Rune Factory 3 Special – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG, sim game
Developer: Marvelous, Neverland
Publisher: Marvelous, XSEED
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Rune Factory 3 Special – Review

Site Score
Good: A lovely cast of quirky characters
Bad: Some older mechanics haven't aged well
User Score
(1 votes)
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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Less than a year after Rune Factory 5 revived Marvelous’ dormant farming sim series, fans are already being treated to a new-ish Rune Factory game. As the title indicates, Rune Factory 3 Special is a remake of the classic DS game from 2009, which we actually have rather fond memories of. As such, we were more than eager to return to the town of Sharance and reunite with some of our old friends. Of course, over a decade has passed since we last played Rune Factory 3, so the obvious question was how well the game had stood the test of time.


Even if you’ve never played the original version of Rune Factory 3, you’ll still feel instantly familiar with the story here, provided you’ve played any of the other games in the series. As is usually the case, our protagonist is suffering from amnesia and ends up in a friendly and helpful community, where he’ll build up a small farm into a budding agricultural empire. The twist this time around is that our protagonist, named Micah by default, is afflicted by a curse of sorts, which turns him into a sheep-like monster. It’s up to our hero to figure out why this is happening of course. The monster angle helps to prevent Rune Factory 3 Special from feeling too stale, and the supporting cast is absolutely delightful, resulting in a narrative that feels refreshing even if the basic premise is something we’ve seen countless times before.


Of course, the most noticeable upgrade between the original version of Rune Factory 3 and Special is the complete visual overhaul. Granted, we didn’t expect the remake to simply offer an upscaled version of the DS visuals, but as there are plenty of new games that make use of retro-inspired pixel art, this could have been a possibility. Instead, the new visuals retain the roots of their DS predecessors but the new 3D character models look good and the hand-drawn character art brings the inhabitants of Sharance to life like never before. That said, the environments have less fidelity and often feel flat and lifeless. Visual performance was great and we didn’t run into any notable issues during our time with the game.


Just like with the visuals, Rune Factory 3 Special’s audio has been remastered. The tunes remain as familiar as ever, but they also sound crisper than ever before. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the voices. While the performances are okay, the game isn’t fully voiced, and hearing the same few stock phrases repeated over and over again can become a bit grating after a while.


In terms of gameplay, Rune Factory 3 Special hasn’t changed all that much from the original DS release. The series has always set itself apart from sister series Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon by dividing its attention between farming and dungeon crawling. This familiar blend of farming sim and RPG makes a welcome return here, although some of the mechanics are starting to show their age here and there. The actual farming gameplay is slow-paced and relaxing, and all the elements you’d expect are here: from ploughing the fields to tending to your hand-grown crops and taking care of an ever-growing menagerie of farm animals. The fruits of your hard labor can be sold to the town’s store, and profit is subsequently used to upgrade your farming equipment and the size of your farmstead. This in turn gives you access to higher quality vegetables, which can be sold for even more profit. There is of course more to Rune Factory 3’s farming sim gameplay than mindless tasks, as there is some strategy involved here as well. Seasonal crops will provide you with a higher profit margin, for example, so planting your vegetables accordingly adds some strategic elements that are often absent from other farming sims. In this regard, Rune Factory 3 certainly doesn’t disappoint, and there is enough here that die-hard fans of the genre could sink hours into without even touching the RPG elements.

That would be a shame though, because those very same RPG elements make up a major reason as to why someone would pick a Rune Factory game over some of its competitors. You’re able to venture out onto adventures into dungeons filled to the brim with monsters and treasure. Of course, those monsters need to be defeated, so you’ll need to build up Micah, and eventually his friends, into proper adventurers by engaging in combat. Compared to more recent outings like Rune Factory 5, combat is where Rune Factory 3 Special really shows its age. The hack-n-slash fights feel rather slow and basic, even if you have a wide variety of spells and weapons at your disposal. Of course, the adventuring gameplay and the farming sim gameplay aren’t two completely separate halves of the same game and are instead woven together. Villagers you befriend will eventually join your party, for example, and you’ll have more opportunities to bond with them as they fight alongside you in the dungeon. Additionally, whatever you loot in the dungeons can be sold at the general store, and the proceeds can subsequently go to upgrading your farm. Likewise, certain skills like fishing or cooking are essential both for farm life and dungeon exploring. There is a distinct sense of progress and character growth present as well. An in-game day is limited not only by time, but also by Micah’s energy, or RP. Every action you take, whether it’s attacking a monster or plowing a field, costs RP and if you run out without going to bed Micah will pass out. As Micah grows and levels up, however, he gains more RP, which in turn allows him to do more things before he needs to take a rest.

Both time management and inventory management feel like a step back compared to more modern releases, because they remained untouched from the original release. That’s a shame, as this Special version seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring the game in line with those newer titles. Examples of some of the more frustrating elements here are that you can’t cook meals in multiple quantities, and moving items from your inventory to your storage case is also something that has to be done one thing at a time. Being able to select multiple items, which is possible in later games, would have been a lifesaver here. Finally, if you’ve been wondering what new content was added that allowed the game to earn the Special moniker, there is a smidgeon of bonus content in the form of the so-called Newlywed Mode, which adds short side stories for all potential marriage candidates in the game. It’s a neat but ultimately superfluous addition to what is otherwise a decent entry in the long-running series.


While we definitely enjoyed our time in Sharance, we have to admit that Rune Factory 3‘s core hasn’t quite stood the test of time as well as we would have liked, and Special simply doesn’t do enough to fix that. A handful of QoL changes would have made a major difference here; if only to bring this classic title in line with its more recent sister games. As it stands, Rune Factory 3 Special is still an enjoyable and relaxing entry, and if you’re unfamiliar with the series, this is as good a place to start as any. However, if you’re returning from the cheaper Rune Factory 4 Special or Rune Factory 5 and don’t have a pair of nostalgia goggles, it’s easy to see that this title is outclassed by those aforementioned games. A little extra polish could’ve prevented this remake from becoming the weakest Rune Factory game currently available on the Switch, as both the story and characters are superior to what 4 has to offer.

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Rune Factory 3 Special - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

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    […] Rune Factory series is of course well known for its signature gameplay blend of farming sim and dungeon crawler. […]

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