I’ve been a Harvest Moon fan for years, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. However, interestingly enough, I’ve never played a Rune Factory game. The series, billed as a “Fantasy Harvest Moon,” spun off from Harvest Moon six years ago, and has been spawning sequels ever since. Somehow, I’ve never gotten around to trying them out. I decided to make Rune Factory 4 my first, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a richly-featured, exciting adventure that melds Sword of Mana-styled action with Harvest Moon mechanics, and it actually works.
Many of the same ideas explored in Harvest Moon are present in Rune Factory 4, like planting crops, collecting your produce to sell off, cooking fresh meats, looking after lifestock, and keeping your farm afloat. The biggest differences lie within the combat interwoven between these decidedly more mundane farming sections, giving Rune Factory 4 a much different feel than standard, more peaceful and rural-feeling Harvest Moon games. You’ll raid dungeons, face off against a glut of different monsters, and interact with the world the same way you would with a typical JRPG. You can level up several stats, and aside from collecting numerical stat increases, you’ll also acquire a special kind of currency that can be used to improve your farm, purchase new licenses, hold festivals, and augment your farm and property in several ways.
These rewards may seem small, but when you consider you earn them simply playing through the game, they rack up quickly. It combines the addictive nature of the original Harvest Moon games with the nature of the grind from the traditional JRPG. There’s plenty to do and explore, especially when you consider your farming duties and the rest of what’s available for you to uncover.
What’s interesting is that Rune Factory 4 takes the lead and attempts to craft a game that goes down a primarily role-playing path. It’s a little jarring, considering Harvest Moon’s insistency to focus on simple time management and farm sim mechanics. Things don’t get too complicated beyond slashing through enemies, however, so there’s only hints of a rudimentary setup here rather than a full-fledged adventure. It turns into a not-quite-perfect amalgam of two games then, though it’s still very much enjoyable.
You just have to evaluate how much you really want swordplay and narrative in your Harvest Moon. If you prefer one over the other, then you might be in the market for a different game. If you’re looking to get a little chocolate in your peanut butter (or a little peanut butter in your chocolate) then Rune Factory 4 is a great-looking start, even if it is a bit lacking in some areas.