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Old 02-08-2010, 08:19 PM   #165
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Troy, MI
Posts: 11,005

Nintendo Wii
1 Player
Developer - Neverland Co.
Publisher - XSeed

My Bias
-I loved the first Rune Factory on Nintendo DS
-Iíve barley played Rune Factory 2

My Completion
-Beaten storyline
-Exactly one year elapsed
-90+ hours

The first Rune Factory on the Nintendo DS didnít have much of a storyline. It had interesting characters but story events were slim and too far in between. I never really had an idea of what was going on in the first game.

Frontier picks up where it left off, however having completed the DS game I donít think it matters too much. Almost nothing is referenced and if there is something itís subtle and doesnít affect the storyline in any way. However this does mean that many of the same characters make their return. You play as Laguna again, having the same antics with a lot of the same girls.

In Frontier the driving plot, and this is revealed in the first 10 minutes so I donít consider it spoiler, is that there is a giant floating whale-shaped island floating above town and it needs your help. The whale island speaks to you, explaining how itís slowly losing power and if you donít save it then it will come crashing down on top of everyone. Overall I enjoyed the story of Frontier and even if it was a bit cheesy, I felt it had a strong climatic finish.

Mist is downright crazy

While the story itself and its presentation is still very archaic when compared to most modern games, it is a big step up from the previous game. Frontier actually had me curious to find out what happens next quite a few times. It still suffers at the conception level because itís hard to have a well paced storyline if the player has completely control on how fast the game progresses. This means you could view a story related event and then not see itís resolve until weeks later when you decide to push forward again.

The voice acting has really improved in Frontier. Being on the Wii there is now a lot more spoken dialog when compared to the original DS game. There are a few English voice actors that are well known in the dubbed anime industry, I was able to pick out a few. Most of the characters talk in what I can only describe as ďdubbed animeĒ voices, and have funny lines. I enjoyed the dialog quite a bit and I felt it really added some life into the characters. I really wish all of the games dialog was voiced, and that there was more variety of that dialog. Giving an everyday gift to a prospective female is standard Harvest Moon etiquette by now, but I really would like enough dialog so that I donít hear the same repetitive lines.

The visuals of Frontier are very nice looking. Graphics arenít up to the quality or standards of a game like Mario Galaxy, but it still looks very nice. It is very refreshing to have a 3rd party developer actually trying in the visuals department for once.

Runeys, a new game element I will explain later, are these little glowing spirit things that float around the fields and town. When there are a lot of them they fill the screen and give a very cool looking visual effect. When you combine their glow-ness with the lush environments it makes for some amazing looking moments.

You mean it is in fact possible for a 3rd party to create quality visuals?

I love the character designs of this game. Hearing some of the characters were returning I was afraid the developer was going to go down the same rut they dug the Harvest Moon series into. One of the reasons I stopped playing the Harvest Moon series is because I got sick of dating the same girls and talking to the same Mayor and townsfolk. Luckily Frontier adds enough new into the mix that it doesnít feel that way. The old characters still have their fantastic designs and some of the new characters like Annette and Cinnamon have really striking designs. I also like how your equipment is visible now as well.

I was pleasantly surprised with Frontiers soundtrack. Time and time again while playing this I found myself really enjoying the music. Of course it still has its share of obnoxious festival themes but overall I would say this game has the best soundtrack of the entire RF/HM series.

♪ Intro

Keeping with Rune Factory tradition, the game opens with an anime cutscene and a catchy song. This song is very different and in my opinion isnít as good as the ones from the first two DS games, but I still like it.

♪ Winter

I love the four season/field themes, especially this winter one (which is a great remix of the first RFs winter theme). I remember stepping out of my house the first day of winter and just thinking ďoh my goshĒ.

♪ Summer

Another great theme that plays during summer. Although I've listened to it probably a million times throughout the game it never got annoying which is a good sign.

♪ Whale Island Outside

This is the music that plays when you first walk out onto Whale Island. It reminds me a lot of Zeal music from Chrono Trigger.

