Rune Factory 3 Special Review

Rune Factory 3 Special

Developer: Marvelous
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platforms: Switch, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: September 5, 2023
Price: $39.99 USD – Available Here

Overview

Ever since it began life as a spin-off from the core Story of Seasons titles, the Rune Factory series has always been something of a special draw as it combined the calming life of a farmer with one of a fantasy adventurer doing battle with monsters in a unique fashion. As such the series has seen quite a rise in popularity throughout the years and has seen a new release as recent as last year but that doesn’t mean the classics are left in the past. XSEED and Marvelous have been returning to some of these classics to bring them to new platforms with a few upgrades as we’ve already seen with Rune Factory 4 and now this time around Rune Factory 3 is getting the “Special” treatment. Arriving nearly thirteen years after its release on the DS, is Rune Factory 3 Special a worthwhile upgrade?

Story

One night during a terrible storm a young girl named Shara finds an odd looking Wooly passed out in the rain. Despite the general view of the populace on monsters as dangerous, Shara chooses to take care of this monster against her grandfather’s better judgment. The next day that Wooly reverts back to a human and manages to slip away unnoticed, the only problem is, the guy has no memory of who he is, where he is, or even that he can transform into a Wooly. Players take on the role of this amnesiac as he is helped by the rest of the townsfolk, unaware of his nature of being part monster, and given a place to live inside their respected gigantic tree called the Sharance Tree. Here players can help create their own farm below its branches while also trying to uncover the truth behind what happened to them and recover their memories all while dealing with the uneasy relationship between humans and those they see as monsters.

The storyline throughout Rune Factory 3 Special is fairly standard and doesn’t really come with many twists or surprises outside of a final encounter that will be a bit surprising to newcomers as the main storyline has been left untouched from the original release. The real heart of the story in Rune Factory has almost always been the characters and Rune Factory 3 Special is one of the best in that regard as not only does the game offer a surprisingly large cast of characters, all with their own unique personalities and traits, it also features a fairly sizable amount of interpersonal relationships between these characters. Nearly all events with characters are handled through Requests submitted to either the bulletin board or player mailbox, with a few coming in via owl, and these requests often involve not only the character requesting an item but often their friends and family as well.

This creates a rather unique dynamic with some characters as players who may wish to get closer to, say Carmen, will need to first make sure that they do a few requests and get a bit closer to her older brother as well or dealing with the odd opposite speak of Sofia and her family. Along these same lines choosing to try and interact with the fan-favorite Raven will see players needing to deal with her cold-exterior with the occasional help from her friends all while trying to warm her heart to a relationship. It is worth noting that Rune Factory 3 Special was not updated in any way to offer a female player character nor any option to marry a bachelor but instead of this players will find themselves able to choose from eleven different bachelorettes to marry, nearly as many as the last two games combined. These characters range from incredibly charming and unique to being a bit mundane but even then the storylines for all of them are a real delight. 

It is a bit unfortunate that some of the character story progression is locked behind certain core storyline events, meaning that players who are actively trying to see certain characters’ requests may find themselves needing to complete certain late-game story events to even unlock these scenes. This issue is combined with the fact that players who do want to complete the storyline will need to marry someone to reach the ending as certain events are tied to one another in this regard. This is a bit limited towards player freedom but thankfully, as mentioned before, the bachelorettes are some of the best in the series that many will struggle to pick a favorite. Thankfully the developers must have known this as they have also included the brand new Newlywed Mode for each of the eleven girls. Newlywed mode unlocks after players have married their chosen wife and offers a brand new short story involving the player character and their chosen bride that is really touching, with Raven and Kuruna’s being some of the best. It is worth noting that players who want to see them all should probably make a separate save file before proposing as it will make the process much simpler. 

Gameplay

As with any Rune Factory game, Rune Factory 3 Special is split between players spending time on their farm and delving into dungeons to take down monsters to both level up and obtain the useful materials that they drop.  Farming remains fairly simplistic in nature as many of the various elements such as gigantic crops, vegetable dungeons, and growing weaponry have not been retroactively included in this version of the game. Instead players will need to simply make sure to plant and water their crops according to the season, giving the soil some time to rest across their large field of rapidly respawning debris to make sure crops can still properly grow. 

As players harvest their crops they will occasionally drop seeds of a higher level version for that crop, allowing players to grow and sell more expensive versions of each one, eventually going as high as level ten crops. These crops can then be sold or used for a variety of crafting purposes ranging between cooking, crafting potions, and even making weapons out of them through an unlockable and purchasable set of tools. It is unfortunate to note that item management has taken a step back in time here as the quality of life changes to allow players to quickly add items into the shipping bin isn’t here as players must now manually drop or throw anything they want to sell into the bin, unable to retrieve it in case of an accident. Players can still quickly store items into their fridge and storage though these need to be upgraded before they are of much use. Along these same lines items of different levels do not stack with one another like in recent entries, meaning caught fish of higher quality or even ever improving quality crops will take up extra space and take longer to sell.

