk. He can also fight in his Wooly form, which makes him a surprisingly effective hand-to-hand (or hoof-to-hoof) combatant, at the cost of not being able to use custom-crafted gear.

The monster feature is a touch underbaked. It feels largely secondary, and you don't need to touch or interact with it outside of a few plot-mandated areas. It's a neat feature, but I would've really loved to see something more involved that made turning into a monster feel like a significant part of the gameplay instead of a small touch of flavor. I used the Wooly form a lot because an adorable fuzzy little monster performing wrestling moves on giant trolls is utterly charming.

Visually, Rune Factory 3 Special is a huge step up from the original release, as expected. The muddy 3D graphics have been given a shiny update that improves the overall look and design. Characters and environments are better represented, and while there's still some traces of simplistic design due to the source material, it looks a lot better. Likewise, the soundtrack has been faithfully retained and is sure to provoke a ton of nostalgia from die-hard fans.

Alas, Rune Factory 3 Special is not particularly special. The visual upgrades represent almost the entirety of what has changed in Special over the original DS release. They are significant, but for a game as old as Special, one could hope for more polish in the controls or interface of mechanics. The only other real new inclusion is the Newlywed mode, which allows you to go on a short little adventure with any of the bachelorettes that you married. It's a neat addition that only die-hard will get something out of, since you'd need to play through the game multiple times for some short side stories.

The core issue with Rune Factory 3 Special is that Rune Factory 4 Special is already out, and without any significant improvements, there isn't a ton to recommend Rune Factory 3 Special overits sequel. There's more structure to the storyline and more freedom to break the game early on, but beyond that, it's basically the same experience that is a step backward. Rune Factory 3 is still fun, but it feels like it's missing things so soon after Rune Factory 4 Special because, well, it is. On the DS, Rune Factory 3 was a huge improvement over the previous game, but when you're going in reverse, it loses a lot of its luster. Short of having burned yourself out on Rune Factory 4 Special while still hankering for roughly the same gameplay, there's no huge reason to grab this over its sequel.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about Rune Factory 3 Special
blog comments powered by Disqus