Last month, Marvelous Entertainment released Rune Factory Oceans for the Wii and PlayStation 3 in Japan. The game is a follow up to Rune Factory Frontier on the Wii, but it isn’t a direct story sequel, although it does feature a few cameo appearances from Frontier characters.
Oceans also has a more fleshed out battle system, and introduces the concept of riding a giant to the series. While the game hasn’t been announced for a U.S. or European localization yet, back in February, we got in touch with series producer, Yoshifumi Hashimoto, to ask a few questions about the latest console title in the series.
I think the first question that comes to mind is, what do you feel the primary difference is in terms of how you approach development, between Rune Factory on portable systems and consoles? Do you focus on different aspects of the series in each case?
Marvelous Entertainment producer, Yoshifumi Hashimoto: On portable systems, I made the game a bit easier in order to enable users to start and quit the game at anytime they like. On the other hand, I made the console games harder because I wanted users to take more time to complete quests in their homes. This was a pretty big difference.
There are two reasons why I did this, one is that I want to make games suited to each user’s situation like time, circumstances and so on. Another reason is I want users who buy both the portable and console games to enjoy a different experience. They’re spending their well-earned money on these games, so I feel that I owe it to them.
When you first began development of Rune Factory Oceans, what were your initial thoughts regarding what you wanted to do with the game and how you wanted the series to evolve?
The first thought that came to my mind was creating a exciting adventure in the sea. In former series we couldn’t enter the sea; we could only see it off in the distance.
At the beginning of development I was thinking of letting players dive into the sea, but I changed my mind because it was making the game much more complex than I had hoped.
Compared to Frontier, the combat in Oceans looks more dynamic and combo-oriented. Could you explain what advances you’ve made to the new combat system and how it works? There seem to be air-combos now as well…?
I did make an effort to add more dynamism and action-oriented combat to the game. With jumping and other features included, players can take to the air in battle to further extend their combos. That all being said, it’s also easy to enjoy slower-paced and grander-scale battles with the giant character, too.
We understand that you can use Rune Abilities to power up your weapons. Are these abilities changeable or are does each weapon come with a specific Rune Ability?
Each weapon has a specific ability and users are able to customize it.
Oceans also introduces the concept of riding a giant, Ymir, to uncover other islands surrounding Finis. How do you come across these islands, and what can you do on them?
Players can ride on the giant, and using his massive strength, pull islands out from the sea. You will notice that on the map, some areas of sea have a different colour than others. On these islands, users can explore and cultivate crops.
In general, Oceans looks more action-oriented and stylish than the games before it. Is that something you plan to continue? To eventually make Rune Factory more of an action series?
I wouldn’t say that the aim is to make it an action series. With Rune Factory, we’re trying to create the ultimate experience of living life in a fantasy world. The closer we try to model this experience, the more elements that we put into it. So I guess action-based gameplay falls out of this approach, rather than is the intended final product.
There are two protagonists this time around, Azel and Sonia. The game makes you switch between Azel and Sonia as you play. Can you control when you switch between the two, or does it happen at certain points in the story?
Well, actually, you don’t really play as Sonia directly. Throughout the majority of the game, you control Azel, who Sonia lives inside. Towards the end of the game, you have the option of playing as Sonia or Azel.
On the one hand, you’re trying to make Oceans more accessible, but on the other, you’ve made it more action-oriented too. How do you balance that?
It’s important to give players challenges to overcome in the game, even while you’re trying to make the game as accessible and fun as possible. It’s these hurdles which give users a sense of accomplishment once they’ve been overcome.
Back in the day, I used to make much more difficult games, but these days I try to make easier games, giving users the self-confidence necessary to surpass challenges as they appear. That’s not to say these games are really easy, or that you’ll never die, it’s just that it’s important to empower players throughout.
Rune Factory is an interesting series from a design standpoint. It took everything great about Harvest Moon, added more variety to it, and gave it an almost medieval fantasy "feel." Innocent Life went the other way and turned it futuristic. What other kinds of feelings do you think you could create from the Harvest Moon formula?
This is actually a toughie, because if I say too much then the cat will be out of the bag. What I can say, is that I’d certainly like to create more varieties of life simulation games. Because, with Rune Factory for example, I feel that there were a lot of fans of traditional fantasy/action games who had fun actually living a life in a fantasy world, as opposed to just battling all the time in a fantasy setting.