I suppose we can’t stay mad at Neverland and Marvelous forever. Not that I’m not still completely mindblown by their decision to turn the new farmer in Rune Factory 3 into a effeminate were-woolie, but I’m going to hope they rethink that decision for the Western market.
In the mean time, let’s look at what potentially makes Rune Factory 3 a great game. That isn’t to say Rune Factory has ever been bad, it’s just that the second one felt a bit too much like more of the same for my liking, and 3 seems to bring some fresh, promising features to the table.
For starters, the new farmer, Maisu — which sounds like “Mice” but will probably be spelt “Mais” — can transform into a variety of were-beasts once he obtains an item named the “Transformation Belt.” Depending on what you turn into, you’ll have different battle actions to choose from in combat. Not only that, people in town will react to you differently depending on what form you take on, too.
This resolves one of the biggest issues with the first two games, and even Frontier. Beyond a certain point, it got a little tiring listening to people in town say the same things over and over again, and having a little variety in your interaction with the townspeople this way is probably going to be considerably more entertaining. Personally, I’m curious to see if you get chased out of town, should you choose to enter as one of the wilder beasts in the game.
Being able to transform into a variety of beasts also means that you will almost certainly be required to make use of their abilities in order to get past certain caves and areas, so it should be interesting to see how this feature influences the game’s dungeon design.
Since you can still keep pets, there’s also a possibility that you might be able to talk to them while transformed, and maybe even issue them orders in combat. We’ll have to wait and see what Neverland have up their sleeves. There was also a brief discussion with a friend about whether or not you’d be able to milk yourself as a were-buffamo, but let’s abandon that train of thought since it’s kind of disgusting.
Interestingly, Rune Factory 3 seems to handle character interaction in a manner that sounds vastly superior to its prequels. Townspeople still go about their daily lives just as in previous games; only, now their actions aren’t entirely independent of each other. Instead, their day-to-day activities are influenced by their ties to other characters and their interests, and conversations and schedules are affected by this as well.
This could very well go a long way toward making Rune Factory 3 feel a lot livelier than previous games. My favourite lady in the original game was Sharron, and though I loved hanging around her, it was a little heart-breaking to know that she almost never mentioned me to Melody, who was supposed to be a good friend of hers. It would be nice if RF3 were to accommodate this petty desire. Though there’s been no talk of if the relationship system in Rune Factory 3 has seen any upgrades, I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll probably see something new in that regard as well.
And then we have the feature that started the Harvest Moon craze: the farming. There hasn’t been any news on whether you’ll have access to new farming techniques or not, but what has been thrown out there is that growing crops in RF3 is now restricted to underground caves. These caves are under the influence of a giant tree (Yggdrassil?), which also happens to be Mais’s home.
Since you no longer have your own farm, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of changes this brings to the landscape and farming. Since the tree is connected to every cave, there’s a possibility that this would allow you to streamline the manner in which you tend to crops. For example; perhaps you will be able to water larger portions of caves directly from within the tree? The bottom screen could provide the touch-interface, while the top screen would show the area you’re watering. Or perhaps you will be able to influence the caves themselves in some way?
Despite the fact that the game is close to release, there’s still a lot about it we don’t know. Now that Famitsu has debuted it, we’re probably going to see a fairly steady stream of info over the next few months until release. Personally, I’m still hoping for some neat online features and to find out if the game is DSi-enhanced in any way.
Regardless, Rune Factory 3 already seems to be taking a step in the right direction as far as an evolution of the series’ design is concerned. Just…please let me play as someone other than a trap, Neverland.