We didn't realise until it was posted up on Siliconera but the company Neverland is going into liquidation.
Though mainly known for the Rune Factory series of games they also did the Lufia series for the SNES and later other systems, which I've never played but have been really well received (IIRC Superplay gave it 79%). So with heavy heart its time to give the first 3 Rune Factories a good raking over.
The original but not the first Harvest Moon Spin off, and if you've played Harvest Moon you would be at home here. Basically its Harvest Moon with combat and a few bits and pieces to add to it. You can marry and have children just like Harvest moon and they will not do anything much here though later series will expand on this.
It still starts the same you turn up in some no mark village with amnesia and have to take over a plot of land to turn it around. You'll gain tools by talking to people and have a small cave to explore at the end of your land. Where it differs is that there are generators in there that spawn monsters and your farm tools will deal damage as well as dropping items that can be used to craft more weapons and armour. There are a few ladies to court and settle down with, theres no gender selection here though until I think 4 and beating the first dungeon (Clemens cave) will give you a chance to take on other caves dotted around.
I haven't played this in ages and had IIRC Sickly Felicity from the store as my partner, though I could have had the girl who ran the bath house. (Pro Tip: exploit the bath house you'll get back all your energy and it only costs 10 gold, you'll make that back easily selling random weeds). I remember the vicar was a miserable cunt called Wesley, and that the fisherwoman Sabrina was a total lush, sadly not dateable they have a thing against milfs. The kid in this Cecillia becomes a date option in Rune Factory 2 predictably she is a maid character.
At a glance what is new here.
Many caves to defeat, though this would be reduced to 4 seasonal caves in later games.
Combat with recruitable creatures that could be sent to work on your farm.
Rune Factory 2
This is a continuation of the story set in Alvarna, you still have amnesia and for some reason you are in a different part of the country. Your dungeons have been reduced down to 4 and worse part until you settle down with a nice young lady, knock her up and more crucially build a school you won't actually be able to explore any of the dungeons fully (and only then as your offspring). Incidentally you'll do the ultimate dead beat dad thing and bugger off a full two days after all those things are implemented (though those townsfolk saps still hold you in high esteem). So with school built and lessons to go to your child can learn recipes for making things and due to some pretty harsh unlocks it'll take ages to level up and make the best weapons and food. Our bride here was Yue a travelling merchant and cutie in a kimono, although we could of had wannabe teacher Mana or Cecillia one of the only recurring characters from the original Rune Factory. I still haven't beaten this as the bosses are tough and it takes ages to do stuff, plus time really drags here and your day takes what seems like a week to pass. This is the weakest in series definitely.
At a glance whats new here.
Reduced caves to fight in.
Generational story that lets your kids fight your battles for you.
Days that drag on for weeks.
Takes ages to actually cobble together anything for making.
Rune Factory 3
This is a more modern version and isn't really inspired by anything that went before. You still have amnesia and you still get a plot of land to cultivate, however this time you get the upgrades from the later Harvest Moon games. This boils down to you can throw items without them disappearing and seeds only fill one plot of land rather than a 3x3 square. You can also grow seeds that will grow into monsters that will help you out, we have a floating lillypad to help us get around and something that becomes a sword. On the downside everyone without exception of the ginger bird on the box is a mental or shapeshifter of some description, (Spoiler as are you as it turns out, you can turn into a yellow sheep for no apparent reason, maybe its set in Wales.)
Your choices are limited to.
Ginger bird (Shara), reasonably normal has a little sister called Monica who is a brat.
Narcoleptic shop keepers daughter, wants to go to the big city but is too lazy to do anything.
Raven. Near mute weapons dealer.
Pia. Squid loving mermaid runs the bath.
Sakura. Reasonably normal girl that runs the junk shop.
Sophia. Opposite speaking daughter of fat bastard mayor Jasper.
Collette. Perpetually hungry daugher of the innkeeper.
Daria. Flaky artist who lives outside town. Really loves rainbows.
Marion. Runs the clinic and is basically Joseph Mengele in a fucking dress, always experimenting on Collete.
Carlos the fishermans daughter, a tomboy.
Finally they've spawned a village in desert that holds a village of monsters you can date their leader even though she has a horn. I've yet to pick a bride but will probably plump for the narcoleptic shopkeepers daughter out of consistency.
Edit we've married the narcoleptic shopkeepers daughter who promptly gets herself kidnapped.
Combat is much better here and they've tightened up the time issue from before now the clock ticks down even when you are in buildings. You also learn stuff by eating recipe bread that the innkeeper bakes, which makes no sense but is a nice touch.
At a glance whats new.
Systems imported from later Harvest Moons, i.e. Throwing stuff, limited seed placement.
Your house is basically a great big tree.
Most of the women you can date are borderline psycho or shapeshifters.