Forget Harvest Moon, forget Animal Crossing....there is a new sheriff in town. Rune Factory: Frontier

User Rating: 8.5 | Rune Factory Frontier WII
Rune Factory.......what did I expect?

Well I went in thinking it was going to be a Harvest Moon game with dungeons. Normally that mean lots of farming, cooking and trying to find a wife. RF doesn't veer away from that formula, but what is surprising is how much extra it adds.

You will immediately notice how beautiful and alive the world is compared to the last Harvest Moon game, Tree of Tranquility. I want to say the above-ground world really isn't any bigger, but the dungeons add more game-play area to that, making it larger. Load times between zones are still there and with the same frequency, but they take half the time as ToT. Considering the look of the world, it's only a minor inconvenience with me and expected considering other Wii games do this as well.

The next big change is the length of day. The days are just plain longer. In ToT the day was over before you knew it and made it difficult to get much done. Time moves much more slowly now and I have a real sense of getting things accomplished. In the beginning you might not know what to do to fill that time in, but soon enough you will have plenty to get done. I'm at that point now and I am saying "there is not enough time in the day".

Why are we now so busy? Well let's take a look at the skills first and see.

Farming- everything we know including land preparation, sowing, watering and harvesting. Crops WILL die at the end of seasons out in your fields, but the right crops grown in the right dungeons will last forever.

Ranching- we used to have cows and chickens, now we have captured and tamed monsters. A select few will give you your milk, cheese and eggs while the rest will be pets and fighting aids in dungeons. If they REALLY like you they will help out on your farm!! Oh and one big thing for me is I no longer need to feed each pet individually. Just harvest the fodder and they will eat on their own. Probably a good thing as there are A LOT of monsters/pets!! You can even breed them and they will level.

Dungeons- Here is where your fighting prowess comes in and having a pet to fight the boss mobs can't hurt. You can also make the weapons you will use in these dungeons from objects that you find or drop in them. Take along some foods and potions as they help boost your stats to help you survive a little longer or hit a little harder.

Cooking- Speaking of foods, they now have more of a use than just a money maker or future wife gift. They add to your stats all sorts of bonuses i.e. Atk, Def, Magic, HP, RP, etc. They will help you get through a dungeon if your RP are getting low. (RP are used when you swing your hoe, sword or any other tool/weapon.)

Lab- Here is where you make the potions that pad your stats or even make your crops grow better/faster.

Forge- Make those weapons, improve those tools!!

Accessories- The girl wants diamonds, what's a guy to do? Save your paycheck, make it yourself. You might want to wear a pendant as well as it adds to your stats. You'll find parts to make these goodies in those dungeons.

Fishing- Well I could say you fish for money and to have things to cook like in other HM games, but there is more. Fish dishes are good at boosting your stats as well.

Each crafting activity along with fishing has a mini-game with it. It is a button-timing game where you stop the moving line inside the blue or green area to successfully craft an item. If you fail, you lose RP and start over only losing ingredients with cooking, but not the other crafts. If you land in the blue area you make the object in question on a comparable level with your skill and difficulty. If it lands in the green area the item will be exceptional, usually being a higher level and having better bonuses. The green area can be VERY small to non-existent if the item you are trying to craft is too far above your skill level. This is a basic 'test' but it does make you feel more involved with the crafting process. I enjoy it.

Runeys/Rune Stones- This is something new to me, but it does add more to the game. There are four types of runeys (floating spirits that enhance your crop growth). They exist with each other, but not necessarily in harmony. They are water, rock, tree and grass and it is a rock, paper,scissor relationship where one eats the other, but nothing eats water. The trick is to maintain a balance in each game region as you don't want one to become extinct as you might need to 'import' a type later. Why would you need to do that? Well Runeys have many uses. First they make your crops grow faster and the better balanced your land the better things are for your crops. Second Runeys can be collected with a Harvester (Vacuum). You can release them in an area to 're-balance' the land as water tends to take over since they are not eaten by anything. You can also trade them in for wishes, like a week of sun/rain or a day of friends. (No it's not a 24 hour marathon with Jennifer Aniston!) One last use for Runeys is to have them transformed into Rune Stones of the same type. These can be used to make your pets breed or to open locked dungeon doors of which a certain type is needed. (This is a deeper part of the game that I am just beginning to explore. )

NPCs have started moving in but I haven't seen any move away yet so I must be doing something right. NPCs will move in if they like what you are doing, but will move away if they don't. There is a good mix of 'Ladies' to get to know and marry like in other HM/RF games and you cannot play as a girl. You will eventually marry and have child if you play that part of the game to its conclusion. I have heard you cannot play as the child in a new game as you have been able to in past HM games.

Overall, the formula from the HM series hasn't changed so if it hasn't been for you, that probably won't change with RFF. If however you are a fan, this is a great game in the series and one many are comparing to HM64. That was not one I played, but it is considered by many to be the best in HM's history. Rune Factory is being sold as a new series outside of Harvest Moon. From what I have seen and experienced, unless HM adds more to their gameplay, I see no reason to go back. RFF has done more for the console 'sim' than Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing and it deserves success. If it gets there, I know we will only see more added to this great formula. (A co-op/WiFi addition would put it over the top.)

If you are a HM/AC fan...........highly recommended!!!!

If not........recommended with reservation.