Like the previous entries in the series, Frontier is still very much rooted in the Harvest Moon series. This means you will be doing a lot of unavoidable crop growing, livestock feeding, and female wooing. If you donít like doing this sort of ďdaily taskĒ gameplay then donít think that you can ignore it and play the game like a pure dungeon crawler.

You will still be doing a lot of this, you can't escape farming.

Iíve explained the gameplay formula more in depth in my original Rune Factory review, but I will briefly go over it here. Rune Factory Frontier is essentially a dungeon crawler on top of a farming simulator. At the start of the game there is one dungeon available. Your character doesnít start with any kind of real weapon to get through this dungeon. So in order to buy a new weapon you must plant,grow,and harvest crops to sell. Now that you have enough money for that new weapon you can clear the dungeon and find new materials to create even better farming tools to make more money ect. This cycle is exactly what makes Rune Factory such an addicting series because there is always an immediate goal in sight. It constantly gives you ďjust one more thingĒ to do and itís hard to find points in which to stop myself playing.

The controls in Frontier are a lot better than the DS Rune Factory games if not only because you can now use an analog stick to move. For one, there is no longer any ďRunĒ button to hold down 99% of the time. Analog control also makes planting crops and combat much more fluid and easier.

One of the biggest problems Iíve had with all the 3D Harvest Moon games is that planting your crops seemed to be such a frustrating chore in 3D. Due to either bad controls or bad camera angles it was always hard to position your character to work on your field. Frontier doesnít have this problem because it has a fixed camera angle with some decent controls. I was able to do all of the games farm work without ever getting frustrated. When you upgrade your tools to cover even more squares the camera angle will switch to a top-down view which makes things even easier. You should have been able to view your fields like this whenever you want regardless of what tool you are equipped with, if you could it would make farm work as easy as the old 2D HM games.

Speaking of tools I really liked how they were handled in this game. Like all the previous games you can upgrade your tools to become even more functional. The Watering Can can water more spaces at once, the Axe can chop stumps in fewer swings and so forth. What makes Frontier different is that these upgraded actions are no longer activated by a long tedious ďchargeĒ method. Now to use your item specials you simply hold down B as you use it. I really appreciated this change because it sped things up considerably. To prevent you from really abusing this they made the SP requirements for these actions quite steep. I ran into a situation where I became too ambitious and tried to make a new watering can before I was ready for it. It drained way too much SP and ended up hampering my farm work for a good 2 weeks until I leveled up.

There are a total of only 4 dungeons in Frontier, a lot less than the previous games. However what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. These dungeons are really long and have more complex designs and secrets than the previous games did. Whale Island is a particularly interesting dungeon as it has multiple parts that you canít access until you progress further into the game.

Doing this circle move with the greatsword is the best attack in the game

The dating aspects of Frontier have been much improved and in my opinion are the best the HM/RF series has done to date. Like stated earlier, the girls now have a lot of voiced dialog which gives them a lot of personality. Something that I thought was a nice touch was you can give your favorite female hats & accessories as presents and she will actually wear them. I gave Mist a red ribbon and for the rest of the game she wore it around her neck. From that point on whenever I would see her I would see that ribbon and know that I was the one who gave it to her. One of the best parts about the love relationships in this game is that once a girl likes you enough you can take her out on dates. I am really disappointed that I didnít get far enough in my own game to do this (you need 8 hearts to do so and I got 7 before I beat it). Whenever I return back to Frontier I will update this review to explain how it is.

Forging your own tools and equipment is back in this game and even cooler than before. Now instead of just instantly happening when you add the required materials, a timing bar appears similar to the ones found in golf games. You have to time things right in order to forge successfully and if your timing is good you have a chance to create a higher level item. The higher your forging skill becomes the bigger this bar becomes and therefore easier to time. Along with forging, cooking makes a return however this time cooking is actually useful. Once you really start cooking you can easily make items that restore your SP throughout the day and give you substantial stat boosts and status effects. This in turn makes tasks that were once useless like fishing worthy of your time.

