What They Say:
Rune Factory 4 Special marks the return of the beloved entry in the popular STORY OF SEASONS spinoff series that combines farming with dungeon adventuring. The original game on the Nintendo 3DS™ system makes its debut on Nintendo Switch in HD bringing the joys of growing crops, raising monsters, and building friendships in an epic fantasy world to players old and new, while seasoned explorers will be delighted to discover features such as a brand new opening movie and the challenging “Hell” difficulty level. Other farm-fresh features include ‘Newlywed Mode,’ which introduces special episodes about living the married life with the game’s 12 eligible bachelors and bachelorettes featuring new voices and in-game cutscenes.
Rune Factory 4 Special is a game that I reviewed a very long time ago when it first released on 3DS. The rerelease of the game was an exciting moment as it was one of my favorite farming sims on the system. Special arrives at a time when a fifth game is welcome and is a good way of tying players over until then.
You start out as a boy or girl who finds themselves in a city with no memory of who they are or why they were going there. It doesn’t take long for the goddess dragon of the city to employ you as the ruler of sorts for the location. Your job is to manage the main garden while making decisions for the town and furthering the main story.
In a way, it is a lot like the Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley games, but the catch is an emphasis on combat. While games like Stardew Valley do feature combat, the action in Rune Factory 4 Special is dedicated and fleshed out. In many ways, it is that jack-of-all-trades game that is, for better or for worse, a master of none.
There really is so much to do in Rune Factory 4 Special from taking care of the limited farm with growing crops, removing weeds, watering the plants, and so on. But when I wasn’t doing that, there was the option to fish for supplies to then go and cook dishes to heal myself with when I was running dungeons.
All of these actions and mechanics matter to the game with skill levels and progression attached to each of them. The detailed nature of these activities provide plenty to do. There is a decent main story that pushes the game along but there is so much to do, that I would easily find myself going days and even weeks without progressing the story because I had a personal project or goal to attend to.
This could be something like competing in the various festivals, completing the daily requests, and so on. It really takes some planning and strategy if you are someone like me who enjoys almost everything, but that isn’t a bad problem to have. After all, the game doesn’t really pressure you in any way when it comes to the content.
And when you are somehow bored with those things, there is still the option to parse through the available bachelors and bachelorettes. There are a fair number of each for both genders (no same-sex in Special), each catering to a certain archetype.
In that way, you are likely to find someone for you but therein lies my main issue with Rune Factory 4 Special. It does, thankfully, add the new Newlywed Mode that adds some additional moments with your significant other that add layers to the story but beyond that, there isn’t anything that new in the main game.
It would have been nice to have some other characters be available as romance options, since there are at least a couple of guys and girls that would make sense but are still unavailable. For those who have played this game before on 3DS, there isn’t much reason to return besides the intriguing gameplay and chance to romance someone else.
The enhanced graphics in Rune Factory 4 Special are nice, though, presenting a much sharper image and resolution that looks much better on Switch, both docked and undocked. The character art for the characters is especially great, having that classic anime style that is furthered by the excellent anime intro each eligible partner has when you first meet them.
While it certainly is the superior version of the game over the original 3DS, there was one main issue that kept causing problems for me and that was the map. You can certainly blow up the map at any time to see what’s going on but it otherwise is almost impossible to see details like character locations, especially in handheld mode.
This is unfortunate since I found myself constantly checking the map for the locations of the person I was trying to woo or someone I needed to visit for a request. Or, worse, when I’m trying to figure out the path to a certain dungeon or the like. Rune Factory Special 4 has several dungeons that have multiple rooms with enemies, concluding in a boss fight.
The combat in Rune Factory 4 isn’t particularly exceptional or deep but there is a bit of engaging variety to find. You have different weapons like dual blades (my favorite) that are reckless and fast to the slow and cumbersome hammer. This is supplemented by magical abilities that vary greatly from offensive to even healing ones.
Rune Factory 4 Special is the jack-of-all-trades farming sim. If you want to fight enemies and explore dungeons, you can do that. If you’re interested in just farming to reap the best crops possible or fish, that is possible, too. If you’re only here to find out the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, that is available as well. There’s a lot of quality content to find in the game and do, offering something for almost everyone. Though there is a lot to do, it still remains a relaxing game that is just as fun to play today as it was on 3DS years ago while looking better.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: February 25, 2020
Platform: Switch (reviewed)
This review was completed with a review copy provided by the publisher.