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Backlog Twosome | Rune Factory 4 Special

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Two backloggers, one review! One old and one new! We’ve removed Rune Factory 4 from our queue in this newest Backlog Two…some!

Everybody has a favorite video game right? Heck, most of us long-time gamers have a butt-ton of favorites! But is there one among your favorites that no matter how much you sing its praises no one seems to believe you? And of course by no one I mean your significant other, because really who else are you so passionately trying to convince to play with you? At least that was my plight! So, when Rune Factory 4 was re-released not only with a fancy deluxe physical edition, but also as a sparkly remastered port to the Switch, I knew I needed to own it! Oh yes! It would be mine….whenever I could find a spare $60 in the budget that is!

Being the gigantic enablers that we are here at the Backlog Odyssey household, Patrick bought it for me as a gift much to my surprise, and even more surprising than that, he wanted to play it together! WHAT!? 

Yeah! You saw that really big WHAT just now! And that’s what this round of the Backlog Twosome is all about. Since I played the ever-loving garbage out of Rune Factory 4 many moons ago on the 3DS and he has never played it whatsoever, it was perfect for one of these double down reviews of ours!

If I’m not mistaken, my 3DS version of Rune Factory 4 was a gift as well! Being an avid lover of the Harvest Moon franchise I had always wanted to give the Rune Factory games a try. So, this was my first foray into the franchise, and while I don’t typically start at the end of a series, I’m glad I did with this one. It was far and above better than I could have hoped for and it really took my love for the Harvest Moon games to a whole new level. Adding in those RPG elements really spiced things up and broke up the tedium of just a typical farming/romance based sim game. I’ve played Rune Factory 4 a lot over the years, so getting a remastered version for the Switch, that could be played in handheld or on the TV, was a dream come true.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, up until we played Rune Factory 4 on the Switch, I didn’t have much experience with the series or even games like it. I mean, I’ve watched Charleen play them over the years and have been endlessly fascinated with them, but typically sim style games just aren’t my bag. The lack of a clear objective and having so much freedom tends to leave me feeling overwhelmed and that’s when my interest starts to wane.

Honestly, what I remember most about Rune Factory 4 is its soundtrack! With Charleen sitting next to me playing it on her 3DS while I was playing something else, its tunes would get stuck in my head and I would find myself humming along with them even though I wasn’t playing it! Sometimes even overriding my ability to remember the music in my own game!

Since my level of familiarity with the game only extends to what I’ve seen on my wife’s 3DS screen, it’s tough to say if the Switch remaster holds up to the original, but Marvelous and XSEED did a fantastic job of making it functional and intuitive to play on the Switch! Plus, with all of the additional features added to the port like the “Newlywed Mode” which gives you extra storylines for each of the “romanceable” characters, there’s more than enough to bring old fans back. At least that’s what it seems like.  

However, at times the HUD felt a little overbearing with it filling up large portions of the screen. Also, the menu systems felt a bit sluggish and I could see how using the touch screen would have made it a little more streamlined.

While the differences between the 3DS and Switch version are on the negligible side I can confidently say that, as an old fan, this Switch port definitely holds up. For as often as I see the words “shameless cash-grab” attached to ports like Rune Factory 4 Special, I also see a lot of players old and new enjoying themselves with these, now, much more accessible titles. The graphics are exactly the same except for a bit of smoothing. There is new voice acting and cutscenes added into the dialogue which is cool but not mind-blowing and events are no longer randomly triggered which is more of a much needed fix than an addition. All neat things added into an old favorite, but honestly the real draw is in the accessibility. Not everyone was a fan of the DS/3DS and this port serves to please both old and new players in giving them the choice of how to play.

I can’t say there’s much I would change about Rune Factory 4. For the 3DS version the randomly triggered events were a detriment to the story progression, but the Switch port removed that barrier. If I were to complain about anything it would be the amount of grinding necessary for each and every aspect of the game. You have to grind for materials in order to grind for levels in your crafting/forging in order to be able to grind for experience levels to make it past each of the bosses and areas. While a minimal amount of grinding is to be expected in any RPG, when it comes to Rune Factory 4…that’s a whole lot of grinding! There needs to be a bit more natural progression when it comes to levelling up your skills and stats. That’s my hope for Rune Factory 5. Everything else I would keep!

Honestly, I would have expected to say something like “take out the farming and make it a full fledged RPG”, but that’s kind of where it’s charm is. In the end, I actually started enjoying the daily grind of growing your crops and selling them or using them for crafting. Instead, it was the RPG elements that I felt were a little unbalanced!

So, with that being said, if I could change anything about the game it would be the amount of grinding required to get anything good! I mean, as you play the game you’ll naturally unlock the ability to get a lot of good stuff, but come the 3rd arc, you really need to buckle down and start focusing on things like cooking and weapon crafting if you want to survive, let alone see it through to the end!

I think the short answer is yes, I definitely recommend you check out Rune Factory 4! Especially the Switch port of the game! Not only is it a little more convenient to play on something like the Switch, but it’s a chill RPG that features everything you’d want in a farming sim, only more! Now, I may have had a slight problem with the grind, but if you enjoy that kind of stuff, then this is doubly the game for you!

Top it off with a cute anime art style, fun and unique characters, and a sprinkling of dating sim mechanics and I think you got yourself a wonderful pick up and play experience that gives you a little more than what you’d find in something like Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing. My biggest takeaway from Rune Factory 4 however, is that despite it not being a game that’s typically in my wheelhouse, I very much enjoyed playing it with Charleen. That, and I’m actually excited for the next game in the series!

It’s a very cute game with lots of things to do and see. The standard fare of farming and raising livestock is given the exceptional twist of growing things like giant crops, sword and shield flowers, and even dungeons in your own garden and befriending all the various monsters you encounter to help you with your farm and even join you in battle. The story isn’t terribly engaging but the wide variety of NPC personalities and places you have to explore make this game plenty captivating. So, absolutely! It comes with a high recommendation from me. Even if farming simulation games are not something you really enjoy, I’d say this one might just be worth giving a try! 

I’ve played through Rune Factory 4 many times over the years but I have to say that this most recent play through has been my favorite. It’s not often that when the two of us play a game together it’s me that has all the previous experience to share. And I’m not gonna lie that felt kind of cool! Getting to see his reactions to various people and events made the game seem almost brand new to a veteran like me. And noticing which parts he seemed to really enjoy and which he found frustrating gave me an even better understanding of his gaming tastes and I think he got more of a glimpse into mine as well. It was an all round fantastic experience that I think left both of us even more excited for the next series release!