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Old 02-21-2014   #1
Snips
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Saph Reviews: Rune Factory 4

"The true goal of the game is to throw birds ad people and feed pancakes to a dragon."
- GameFAQs forum poster

Rune Factory is a series that is no stranger to "do what you want, when you want" and certainly if you really wanted to, the above quote could be a summary of your time with the game, if you were so inclined. But I mostly just included it because it made me laugh and is partially true. Throwing birds at people is fun.

Most noteworthy, though, is previous RFs shied away from humans harming humans. The protagonist of RF1 was literally willing to let an evil empire invade because "I won't hurt a human because the magic that sends the monsters back to their realm will not stop a human from dying." Well, RF4 OPENS wth you slashing up humans. Yeah. It went there.

RF4 is ballsier than the other RFs to date. Between coarse language (They actually say things like "dumbass" which is unheard of in RF) Suggestive innuendo ("Have you thought about having children?" "I've thought about HOW!") and the fact that some people will basically be flirty with you REGARDLESS of your chosen gender, it feels very progressive. Still no gay marriage, but I'm not into that anyway. Though this game DOES make me ship two males. Two male tsunderes... tsun towards each other. It's glorious.

The actual early plot makes no effort to take itself seriously. Your protagonist, who has amnesia from taking a heavy hit to the head and then falling off an airship, actually calls the others out on it, to give you an idea how stupid it is. But it gets serious indeed, with you actively infiltrating territory owned by the aforementioned evil Empire from RF1 (which have not been seen SINCE RF1) and even having a showdown with their Emperor. There's some distrust and intrigue (one character in particular believes the dragon killed his family, and will sabotage anything involving helping said dragon, but from the shadows so you don't know for sure until his allies blow his cover) And one dungeon is even a haunted house, which, while kinda cliche, was ballsy for an RF game with moments like "I ran out of ink but it's okay because my hand is leaking red ink ithurtsithurtsithurtsithurtsit hurts."

As always, the game plays like a more actiony/ less puzzly Zelda with distractions like farming and social interaction. The cast, for the first time ever, is 100% cool, and I found myself seeking them all out to talk ever day, to see what they had to say. The token "fat guy" (Same rich family, they all look similar) in particular amused me to no end, with his teasing and joke flirting, flat out asking your characer to marry him (even if male) and giving you 8 different ways of saying no. He was also a genuinely great guy, taking in several people who had nowhere else to go (One ends up working for him as a waiter, one plays music at his restaurant, and the last one is a business man and presumably pays rent when he can.)

Much like the other RF and even HM games, Romance exists. Each gender has 6 potential partners to pursue, and while you can date them all, you can only marry one. The variety is pretty good. My only complaint is that a few characters (like the aforementioned fat guy, or the mother of one of the bachelorettes) are not legitimate options. Each character has their own prerequisite events to go through first, which helps add considerable backsory and insight into them. Once you marry, you can have a child, and your child, like anyone else, can join your adventure in life or death scenarios because you're a terrible parent.

One subject which is a major toss up is that some characters are blatant expy ripoffs of characters from other popular things. Volkanon, for example, is freaking intense, proud of his muscles, and cries a lot. If you're familiar with FMA you may already be calling him Armstorng instead. For a female example, Forte is a female knight with long blonde hair, a blue dress, and a personality to basically match Saber in FS/N (according to my friends, I have not watched/reaad FS so....) These are the only two off the top of my head, but it's kinda TOO obvious to ignore, you know?

All things considered, I've sunk 126 hours (accordig to my 3DS) into RF4 so far and will keep sinking in more.


EVALUATION:

Gameplay (Combat) 7/10: The controls are tight, combos are simple, and the addition of the Magic Charm (uses your attack stat for magic or vice versa depending on your gear) makes combining physical and magic styles amazing.

Gameplay (Farming) 5/10: They kept he RF3 system, UGH. They made some improvements, but the end result is farming was waaay better in earlier games.

Gameplay (Social) 7/10: They finally hit the sweet spot. Between RF1, Frontier, and Tides which took too long to raise FP/LP, and 2/3 where it was too fast, it finally feels just right, and the town is full of great characters.

Music: 8/10: Between bringing back some of the greatest RF music ever (Tides' Wind Shrine, RF3's Dragon Ruins, etc) the original compositions are also pretty great.

Plot and characters: 7/10: It was a real rush to finally go toe to toe with the Empire, and I genuinely cared about helping Ventuswill, the Wind Dragon (Each numbred RF had a different elemental dragon, all named in RF1. Ventuswill aka "Venti" was the last of them, and the only one to have much importance outside final boss material. She was a mentor and friend, guardian to the town.) And of course, the rest of the cast was great too.

Extras: 6/10: Fake walls, switch puzzles, the game rewarded you for being completionist. A nice touch but ultimately meh. It was more of a pain than a help. As well, there were two cameo characters from RF2 and 3 (Barett and Raven) and you also learn that Margaret, the token elf love interest, is the cousin of Daria from RF3, which makes sense as they have a very artistic and often eccentric family. The score is for the little cameos and nods to continuity.


FINAL VERDICT:

Rune Factory 4 gets a very solid 7/10. It's not without it's flaws, but it's got a ton of personality and plenty of replay value (two playable genders means seeing more events!) If you didn't like the series before, this won't win you over, but if you've been on the fence, this could tip the scales for you.
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