Over the past day, I’ve seen many jokes that there were too many farming games shown off at the Nintendo Direct. Calm down, there were like four. But one announcement made me immediately sit up in my seat: Rune Factory 3 Special is coming to the Nintendo Switch. I’m stoked that Marvelous is finally porting its best farming simulator for a modern console.
Rune Factory 3 was originally a farming RPG on the Nintendo DS. While the game’s core focus was growing crops on a farm, there was also a dungeon crawling component that allowed players to gather animal products from the wild. Players could also tame and fight alongside these monsters, or recruit NPCs as allies. RF3 has an event-based story system and quests that would allow players to further develop their relationships with the townspeople.
When I reviewed Rune Factory 5 earlier this year, I used Rune Factory 3 as the gold standard. The cozy, painterly environments were so distinct that I rarely had to glance at a map. Not even the dungeons felt computer-generated, which helped the setting of RF3 feel more like a home instead of simply resource nodes for me to gather herbs and monster drops. When I look at the later Rune Factory games, I mourn that they seem to have sacrificed that kind of thoughtful world design in exchange for fidelity and scale. I’m looking forward to playing a Rune Factory in which I actually care about dungeon rooms and the out-of-the-way streets.
But the best part of RF3 for the Nintendo DS was undoubtedly its complex characters. Most of the time, I find that female love interests in farming games are very bland and nondescript. You’re supposed to want to marry them and start a family, so they can’t deviate too much from the cookie cutter perfection of an ideal wife. Sofia tends to speak cruelly to those she likes. Karina is lazy and despises the village. Raven has a hostile and standoffish personality. While some characters become more pleasant over time, their evolving character arc helps make them feel more like people with their own problems and insecurities, rather than motherhood candidates.
Farming games are about routines and schedules, but our relationships with our friends and communities aren’t simple or straightforward. RF3 offered me interpersonal friction that made the game feel more lifelike than other farming simulators. My friendship with Raven was more meaningful because we had struggled to understand one another.
Rune Factory 3 Special is coming in spring of 2023.