Rune Factory Frontier Review
Rune Factory Frontier box art
System: Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Neverland Ent. 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Marvelous / Xceed Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 17, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Despite a cutesier-than-usual visual overhaul, the Harvest Moon series' debut on the Wii didn't sit that well with many players who were expecting something bigger and better than past entries. With a reception that could be characterized as lukewarm, Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility might have appealed to new audiences, but longtime followers of the gardening, farming, and socializing simulation series found little actual improvement in the new design. On the other hand, two successful handheld Rune Factory titles proved the standard formula could benefit from an update with a new fantasy RPG twist. Fans of those games now have something to get excited about on the Wii.

Rune Factory Frontier screenshot

Some reoccurring characters and themes from the handheld games appear, but Rune Factory: Frontier is an entirely new adventure on its own. In the beginning, Raguna (the young lad who's the main character from the earlier games) ventures into the small town of Trampoli in search of Mist, the girl who saved him and became a close friend in the original game. It turns out a strange voice was calling to Mist in her dreams, and she had left in hopes of discovering the nature of these nocturnal visions. The two decide to settle in Trampoli, where you'll work to build your thriving homestead, get to know and help the local citizens, explore nearby caves and dungeons, and seek out the source of Mist's strange dreams. Though the game takes place in a fantasy-themed realm full of monsters and magic, it's still very much a Harvest Moon game through and through.

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Every second that passes in real time amounts to a minute of in-game time. Day eventually turns to night, requiring you to get some rest, and the months and seasons gradually change. Each day you're given a set amount of stamina that's consumed in small quantities every time you do physical activities like gardening, cooking, mining, battle, and more. This limits the amount of activities you can do in a given day, but stamina can also be replenished by eating, bathing, and sleeping. Exactly how you choose to spend each day is up to you. Interacting with certain characters in various situations, meeting certain goals, and reaching stat benchmarks often triggers cutscenes and opens up opportunities to advance the story. The game lets you progress at your own pace and tackle tasks as you see fit. You'll likely find yourself dividing your time evenly between the traditional farming and social sim elements and the newer exploration and battle aspects of Rune Factory.

Rune Factory Frontier screenshot

Like most Harvest Moon titles, you're given a meager abode, a plot of tillable land, and the freedom to do what you wish. Gathering the proper tools (a watering can to garden with, a hoe to till the soil, a hammer to break rocks, an axe to chop wood, etc.) by getting to know the townspeople, you can engage in many of the traditional homestead-centered activities long-time fans are accustomed to. Sowing seeds and tending the garden daily eventually produces seasonal crops that are good for cooking recipes, eating, selling, and giving away as gifts. You can also spend time fishing, building romantic and non-romantic relationships (and eventually get married), improving your home, foraging for resources, exploring the town limits and realms beyond, raising animals (monsters, actually), and seemingly countless other activities.

Rune Factory's controls are more functional than Tree of Tranquility's, affording a greater level of accuracy in gardening and other activities. They take a little time to get used to. Some optional motion control elements for combat and using tools are worked in as replacements for button presses, but they all encompass waggling the Wii Remote or Nunchuk in a similar manner to engage all of the tasks. They're not particularly well implemented, yet they don't really hurt the gameplay. At least it's slightly harder to trigger them by accident.

Rune Factory Frontier screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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