Wii’s Forgotten Gems: Rune Factory: Frontier

Harvest Moon with dungeon crawling? … And it’s on the Wii? Blasphemy!

By Bradly Storm. Posted 09/26/2012 16:00 7 Comments     ShareThis

Release Date: March 17, 2009

Rune Factory is what happens when Harvest Moon and a dungeon crawler have a child. Rune Factory: Frontier is what happens when that love child comes to the Wii. Frontier is best described as a more active, and involved, form of Harvest Moon that puts players in the role of a young hero who must build a farm, care for crops and livestock, all the while capturing and raising monsters and doing battle with blades through various dungeons. Unfortunately, Rune Factory has never been as recognizable as its iconic brethren, Harvest Moon, which essentially gave birth to the series. Even on the franchise’s console of origin, the NDS, it only ever managed to keep a very niche audience, despite being more approachable and enjoyable for most gamers. Making the move to home consoles was a big risk for Rune Factory, but it was an even bigger risk to make its debut on a system that wasn’t known for games of its kind.

Frontier hit North American gamers in 2009, three years after the Wii was released. By the time it arrived on store shelves, Nintendo’s waggle box had been hammered by critical eyes, and was often referred to as the system that lacked a library for the hardcore. Because of this, as well as being three years into the console’s lifespan, Rune Factory went unnoticed upon its release. My theory behind is that Frontier was released during a month in which it went toe-to-toe with some stiff competition. In March 2009, Frontier hit retail stores alongside Resident Evil 5, Halo Wars, Pokemon Platinum, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, and the Nintendo DSi itself. Needless to say, gamers’ wallets were light by the end of that March, and I’m certain that this intense level of competition had something to do with Rune Factory slipping under the radar.

But this wasn’t Frontier’s doing, really, nor did it reflect on the quality of the game. In truth, the title’s publisher, Xseed, did nothing to help this as their marketing for the game was nearly non-existent. In my mind, this was an immense missed opportunity. Rune Factory: Frontier was a beautiful piece of gaming architecture. The core gameplay was filled to the brim with diversity, as it was one part dating sim, one part farm simulator, one part RPG, and one part dungeon crawler. How this was all tied together is what was truly impressive, as the game always felt coherent. Given that there were so many moving parts, it’s impressive to see how the developers were able to sew a thread that linked everything together into a single, consistent piece of work.

Rune Factory: Frontier Screenshot

What also made the game so special was its undeniable charm, which could be found in everything from the graphics and soundtrack, to the story and characters. Aside from possessing the likability factor, Rune Factory: Frontier was nigh impossible to put down as well. This ultimately became an issue for me, as I bought the game when I was in graduate school. I spent far too many evenings firing up the game around 7pm, and finally finding the willpower to turn it off around 2am. The title was simply addicting as all get out. When playing it, I was taken back to my days in junior high when I’d sneak out of bed just to play Harvest Moon 64 until the wee hours of the morning.

So perhaps I’m marked with nostalgia, but at the same time, I can also objectively recognize a solid game when I see one, and nostalgia aside, Rune Factory: Frontier is the real deal. It’s one of the most complete packages you can find on the Wii. And truth be told, Rune Factory belongs on a Nintendo system; they’re the only consoles that feel niche enough to satisfy the niche gamers who love this series. It may not have brought in the sales, but those that did pick it up, were treated to a wonderful and heart-warming title that was sure to paint a smile on their faces from the moment the disc started spinning.

7 Responses to “Wii’s Forgotten Gems: Rune Factory: Frontier

  • 201 points
    NintendoDad says...

    I completely agree. This is a great game that is very addictive and rewarding. Both this and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny deserve a try from anyone who is interested. I put over 100 hours into each of these games. The only thing I didn’t care for from Frontier was the whole rune management aspect. Once you got the hang of it it was fine. But it was a very steep learning curve. For this reason, I prefer Tides of Destiny. There is a ton to see and discover in that game. It’s a real shame that most gamers have no idea what they are missing with this series.

    Thumb up 0
  • 261 points
    JasonMaivia says...

    It’s a good game, but still, it would have been a bit more enjoyable without the stupid Runey system.

    Thumb up 1
  • 156 points
    Bradly Storm says...

    @Jason, I didn’t touch on it in the article, however, the Runey system was the only facet of the game for which I didn’t care. The main problem with it is that it simply made a very relaxing, go-with-the-flow kind of game feel like tedious work. I’ve always liked Rune Factory (and Harvest Moon games) because they’ve been able to make even the most mundane tasks enjoyable. Unfortunately, the Runey system wasn’t fun, it was just time consuming.

    @Ndad, I really enjoyed Tides of Destiny as well, however, it didn’t feel like Rune Factory to me. There was too large an emphasis on combat, and not enough on farming, for my personal preference. I really admired the delicate balance that Frontier (and RF3) achieved through utilzing equal parts sim and RPG. ToD felt like more of a straight-up action-RPG. I know, for me, I enjoy watering every individual plant, and caring for my livestock with meticulous precision; I didn’t feel like I had that kind of opportunity in Destiny. As you said, though, it truly is disappointing that most gamers have never experienced, or even heard of, the Rune Factory series.

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  • 7 points
    Katharine Byrne says...

    Would I like this game even if I’m not a huge fan of the Harvest Moon series? :)

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    • 156 points
      Bradly Storm says...

      I think that depends on what your reasons are for not liking Harvest Moon. If you simply can’t get into the grindish monotony of those games, you may not like Frontier all that much much, as it’s a very slow-paced game. If that’s the reason, though, then Tides of Destiny would probably be right up your alley, as it’s generally a much more involving game than Frontier.

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  • 87 points
    XxThe_SunxX says...

    If you like this one they are making a rune factory 4 for the 3ds. hopefully it will be localized in the states because harvest moon and rune factory games are some of my favorites. im 200% getting harvest moon a new beginning for the 3ds when it comes out late october :)

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  • 156 points
    Bradly Storm says...

    I am super excited for Rune Factory 4; I hope it makes its way stateside.

    In the meantime, like you, Sun, I will be snatching up a copy of A New Beginning (the collector’s edition, no less). Harvest Moon has always been a game I’ve considered more suitable for portable play. And though we already have The Tale of Two Towns on the 3DS, A New Beginning looks like a true return to form. I haven’t looked forward to a Harvest Moon title, in the way that I’m looking forward to New Beginning, in quite some time. Between it and Code of Princess, October is going to be a good month for me.

    Thumb up 0

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