Even hoes have attack power and stats

For as fantastic as this game is Frontier has its share of problems, one of which the series has had since its conception. I donít know why this keeps happening but nothing is straight forward or explained. As far as progressing the storyline or getting certain things you will constantly not know what to do. For an example the game doesnít start you off with many tools so you need to find the Axe yourself. You can check the common sense places such as the blacksmith, the convenience store, or the other farmer who lives next door and turn up with nothing, not even hints. In order to get the Axe you have to go talk to the old nun in the church after meeting certain criteria. How would any player be able to figure this out without a lot of painful searching or trial & error? There were quite a few times during my play through when I had to consult an internet guide and even when I read what to do next I thought ďhow would I have ever figured that out on my own?Ē

Relationships are a lot harder to establish in this game with both women and animals. I completed the game towards the end of my first year and only had my selected female, Mist, at 7 hearts. I gave a turnip to her every day (favorite food), I talked to her every day, I fulfilled her special conditions, and talked to her at every festival. I ended up beating the game before she was even close to being wed. Even sillier is when the boat race festival came around which is based around going on a boat with your love. At the time that it happened it was impossible to have a girl like you enough to invite her. Monsters also take eons to befriend and this was a big downer for me. In the original Rune Factory you could befriend monsters to work on your farm and after a while they liked you so much they could manage your entire field. In Frontier I pet and rode my monsters every day and only got up to level 2 friendships. I never got to experience the dream of having a self-sustaining field.

A new addition in Frontier are Runeys. Runeys are these little glowing spirit things that float around every area of the game. They represent the spirits of the land and directly affect how well your crops grow. There are four types of them and they all eat each other in a food cycle except one of the Runeys is at the bottom of the food chain and must be replenished. The idea is that if you manage the Runeys and spread them around to maintain balanced populations then in turn they will prosper and so will your crops, fail to maintain balance and nothing grows. As a concept I think this is a really cool idea.

However the way they were actually implemented is ruins anything fun about them, and drags this game down. For one, the only way to check the Runey populations throughout the different areas of the game is to either climb to the top of the Clock Tower or find Candy, the little girl who talks to spirits. Candy is never consistently in one spot and climbing the clock tower is a hassle. In these games you are constantly working against time and having to traverse 2-4 screens before you can even check Runey levels is ridiculous. The other problem with Runeys is that the only way to move them around is with the harvester tool. This tool sucks any Runey standing in your general location out of the air which sounds easy enough. However once you walk to the area where you wanted to pull Runeys from you then have to find where they are floating around. Once you find them the harvester will suck them up along with every other Runey around you. So you constantly have to go into you inventory and release all the bystanders you didnít want.

Managing these little freaks is not only impossible, but not fun while you do it!

I found that to manage runeys it took up the good majority of an entire day. Walking back and forth to the clock tower, carefully searching and picking out the right colored runeys with the harvester......... and the entire process was a chore that pulled me away from the games fun activities.

So I tried to ignore it, and for the most part I could. Since your farm generates the bottom of the food chain Runey you never have to worry about your field falling into ruin. The problem I had is that towards the end of the game when you want to craft the best equipment you need flowers that cannot be grown on your field. Since the other areas of the map were in total Runey ruin I hit a literal road block and couldnít continue. Yes, I was able to beat the game fine but this ruined a lot of the fun post-game content for me.

Lasting Appeal
Each day takes around 15-20 minutes to complete, and there are 30 days in a season. Doing the math thatís about 30-40 hours to get through the first year. I somehow managed to spend 90+ hours on the first year alone so going into buildings. I also have become very efficient with how to play these games so I wouldnít expect to beat the game within the first year.

Rune Factory Frontier will last as long as you still have things to do or until you grow bored doing so. Once you complete most of the main objectives like the storyline, marriage, and the last dungeon the desire to play dies down. After 90+ hours in I had to tell myself to stop because I was still having fun yet wanted to play other games. This is one game I have no qualms about returning to in the future.

Final Thoughts
This is definitely the best game in the series. The first Rune Factory didnít quite get to this point, but I can confidently say Frontier has topped all the Harvest Moon games. Yes, even Harvest Moon 64.

If you have ever been curious about either the Harvest Moon or Rune Factory games, this is the one to try. It makes me sad that nobody seemed to care (including the gaming press) nor even heard of this game before. Any Wii owner who is looking for a fun RPG/Simulation with a lot of content should give Rune Factory Frontier a try.
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