On the other side of things, players will find themselves venturing into four dungeons and a fifth final ruin with the aforementioned dungeons each representing a season. These dungeons contain tillable soil that can allow players to grow crops out of season at any time in the game, meaning if players need tomatoes in winter they can make a run to Sol Terrano. They are also filled with various monsters that players can defeat for their drops, ranging from standard difficulty to quite hard depending on the player’s level. Combat in Rune Factory 3 Special remains true to the series standard with players being able to use a wide variety of weapons such as longswords, dual blades, axes, and more while also using spells to target potential elemental weaknesses. There is no wrong way to approach a fight, unless players end up healing the monster of course, and this level of customization is quite freeing in a game such as this, especially since players can still befriend monsters and even bring them, or a member of the town should they feel like it, into combat as well.

Once players gain access to the monster barn they can tame monsters that, as long as they are properly fed, will almost always offer useful resources that can either be sold or used for crafting and even help with the fields in exchange for extra food. Tamed monsters can water crops, destroy debris, and even plant seeds should the player wish to pay them, making them quite useful once the farm has grown to a fairly large size. It is worth noting that players cannot tame boss monsters in Rune Factory 3 Special like they can in later entries though it is still possible to ride and control most of the larger monsters. It is also worth noting that the fist fighting style added in later games in the series is only available through the player’s monster transformation into a Golden Wooly as there are no fist weapons otherwise.

As with every game in the series, anything the player does outside of simply running around and talking to characters will cost Rune Points (RP). This includes tilling soil, planting and watering seeds, making use of the many crafting stations, and of course swinging a weapon and casting spells. Initially players may find themselves possibly running out of RP and draining their own health in combat only to find themselves waking up in the apothecary’s house owing a decent chunk of change. Standard actions like this quickly become less worrisome though as everything players do improves their stats as they level up. This includes things like sleeping, eating, and of course using weaponry or taking damage but even farming and growing crops can increase stats, especially through the help of Runeys that frequently appear around properly grown crops that offer not only bonus stats but skill experience as well. 

It is worth noting that Rune Factory 3 Special also offers the Magic Seed system. Players can “plant” magic seeds anywhere and spawn a useful ally depending on the seed used. These can be anything from a sword that flies around and attacks enemies, a being that transforms enemies into items, and even a lilypad that allows players to walk on water. Players who also want some different reactions from townsfolk can also ask Shara to apply different perfumes on them that change from day to day, seemingly increasing the affection rate for characters that are fond of specific scents. 

Outside of the Newlywed Mode the only real noteworthy addition to the option to upgrade the game’s difficulty to Hell Mode. This is available immediately and gives players a real challenge when it comes to combat that is, for the most part, rather forgiving on Normal. It is also worth noting that the post-game content in Rune Factory 3 Special remains fairly limited in the main game besides allowing players to grow their family with a child and tackle special dungeons that grow in difficulty and offer unique items though this is usually best saved for completionist sake as they quickly become quite repetitive outside offering a challenge. 

Audio & Visuals

Considering the game was originally released on the DS back in 2010 it is quite evident that the development team put a lot of work into improving the graphics as all of the character models are nicely detailed and presented well, including the many monster types found in the game. The best standouts are the character portraits though as the team has done an excellent job improving these portraits to look crisp and detailed on PC with a number of great variations for each character, some of which may only be seen a few times. It is also worth noting that the Newlywed Mode does feature some really great looking sequences as well, serving as a real treat for fans of the bachelorettes.

The soundtrack found in Rune Factory 3 Special has been cleaned up a little bit but it will be mostly familiar for anyone who has played the series before as it features a number of solid calming tracks that fit the theme of each area well-enough though few really stand out. The game also features a fairly limited English dub with characters having English reactions and speaking a few of their key lines out loud but for the most part the game is largely unvoiced.

Overall

Rune Factory 3 Special brings a great classic farming fantasy RPG blend to modern platforms by giving it a bit of freedom from the DS while also improving the graphics to be as crisp as one would expect from a modern release of the genre. There are an unfortunate lack of quality of life features that have been added in more recent entries and the post-game is rather lacking but this entry offers easily some of the best characters in the series and the addition of the Newlywed content only makes them better, resulting in a game that players can easily sink hours into without missing a beat as they interact with the cast all while farming and fighting.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Great
8.5
Rune Factory 3 Special may lack quality of life features found in recent entries but offers perhaps the best cast of characters in the series with crisp visuals and an addictive gameplay loop.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Rune Factory 3 Special</i> may lack quality of life features found in recent entries but offers perhaps the best cast of characters in the series with crisp visuals and an addictive gameplay loop.Rune Factory 3 Special Review