First Impressions: Rune Factory 4

Hello, this is a series that I’ll be writing, it should be out on every twenty third of a month for sure and depending on how my school schedule goes, I may release more. Without further ado, here it is.
The game starts out innocently enough; you, the main character, man the helm of a large airship, a staple of the Japanese RPG genre. Shortly thereafter, you are attacked by mutinous members of your own crew solely for the reason that you possess a so far unnamed blue orb that pulses with vibrant energy (as far as that can be seen on the 3DS screen). Very quickly, you are dropped into the action and learn how to fight using a string of pushes on the B button. After that, you are kicked off of the airship and dropped on top of the dragon, losing your memory because, why not? Everything up until this point made little sense, but this is what you signed up for.
Having played at least twenty four hours of this game, there is one thing that I can say: This is going to have a huge playability value. As soon as you’re dropped onto the dragon, the plot introduces itself and it turns out that you need to pretend to be a prince. At this point, one of the main mechanics of the game introduces itself, that is, the farming.
To my understanding, this wouldn’t be a Rune Factory game without the element of domestic life. In fact, the farming aside, the mechanics of this game feel very animal crossing-esque. It is as straightforward as it sounds; you merely need to till the ground, plant the seeds, water them daily, and harvest them when they’re ready to yield a profit. This may seem simple enough, but to add an element of challenge, or a breakaway from tedium (you be the judge), the programmers decided to add typhoons. Just as they do in our world, typhoons demolish everything in their path, ruining your crops and flowers. This is rage inducing to say the least and made me put the game down more than once because really, who wants all of their progress to be wiped out due to something that cannot be controlled? That aside, the farming element works well and as the game progresses, it gets easier as your farming skill will increase and you’ll gain access to better equipment and tools.
This brings me to my next point: skills. The skill system in this game is rather extensive, with each skill adding certain stats to your character as the skill is leveled up through repetition of a task. This offers a wide variety of play styles; you could be a mage and focus on your magic stats and chemistry, a warrior and focus on your physical stats and blacksmithing as well as anything else that you can think of. You could even play all of the above and try to max out all of the skills in this game; this is one of the areas from where the playability value comes from.
Another area that contains playability value must be the pseudo collectathon that this game so cleverly disguises. The player can purchase recipes, under the name cooking bread, that they can then use to create different items, potions, weapons etc. The value here comes not from the creation of the items, but the collection of ingredients necessary to create said items. This in and of itself may as well be the focal point of the game. During my run-through, I was given a quest by the dragon, Ventuswill, but did not actually complete that quest for a week in game time; it is incredibly easy to lose track of your time while playing.
Finally, something odd about the game is that it doubles as a crude dating simulator. With a colorful cast of female and male characters, the player has access to a variety of choices including a blonde knight who seems to have incestuous tendencies (this may be a result of the culture schism between the east and the west), an eastern prince, and more. Cheating is also an apparent possibility, with nearly no downsides. I’m not condoning it, but there were a decent amount of benefits to having more than one partner. These features, if nothing else, also contribute to the high playability that this game presents.
All in all, if you are looking for a quirky, handheld RPG with great value, this would be a good one to consider. It is already nearly three years old, so getting your hands on a used copy should be easy and affordable.