LifeisXbox’s Rune Factory 4 Special review | In 2013, Rune Factory 4 was released on the Nintendo 3DS. This was coincidentally the first Rune Factory game to release on this console, receiving a lot of praise. Contrary to what the title of this game would suggest, this was actually the sixth release in the Rune Factory series. What started off as a spin-off of the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons video game series, the Rune Factory games quickly made their way to the hearts of many, many gamers. This is actually a typical game that I would absolutely love, but somehow I have never gotten around to delving myself into the wonderful world of Rune Factory. Now, many years after the release of Rune Factory 4, we finally got a remaster called Rune Factory 4 Special. Released on Xbox, Switch, PC, and PlayStation, all types of gamers can now enjoy this series! Big shout out to the developer and publisher Marvelous Inc. I’d say! Oh, and by the way, Rune Factory 5 was already released on the Switch in Japan and is coming to America and Europe in March!
Most Memorable Moment
I might not be very social in real life so believe it or not, I truly enjoyed the social and dating sim aspect of Rune Factory 4 Special. Even though I initially leaned towards dating a girl (which is unfortunately impossible in this game), I totally fell for Dylas when he showed up. Getting to know everyone on a superficial level, and then seeing the characters change when you develop stronger relationships was so beautiful to witness. The connection you have with these virtual people is so great! I swear this game is damn charming.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we liked!
- The usual suspects | There are plenty games around with the four usual suspects: farming, cooking, fishing, and crafting. And even though they’re not always equally fun, Rune Factory 4 Special will have you enjoy them all the time. All four are super easy to learn but do have a certain challenge to them as well. You have your typical farming where you plow your fields, plant seeds, water the lands, and harvest your crops in order to sell them. You can cook food to take with you on adventures or to simply sell, and you can even cook dishes with the fish you catch. There’s also an elaborate crafting part to the game, allowing you to create a bunch of weapons, items, and accessoiries. If you want to cook or craft better, you’ll have to consume special bread to learn new recipes. Surely Maui, you cannot keep consuming bread to learn everything? Well, of course not! Sometimes, you’ll have to cook or craft more so you get more skilled, otherwise the bread loses its effect. Don’t worry though, the game tells you if eating the bread doesn’t have the desirable effect.
- Harvest Moon but add combat | Yoshifumi Hashimoto, producer of the Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons series has described the Rune Factory games as “Harvest Moon where you wield a sword”. And I honestly love this combination of the usual suspects and combat. What is also fun, is that this game isn’t about getting better by finding or buying new weapons. Rather than this, you should craft your own armor and weapons to progress and get stronger. You’ll encounter plenty of enemies and have a wide array of weapons to choose from. I really enjoyed combining farming and crafting with fighting a bunch of monsters, especially since it’s kept very seperate from each other. It’s not like monsters are attacking your crops or anything. Instead, they’re on another part of the map and you can just go there and adventure freely.
- Dating sim | As if trying to grow crops, cook recipes, craft items, go fish, and fight enemies wasn’t enough already, you will also be busy getting into friendships and relationships with the people in Rune Factory 4 Special. Befriending people isn’t so difficult, but building longer friendships that can bloom into relationships can be. I was a bit disappointed to see that only same sex couples were possible, but then Dylas turned up, and it soften the blow a little. You can date any character (of the opposite sex) that has a short intro cutscene when you first meet them. Now, in order to increase your friendship with someone, you’ll have to earn Love Points (LP). This can be done by talking to them and giving them gifts they like. Once you’ve reached level 7 (or 8), you can try and get closer to someone and initiate a relationship. The next step is marriage, but a lot needs to be done before you can actually get married. There are some requirements like going on at least three dates and have an LP level of 10 or more. The social part of Rune Factory 4 Special is quite fun, really. Some characters might seem dull at first, but the closer you get to them, the more they tell you and the stronger your connection gets. I started to absolutely love some characters and enjoyed talking to them on a daily (in-game) basis. Nothing felt forced, and the overall combination of all the previously mentioned aspects of this game really offer something beautiful.
- Never a dull moment | The fun thing about Rune Factory is that you never not know what to do. There is simply so much to do that you can just keep playing this game for hours on end. Whether you’re fulfilling quests, catching some fish, helping out Ventuswill, or exploring some dungeons, there really is never a dull moment in Rune Factory 4 Special. I usually started my day with watering and harvesting crops, and then moved on to whatever I wanted. Whether that was fulfilling quests, setting out on an adventure in the woods, or simply spending the day casually talking and crafting, it was always fun. You can even raise monsters, if that isn’t super cool! The days flew by and I often found myself looking at the in-game time and it being 10 p.m. already. I truly believe that the Rune Factory games offer so much that there is something for everyone.
- Newleywed Mode | Something that will definitely catch both old and new players’ eyes is the Newleywed Mode. This is a brand new mode that was added specifically for the Rune Factory 4 Special release. Unfortunately, it’s not accessible in the main menu from the start. In order to unlock this mode, you’ll have to get married in the regular playthrough first. Now, once you’ve gotten access to Newleywed Mode, you get a list of possible partners. Note that this list will only include people you’ve already married in the regular game. After choosing a partner, you get presented with special scenarios designed for you and your partner. Even though these are mostly narrative and visual novel-like scenarios, there are some playable scenes to be found. These aren’t very long playthroughs, but they are cute and definitely add some value for the hardcore Rune Factory fans.
- Soundtrack and voice acting | On top of some amazing gameplay, we also get a wonderful soundtrack playing in the back. I often turn on my own music when I game, and I do admit that I did that here too very few times, but mostly, I just enjoyed the sweet melodies Rune Factory 4 Special provides. There is also some splendid voice acting in this game! My favourite is without a doubt the one of Elder Dragon Ventuswill because she has a softer and more commanding side that we both get to hear and experience.
- Outdated graphics | It’s no surprise that the graphics in Rune Factory 4 Special are a tad outdated. The original game stems from 2013 (even 2012 if you consider the Japan release) which is almost ten years ago. Sure, this is a remastered version and some visual enhancements were made, but overall they are very limited. You immediately feel that this is kind of an outdated game and I wasn’t the biggest fan of how this game looks, unfortunately. One thing that I really disliked, was the rain, though. I’m not sure what went wrong there but it just feels like there are some kind of error stripes on your screen and it just diddn’t give me a rainy feeling at all. I mean, yeah, I knew it was rain but I just stared at it and hated the presentation of it.
- Is it really worth reinvesting in? | Obviously, there are some differences between Rune Factory 4 and Rune Factory 4 Special. First of all, there are the visual and audio enhancements. Second, there is now a Hell Mode available for those who want to spice up the combat aspect of the game. This is basically just a harder difficulty mode that offers some extra challenge. Third, there is the Newleywed Mode that I talked about, and fourth we have the Another Episode Mode, which is simply a series of voice dramas that has a visual novel style. All in all, the new content isn’t that overwehlming honestly. I have never played Rune Factory 4 so for me (and other new players) it’s a great experience, but if you have played the original game, be aware that the additions in this edition are minimal. Especially if you’re not interested in the Newleywed Mode or you’re not a die hard fan of the series, I think spending your money on this one might be something you’ll regret.
What we disliked
- Nothing to add here!
How long to beat the story | About 40 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 100+ hours
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Head of PC team. PC, Switch, and Xbox game reviewer. Also a marketeer, concert and animal lover, and photographer in training 🙂