Harvest Moon was for the longest time, the only farming simulator in the market. For the most part Harvest Moon was primarily grounded on reality with a few fantastical elements. Elements such as the Harvest Goddess, the harvest sprites, and even a kappa were amongst the few fantasy creatures in Harvest Moon. But, one day Neverland Co. developed Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon which is exactly what it says on the tin. Rune Factory retained the simulation aspects while incorporating RPG elements like monsters, leveling-up, magic and battles. All of this would sound strange enough to an established fan of the series, but it became successful enough to warrant its own series.
In comes Rune Factory Frontier a sequel to the original and the first one to be developed for the Wii. Rune Factory Frontier took everything from the first game and made it a lot better. The game had a very good sense of humor guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of everyone within the first few dialogues (see a cheap hoe). The game never takes itself too seriously and it feels light hearted enough to maintain the spirit of Harvest Moon. But, there was one serious problem with RFF. The developers wanted to implement a system which would separate it from its predecessor and it worked. However, it did not work as the developers intended and the runey system ended up hated by the majority of players.
The runey system worked as follows runeys were made of 4 elements water, rock, tree, and grass. These runeys would eat one another except for grass which simply died out. Runeys would spawn throughout the town in certain places and utilizing a vacuum type item you could suck them up and distribute them throughout the village. This was important because if the distribution was uneven they would all die out and crops would never grow. On the flip-side if the player managed to have the system running perfectly their vegetables would grow in no time at all. The system sounds simple on paper, but the execution was terrible. It would take a long time to get the system running well, and it was nearly impossible to recover if the whole town died.
To help guide you, the clock tower in town had a map which demonstrated the status of each area. The town was broken into 8 areas and each one required a certain quantity of runeys to be considered golden (but, the reality was you only needed green status to run smoothly). The colors of course were Black for empty, red for low, green for good, and gold for perfect. If even a few areas went black the player was in for a nasty surprise as their turnips would take an eternity to grow. As mentioned above the upkeep of the system was terribly inefficient and would take too long to evenly distribute runeys every day. It was this flaw which kept Rune Factory Frontier from being a perfect game.
However, for those who managed to understand the system fully Rune Factory Frontier was an amazing experience. Plenty of good moments were had while playing as Raguna who was the protagonist from the main game. The story is simple; Raguna followed Mist his friend from the original game after she left the town from the first game. They end up in Trampoli a town which has a giant island whale floating above. This whale is stuck and might lose its power which would lead it to falling into the town below. To prevent this potentially catastrophic event from happening, Raguna decides it’s time to do what he does best and farm his way into the secret that is holding the island above Trampoli. Armed with a cheap hoe and a seriously brain damaged companion (mist) Raguna begins his newest journey.
Along with the graphical increase due to the console, came extra memory which allowed RFF to be much larger in scope than its predecessors. Rune Factory Frontier had boat loads of content and the cut scenes take full advantage of this fact. Unlike the limited animations in the DS games, the characters here have a wider scope of motion and a lot of the humor derives from this. The colorful cast of characters also adds to the enjoyment factor of the game. While not the experience that everyone was looking for (thanks to the runey system) Rune Factory Frontier was a worthy addition to the Wii’s library.
As it happens with many oddball games Neverland Co. never (get it!) reused the runey mechanic after this game. It stands out amongst the series as the only one to deviate so heavily with the use of a single mechanic. The rest of the Rune Factory series games are still great they remain more faithful to the original. I consider this game an experiment albeit one which did not work out as planned.
Personally I wish a remake of this game would be released on PC, perhaps a version which minimizes or improves the runey mechanic. Especially since this game is the only Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons game to feature a visibly chubby girl as a love candidate (Elli doesn’t count). The player can even choose whether she remains chubby or loses weight (which frankly shouldn’t even be a suggestion as obviously she was perfect the way she was). I recommend this game to anyone who is willing to put up with the strange mechanics and if you can find it cheap definitely buy it. Rune Factory Frontier is worth the shot.
For those of you willing to try it, here is a tutorial for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4HpGsVXSC8