Rune Factory Frontier

November 13, 2009

Rune Factory Frontier is the first game Neverland Co. has made for the Wii. Despite this, it is one of the best Wii games I’ve had the pleasure of playing since I bought my Wii three years ago. It’s clear that Neverland put a lot of time and effort into Rune Factory Frontier and that we can look forward with eagerness to their next title.

Rune Factory Frontier is the third game in the Rune Factory series, and you’ll play as the same protagonist, Raguna, as in the previous two games. However, the story is completely unrelated to the previous games, so you don’t have to worry if you’ve never played them. At the beginning of the game, Raguna is wandering the countryside looking for Mist, a girl that lived in town with you but mysteriously disappeared one day. You’ll stumble on her in Trampoli Village during the opening scene of the game and, much to Raguna’s surprise and chagrin, find yourself in charge of a completely deserted and overrun farm. At this point you’ll have the choice to continue through the story or simply enjoy immersing yourself in the leisurely pace of Rune Factory Frontier.

The difference between Rune Factory and Harvest Moon is that Rune Factory games have some basic action RPG elements brought into them, and Rune Factory Frontier is no different. You’ll start out the game with some turnip seeds, a watering can, and a hoe. It is your job from then on to earn a living however you wish to. You’ll be able to purchase a basic kitchen, forge, and laboratory early in the game, and anything made in them can be sold for profit. In fact, everything in the game can be sold, even the grass you pick from your field. And did I mention action RPG elements? Rune Factory Frontier has that in spades. You will gain access eventually to a number of caves and ruins that are home to any manner of foul and loathsome beasts- all of whom want to hurt you. These monsters can range from squirrels to spiders to giant man-eating mushrooms to magic tigers. You can use your farm tools to fight or you can buy or forge swords, spears, axes, and even learn to use magic. As you fight you’ll level up, and each time you level up, your stamina and health will be restored. At the end of each cave or ruin, there’s a boss to fight which will require all of your strength to beat.

Unlike many action RPGs though, fighting isn’t all you’ll do in the ruins and caves. You can also grow crops in them, there’s even an area that will allow you to grow crops from any season, all the time. Additionally, you can tame the wild beasts, many of whom have special abilities that will make your life easier on your farm. These abilities will range from helping you harvest crops, to chopping down trees, watering crops, and even destroying the boulders that cover your field. Some will even give you products like wool or milk when you raise them. These monsters take the place of the livestock you would normally care for in a Harvest Moon game; you’ll find no cows or chickens here.

Progressing through the game, you’ll meet any number of eligible bachelorettes who would love to get to know and marry you. In fact, the farther you advance through the story and the more profitable your farm becomes, the more people will move to Trampoli. Unfortunately, the relation and conversational systems in Rune Factory Frontier are no more in-depth or realistic than they’ve ever been. Most people will say the same few things for the majority of each season, and getting them to like you is simply a matter of talking to them often and giving them the one or two gifts they like the most.

As far as the technical aspects of the game are concerned, almost everything is top-tier in terms of quality. The graphics are vibrant and look great for the Wii, though the environments are slightly less detailed than the characters themselves. The sound effects are spot on, whether you are watering crops, chopping up wood, or slaying monsters. However, the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve heard in a video game. It is grating, annoying, and conveys less emotion than the writing on the screen does. The soundtrack isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it is fitting for the game. The control scheme for the game feels smooth and responsive and is actually fairly intuitive.

Neverland also changed the inventory system for Rune Factory Frontier. No longer will you have to deal with running out of space in your backpack and need to leave a cave before you are finished because there’s not enough room for anything else. Everything will stack, up to 99 pieces, in a single slot in your backpack and you have at least 80 slots to fill. There are storage boxes and shelves in your house to use, so the only time you’ll ever run out of space is by failing to take advantage of the various inventory options.

The Wii has had few notable third-party games to call its own, and even fewer worthwhile RPGs, but Rune Factory Frontier certainly fills that void. It’s one of the best games I’ve played so far on the Wii and will have something for almost anyone to enjoy. It can be as fast or slow-paced as you make it, and you can pretty much spend as much time as desired on each of the different activities in the game.

ESRB: E10 for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol

Plays Like: Harvest Moon meets a dungeon crawler; previous Rune Factory games

Pros: Controls feel smooth and responsive; graphics are great for the Wii; inventory is simple, easy, and the best in the series; just as addictive as ever

Cons: Menu system is clunky, with lots of screens that you can only flip through one at a time; voice acting is atrocious

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.