Rune Factory 3 Special review — Beep beep I’m a weresheep

Rune Factory has held a special place in my heart since the first entry back on the DS in 2006. It combines relaxing farm and social sim elements from Story of Seasons with action RPG mechanics in a way that really shouldn’t work, and yet it does. It’s always a joy to dive headfirst into one of these titles for a few dozen hours, finishing the story, getting married, and making loads of gold on my farm to buy new gear for dungeon delving. While the most recent 5th entry was a decent leap forward into full 3D, it had technological (on Switch) and structural problems that made it difficult to immerse myself in past main story obligations. I also found the characters to be largely forgettable, though the option for same sex relationships is still greatly appreciated. Rune Factory 3 Special is something of a reminder of why the series is so special, taking us straight back to 2009, albeit updated somewhat for modern systems.

The most immediate difference is that the game isn’t on two screens anymore. While you do miss out on some neat effects, like seeing the Sharance Tree on the top screen when entering your house inside of it, the game will cut away to some high quality artwork where these effects were used before. The 3D character models have also been completely redone, with a very clean look to them. The pre-rendered backgrounds look sharp as well, though with the higher resolution the Switch provides you can see their age a bit more than the DS original. Character portraits thankfully don’t suffer from that issue, looking nice and crisp.

Rune Factory 3 Special Gameplay - Switch [GamingTrend]

If you’ve played the original, you’ll notice that the script has been retranslated with a completely new voice cast. The retranslation is overall for the better, but the new voices are something of a strange alteration. I can only assume the developers and publishers no longer have the rights to the original dub, seeing as the series it spun off of has similar problems prompting several remakes. Some of the new actors I like more than the original, such as Casey Mongillo as the main character, while others completely change how I interpret their personalities like Daria’s new voice, Kayli Mills. In the original game Daria sounded confident and passionate about her art and rainbows, whereas here she’s much more obsessive and arrogant. This could be closer to the original Japanese, but it’s interesting how a small change in direction can completely change the interpretation of the same character.

Overall, I think the new dub is good. Not necessarily better or worse than the original, but good nonetheless. The quality and listenability of the audio overall is a different story. Voices still sound super compressed here for some reason, and with the most barebones of options menus you can barely hear any voice acting over the music and sound effects, both of which are completely unchanged from the original. The music is great, but I would have really liked to see some non-MIDI arrangements. It’s things like this that make Special feel more like a port than a remaster.

Rune Factory 3 Special Pia's Newlywed Mode - Switch [GamingTrend]

Even so, this is still one of my favorite entries in the series alongside 2. It’s certainly disappointing that you can’t play as a girl (there’s a romhack out there for the DS version that simply changes the pronouns and swimsuit outfit, and that would have been perfectly acceptable for Special), but being able to transform into a monster makes for some unique gameplay and story. RF3 is all about bridging the gap between humans and monsters, and it’s still a great exploration of that thematically, if less so mechanically. You can turn into your Wooly form by using a spell, but that form can’t really do much outside of fighting enemies with the fists style and looking cute. I’ve always wanted to see this mechanic return in the future with a bit more depth to it.

Special doesn’t add or change much in that regard. You can now throw objects into containers like in RF4, and get even larger versions of those containers than before, but unlike 4 Special you don’t get a second set of magic to access or even the escape spell bound to ZR (ZR and Minus aren’t used at all as far as I can tell). There’s also the new Hell difficulty and Newlywed Mode, which unlocks for every bachelorette after getting married/beating the main story. These are short episodes of your character having an adventure with their spouse. For example, in Pia’s you help her make a special Dragon Bath by collecting materials dropped from specific enemies. It’s short, but cute. Only in this mode your potential spouses use Live2D versions of their portraits, allowing them to animate slightly. It’s a neat yet somewhat uncanny effect, with the animations being somewhat unnaturally stiff or puppet-like. It was another strange decision to have this effect only in Newlywed Mode and not in the main game, or even to affect every character in Newlywed mode, and I think that’s a missed opportunity. Sure I may prefer shorter and smoother animations for 2D portraits like in 999, but any movement at all gives just a bit more life to the characters.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.



Rune Factory 3 Special

Review Guidelines

Rune Factory 3 Special is a reminder of why the series is so near and dear to my heart, but also less of a remaster and closer to a port with a few upgrades sprinkled on top. The visuals are much cleaner and higher resolution. The new dub is good, but you can barely hear it over the chiptune music. This is still a great game, but with less than the bare minimum of quality of life added.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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