Rune Factory Frontier has a lot to answer for, as this week I have got nothing done. I have missed calls, missed meals, forgotten to wash and simply forgotten to exist all together. Hopefully I will have a life left somewhere after I manage to put down Rune Factory Frontier but it’s not looking pretty.
It’s a strange coincidence that RFF’s infectious case of amnesia reaches beyond its own protagonists. As my own forgetful behaviour seems to exactly mirror the early processes of the game’s opening sequence. Slap in the first home console release of Neverland’s role-playing / sim / adventure game and you’re whisked straight into a world of forgetfulness that will become familiar very quickly.
Your body for your next life is named Raguna and he has a really big problem with his memory… actually he doesn’t remember anything! Nothing at all, except a girl and a village, and it’s these two factors that have attracted him to the village of Trampoli: a beautiful town with a great male to female ratio that is heavily biased in your favour! The great convenience of amnesia is that it means RFF really picks up steam straight from the off. There is no messing with the difficult business of explaining the basics of life, you exist and that’s that. Life is new and to be enjoyed and off you toddle to a new house and a patch of land.
And that is basically RFF, as after you enter the village a couple of minutes into the game, there is pretty much no more guidance for you to receive. What comes next is entirely up to you, and the choice of what to do next is staggering. Is it the story you want, or is it cabbages? Is it the action or the attention? RFF carves out its intentions from the get go, it’s you who is responsible now and it’s not going to help you much along your journey. Reading the manual, therefore, is a good place to start and explains a good few basics, regarding shopping, exploring, fighting and control during the game. It comes in handy to have this guide next to you whilst you play because it could literally become your survival hand book.
As you can probably tell all of this is initially quite the daunting prospect and does hinder some of the title’s pacing and narrative grasp. Clues are set up to guide you into knowing what it is you should be doing but on the other hand most elements of RFF are unexplained and appear ad-hoc, which at times is slightly discouraging behaviour. However once you begin to find your own way, and with a little out of hours research, things do begin to happen. People start talking to you, more items become available and your day begins to be filled with chores, tasks and responsibilities. Setting out your day and making sure you’ve got the health and stamina to cope is essential practice in RFF and one that just adds to the life of the title, further drawing you into the captivating gameplay.
Without doubt one thing you will be doing is cultivating, so be prepared to get dirty because RFF is all about what you stick into what. Be it the land you own, the animals you wish to defeat or the many numerous girls that inhabit the village! Though you might not have much of an idea where the story is going, or why certain things are happening, the focus of RFF is firmly on the opposite sex. For the most part this is an element of the game play that Neverland handles really well. Gleeful moments of innuendo and suggestion are rife in the village of Trampoli as you start to assess the talent and they, in turn, start to check you out. RFF for a time straddles this playful banter and innocent flirting nicely, making it a joy for adults and cheeky addition for the younger folk. There are a few odd and embarrassing moments though where I think RFF deserves its PEGI 12+ rating. Moments that, even though I live alone, caused me to look over my shoulder to check no one else was watching. I think you would do the same if in a game that looks and feels so unabashed and innocent started conversations where female characters were convinced that by rubbing certain large body parts they would make them smaller.
Impressing the ladies is firmly on the agenda in RFF, and it’s a clever way of getting you to focus on getting your own progression up and running, as most of them are impressed by certain food, flowers, acts of bravery, or simply you just buying stuff from them. Of course the better you are at all of these the more impressed the ladies are, so knowing your seasons, and honing your crafting and cooking are essential! Just don’t get caught sneaking in their houses when they’re ill and smelling their bed sheets…
So there might be girls to impress and crops to cultivate, but there is another aspect to RFF which might take your eyes of the turnips for a good few cycles of the clock. Setting itself apart from Harvest Moon, RFF is all about sword swiping and magic wielding in the same way that it is all about hoe ploughing and community. It’s a simple RPG adventure tag-along, but it doesn’t feel any less engaging or inviting as any of the previous elements of the title. All in all it’s just another way for you to go about furthering the progression of your chosen path of life in Trampoli.
There is a whole living and breathing world with RFF and if you do put in the time and effort you will be largely responsible for it coming into being. The behaviour you will come to adopt is one of an addict, itching to pick up the WiiMote once more to make sure your animals are ok and the strawberries are not wilting in the summer heat. Agriculture and girls might be the two basics to its formula but enhancing that element is a strong set of solid gaming mechanics. RFF is nothing but warm and appealing in its approach with an immediate appeal to both young and old. However, a few bits of sexual promiscuity did rip me out of the world of lost innocence, making me wonder what would happen if I actually got to marry one of the girls! The vast open ended gameplay will not be for some gamers, and indeed even for the many that enjoy the rich tapestry it brings, RFF might still leave you swimming in the amniotic fluid of potential! Small elements of the gameplay are also left to chance and rewards plain opportunism, not intelligent play, but hey ‘C’est La Vie’.
Rune Factory Frontier has no problems with longevity and no problems with direction, and while it may not have much in the way of guidance to help you along, once you’ve delved into its immense variety of delightful experiences, you’ll soon become distracted.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Wii Release Date: 01/04/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Rune Factory Frontier for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a Wii. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.