The hoe is mightier than the sword.
Rune Factory is based heavily off the Harvest Moon series which, for those of you familiar, is principally a farming game, with little new to offer throughout its many, many games. Rune Factory offers a neat little twist on tradition, and is definitely worth checking out.
The story is a little generic, but it's forgiveable. You are a man who has lost his memory. We will refer to this man as "Raguna", because that is his default name, although you are free to name him after yourself, your favorite TV show character, or something like Assface, if you want. Raguna has travelled far from somewhere he has only vague memories of, and fortunately stumbles across a weird girl's house. Her name is Mist. You will come to hate her in time.
Mist is an odd, odd girl, who gives you your farm. Just like that. No strings attached. Free farm, there you go. And you just met her. As the seasons cycle (about 30 game days per season, each day is actually only around fifteen to twenty minutes long, roughly) you will plant a variety of vegetables here, from radishes to potatoes. Farming is not very difficult, though at times it is a bit tedious. If you are familiar with the Harvest Moon series, this is nothing new, but for newcomers, the amount of time you spend plowing and watering might just drive you insane.
Every day, when you wake up in the morning, unplowed sections of your farm will have sprouted debris, usually weeds and a variety of colorful grasses and "herbs". The game gives you the option to eat all of these things, and while it might be a better idea to sell them (most everything in the game can be sold; apparently people will pay for decrepit weeds in Rune Factory's world) sometimes you just can't resist the urge to consume a few hundred weeds in a row. Just like real life. This debris is harmless, usually, until a hurricane hits, and everything you've grown has been replaced by boulders and stumps, which are now rooted into your field (???). At the beginning of the game, this might tempt you to smash your DS as this debris is initially unremovable until you level up your tools through what is (at first) an expensive trip to the blacksmith. Resist this urge.
If farming frustrates you - and this is truly the glory of Rune Factory - you can pick up your sword and go adventurin'. Unfortunately you cannot kill the townspeople, who will occasionally tempt you to stab them, but you can head into the caves and kill monsters in a very classic, dungeon-crawling way. However, unlike your favorite dungeon crawler, in order to move on to harder dungeons you must plow. That's right. You can kill the boss of the dungeon, but before you're allowed to move onto bigger, badder enemies, you have to prove you're hardcore by plowing the caves.
You receive permits to go to the caves from a kindly old man who acts as your mayor. He is just one of many townspeople, many of whom are not particularly likeable. For instance, there is the man who runs the general store where you will be forced to visit every time you wish to replenish your stock of seeds. This man's creepiness borders on the level of a serial killer, and he speaks to you with a voice that cause children to scream and run. You will also come across the guy who never opens his eyes, a hippo in people's clothing (presumably), a Spanish (?) maid, a witch who is obsessed with the hotspring she runs, and more. This brings me to the courting aspect of the game, where you can pick any girl you like and bombard her with senseless gifts (milk, rocks, etc.) to earn her affection and eventually marry her, to bear a useless offspring.
These are the steps you will take in unlocking the mystery of Raguna's past, and the world around you. Admittedly, it doesn't click together very well. But it's still good.
They're nothing special, but they're pretty good. The character art is done well - most 2D aspects are pretty well done, actually - but the 3D can leave some things to be desired.
The music is well-done and doesn't get repetative, thanks to the switching of music everytime the seasons change, and the fact that pretty much every area has its own music. The voice acting, however, is atrocious, and as I said, every time you hear the general store owner speak, you will want to kill him. Tragically, your sword does not cut people.
The game has quite a bit of value in terms of playtime, though you'll hardly want to start a new game once it's over. You can keep playing on your farm, but... there's not much point once you've done everything.
Rune Factory is hardly incredible to passer-bys. For Harvest Moon fans it's hit or miss, but for anybody who hasn't tried Harvest Moon, or didn't especially like other installations, Rune Factory is worth a look, just for the diversity of play. If farming isn't your bag, there are monsters to kill, and having the extra option of a whole new dimension of play isn't so bad.