Here at RPGFan, we've been riding one huge wave of anticipation for Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. Tides of Destiny is the series' second jump to a home console, and the first release ever on the PS3 (and the second for the Wii). So get your hoe ready (that's the farming kind, perv), take a sword in hand to tackle the baddies along the way, and practice your charm to turn enemies into friends in one of the biggest Harvest Moon/action RPG hybrid experiences yet.
Still want to know more? Of course, you do! Thankfully, we had a chance in participate in a recent roundtable about Tides of Destiny. Are you ready to be hyped even more than before? The exclusive lowdown is that we have a game with frighteningly addictive proportions on our hands – with a journey lasting at least 60 hours, there are discoveries around every corner... er, island. And what would make the journey even more thrilling than using your own personal golem as means for transportation and your personal farming headquarters?
As if that weren't enough, you'll also have a mystery on your hands – and technically someone else's hands, too. You see, longtime friends Aden and Sonja thought they knew everything there was to Fenith Island, that is until a mystical event happens that not only transports them to the future, but also puts them in the same body. You control Aden, but he also has Sonja sharing his brain and communicating with him throughout the journey. So, although Sonja won't physically be there, boy, will she let you know her presence. For instance, say she tells Aden they should do something for the day and he ignores her... Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; she'll let him have it in the form a verbal beatdown. Just be ready for Sonja's commentary for every occasion. Also, anticipate one of the most complex narratives in Rune Factory history as you discover the island's locked away secrets.
The good news is, once you figure out the mystery, you can pick between Aden and Sonja for your main character. For those worried about losing progress by picking Sonja, we were assured that this isn't the case: everything you accomplish while in Aden's body transfers over to Sonja. While both characters are equal as far as gameplay goes, Aden has more marriage candidates than Sonja, but there's enough quality here to make Sonja's heart flutter as well. As in all Rune Factory games, expect a wide variety of characters, with their own quirks, although we were assured that the wackiness won't quite reach the levels of the family who talked in opposites from Rune Factory 3.
While the main story is about as linear as the game gets, once it's completed, the game becomes more open-ended, with a ton of social aspects and quests to focus on. And, hey, stronger dialogue and fleshed out characters are always a welcome addition. Festivals are also included in Tides, but don't expect them to be quite as interactive as Rune Factory 3 (although, we're secretly hoping we get beans thrown at us again as part of one). A big part of Tides of Destiny was going back to things that worked in past Rune Factory games and refining them. For that reason, the request system from Rune Factory 3 is back. As many know, the request system broke away from some of the game's tedium wonderfully, so we're glad to see it back.
Those who enjoyed bringing villagers into battle in Rune Factory 3, however, won't have that option in Tides of Destiny. The focus is instead on befriending monsters and raising them to be your perfect battle companions. They also provide you with your farming essentials, such as milk and wool. We were told that there are close to 50 different monsters you can recruit for your farming and battling needs. All monsters you come across, bosses aside, are fair game for recruitment.
You'll be swinging your sword quite a bit in this action RPG, and luckily the combat is said to be more robust than ever before. This means more weapons and magic, along with a complex skillset to create your character around. Don't expect just your typical battles either, there are also bigger and better battles awaiting you with your golem, Ymir. While you search for islands, your golem is vulnerable to attack and this is where the massive sea battles play out. Think of your golem as your own personal transformer ready to show who's the top dog of the sea. Ymir also stomps down on islands and raises them, which means there's always room for discovering new islands. Various types can be discovered, such as islands purely for crop raising with certain seasonal elements attached to them, islands full of treasure, and others that are dungeon-based islands. Tides of Destiny pushes you towards exploration, as farming and social aspects appear to take more of a backseat to the adventure.
Newcomers to the series shouldn't feel overwhelmed, as there are several tutorials to get you on your feet. The good news is that they tried to make things as detailed as possible without being longwinded. Veterans also shouldn't worry about tutorials being a bore, as there's plenty new in Tides of Destiny that you'll have to learn; we've never had to use a giant before, that's for sure.
With Tides of Destiny being the first game to hit the PS3, Natsume is incredibly excited. The possibilities of PS3's large install base and brand momentum were encouraging. PS3 users are treated to a ranking system with leaderboards, and, of course, trophies. The graphics on the PS3 version are better, as they're displayed in 720p resolution. Move controls for the PS3 mimic the Wii remote, where you can use them to complete daily chores and activities – just don't expect them to drive combat. For PS3 users without Move, the standard controller is supported. Unfortunately for Wii owners, though, there is no classic controller support. There's currently no DLC planned for the PS3 title, but who knows what the future could hold since this is the first time the series is dealing with a platform where downloadable content is possible.
Perhaps most exciting is that Tides is promising a great deal of voice acting: thousands of lines are said to be voiced. Sadly, the Japanese voice acting isn't available in the US version. For those wondering about the name changes in the US version, Natsume revealed that any change they make is usually aimed for the mass market. Therefore, if a name is very Japanese-sounding or odd, they tend to change it to something more common. At the very least, they try to aim for the same feeling, but make it more westernized for the English-speaking audience.
In the end, Tides of Destiny is looking to be a JRPG that we can't miss out on in a market where they're an endangered species. Tides of Destiny just might be your best bet for the JRPG experience, and it looks like the game is pulling out all stops to make it happen. Having your own personal giant? Having a male and female share the same body? Massive sea battles? It's all going to happen when the game drops on October 11th.