Rune Factory is a beloved series that combines all the joys of JRPG adventures with the casual gameplay of cozy simulation mechanics. Currently being nurtured, developed, and published by Marvelous and XSEED, fans have had the chance to play new adventures in Rune Factory 5 and revisit past stories in Rune Factory 4 Special, and now, Rune Factory 3 Special.
Rune Factory 3 Special, originally published in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, has been fully remastered for the Nintendo Switch. The updates include crisp visuals, new difficulty modes, and the “Newlywed Mode,” offering additional ways to spend time with romantic partners in the story.
While the remaster is fantastic, Rune Factory 3 Special does struggle with a few key aspects that might impact player enjoyment. Dated gameplay, limited customization, and 2000s stereotypes of main characters create a conflicting experience that may feel like a big step backward for fans of newer slice-of-life titles.
- Developer: Marvelous & XSEED
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch & Windows
- Release Date: September 5, 2023 (English)
- Price: $39.99 for Digital and $49.99 for Digital Deluxe on the Nintendo Store
Play as Micah (And Only Micah) In Rune Factory 3 Special
Rune Factory 3 Special follows a narrative progression fans of the series will find familiar. Taking on the role of a strange adventurer with amnesia, they must uncover their past while learning about the town they have come to be a part of. For Rune Factory 3 Special, fans follow Micah, a young man with the very bizarre ability to become a monster known as a Wooly.
However, unlike Rune Factory 4 Special or Rune Factory 5, players won’t have the ability to choose between a male or female character. While all Rune Factory games use a preset appearance, the lack of a female main character or male romanceable characters might be a pretty big turn-off for fans. I know personally the lack of choice felt limiting in a landscape of diverse, modern, slice-of-life games.
Players will spend their time battling monsters, growing crops, and deepening their relationships with the townsfolk. To avoid spoilers, I will just say that the story of Micah’s origins is thoroughly enjoyable and offers thoughtful commentary on how we view the world and what certain life experiences can be like when prejudice is removed.
Rune Factory 3 Special Was Made for the Switch
Like Rune Factory 4 Special, Rune Factory 3 Special shines on the Nintendo Switch. The graphics previously limited by the Nintendo DS and 3DS consoles have been remastered for crisp visuals and magical backgrounds. While the top-down view is a reminder of the game’s original release year, it is delightful to get lost in the adventure, and the improvements make it easy to fall into the world.
I especially enjoyed the remastered portrait images of Micah, the wide cast of Rune Factory 3 Special characters, and the sharp images of the garden where crops are grown. The original images were grainy and pixelated, but now players can enjoy the bright expressions of Micah, Shara, and everyone else they meet along the way.
Rune Factory 3 Special Combat Is Quick & Enjoyable
Fans of Rune Factory 5’s fast-paced combat are in luck when playing Rune Factory 3 Special – combat is real-time. Unlike many JRPGs of the 2000s, Rune Factory 3 and its remastered version offer snappy, fast-paced combat in real-time. Players will need to attack enemies quickly, using abilities, weapons, and their terrain to ensure success.
I particularly like the combat in Rune Factory 3 Special, as it doesn’t require too many complex abilities or key combos to deal heavy damage. For many cozy fans picking up the game, this style of combat is often welcome, as it doesn’t distract from the softer elements like socialization and farming.
Fighting and working through wild areas and dungeons for resources also makes combat feel useful, integrating the need to explore with daily objectives like upgrading tools, making snacks, and collecting items that can be used as gifts.
A Lack of Diversity Creates a Hollow Space in Gameplay
While Rune Factory 3 Special is foundationally solid and offers fans of the title another chance to enjoy it, I found myself feeling the age of this remaster. Titles like Story of Season: A Wonderful Life have cemented the benefits of a remake over a remaster, creating an opportunity to include important, diversity-rich features that benefit players all over the world.
I can’t help but wish Rune Factory 3 Special could get this type of upgrade. The ability to pick a gender with the already gender-ambiguous Micah or the addition of male romanceable characters would go a long way in updating this already well-crafted title.
Additionally, the remastered graphics could have popped and stood out on the Nintendo Switch console with a full overhaul, leaving me to wonder what modern developments could have done for the world and the many locations players visit. While a remaster is a great way to experience the nostalgia of older titles, I think we were all spoiled by the magic in A Wonderful Life, and I would love to see that same revolution in the Rune Factory series.
Rune Factory 3 Special is an excellent remaster that brings all the joy of the original games to the Nintendo Switch. Updated graphics, smooth gameplay, and a solid story make picking up and delving into Micah’s story more than worth the effort.
However, for the cost of a modern game, a lack of current mechanics, updated diversity, and limited character options leave the player wanting. There is something about these limitations that is particularly glaring in this title, and many may find the lack of choice frustrating when picking up the game.
While great for a wild ride of nostalgia, cozy fans exploring Rune Factory 3 Special should go into it knowing it is a dated game, and that true immersion and personalized experiences in this cozy title will be heavily limited.
7 / 10
|+ Crisp graphics and gameplay are delightful|
|+ Nostalgia indulgence for Rune Factory fans|
|+ Intriguing story that compels you to keep exploring|
|– Dated gameplay really shows, and can be frustratingly limiting|
|– It really feels like it could have been better as a full remake|
Gamepur team received a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.