The latest contribution to the Harvest Moon series is a title that breaks the traditional mold by adding a “fantasy” element (sword-wielding, magic, and the like). Entitled “Rune Factory ~Shin Bokujou Monogatari~” (New Farm Story), the game has already received high marks from Japanese reviewers, including Famitsu (33/40). The new and interesting style to the series is accompanied by a fresh sound in terms of music.
The first noticeable addition to the sound are the opening and ending vocals. The opening, performed by J-Pop artist Lil’, is a very catchy song that seamlessly fits the game’s artwork and overall style. Though the opening track is above average, the ending, performed by voice actress Ami Koshimizu (who plays “Mist” in the drama tracks), is actually just a stripped-down version of the opening “Rune.” It’s up to you to decide which one is better; I was personally more attracted to the opening version, but Koshimizu’s performance is nothing to neglect.
Scattered across the album are three drama tracks, each lasting about 5 minutes. These tracks give a clear picture of the game’s female characters (because, let’s face it, all Harvest Moon titles are really about getting married, not farming!). There’s a bit of quirky humor in the drama portion, including one young lady who cannot help but excuse herself for everything she says and does (I must have heard the phrase “sumimasen” upwards of twenty times).
Tomoko Morita’s compositions for the game itself are excellent, especially for the DS and its sound capabilities. Morita refused to rely on a few particular synthesizers, and instead branched out to make as many different sounds as possible, all the while remaining in a pretty normal range of musical styles. Example: track 16, “Karmite Cave,” uses an organ sound that should immediately remind RPG Fans of Kikuta’s work in Seiken Densetsu 2. However, the melody is carried by instruments that seem to come from other sources. Furthermore, the looped beat track has a fresh sound all its own. These blends of sounds are common for this soundtrack, which is one of my primary reasons for recommending it.
The sound quality suffers slightly due to the nature of the game’s platform (a handheld), but it’s nothing to get frazzled about. From town themes to environment themes, and even *battle* themes (something new for Harvest Moon fans!), these songs are all quite enjoyable.
My one complaint? The three arranged tracks. Basically, it’s my opinion that Morita could have done more with these arrangements, and he could have also chosen better songs to arrange from the album. The arranged songs aren’t bad, but compared to some of the more interesting works on this album, there are parts of the arranged work that left me wanting more.
This album breaks the mold for the Bokujou Monogatari (Harvest Moon) series; which is no surprise, as it comes from Neverland studios and features music from a new composer. If this album catches your eye, then follow your gut and pick up this album. All in all, it’s a very pleasant album.