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Rune Factory originally began as a spin-off of the Harvest Moon games, now known as the Story of Seasons series. Like the iconic farming sims, players grow crops, upgrade their farm equipment, sell animal products, fish, and marry an NPC. However, unlike Story of Seasons, players wield weapons and explore dungeons as another main aspect of the game. Additionally, while Rune Factory has open-ended farming sim gameplay, the games also have linear storylines to complement it.
Rune Factory 5 has already been released in Japan, but the localization won't get a worldwide release until March 2022. A few players had revealed some info about the game on social media, such as the fact that same-sex marriage was once again not supported. However, when a clip of the game was shown at the September 2021 Nintendo Direct, an unexpected scene of two women getting married shocked fans, confirming that the Rune Factory series will finally add same-sex marriage options for both male and female player characters, Ares and Alice.
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Rune Factory and Harvest Moon's History with Same-Sex Marriage In-Game
Xseed's Rune Factory has had catching up to do in comparison to its other major franchise, Story of Seasons. Harvest Moon DS Cute was the first game in the series to allow female player characters to marry women in the game, but even this has a bigger history to it. In Japanese versions of the game, female PCs could marry women, but Natsume, the publisher responsible for localizing the series, was against this decision. Instead, players could only have a "best friend" come live in their homes but were not able to formally marry. This came ahead of a split between Natsume and Marvelous, and Natsume's separate Harvest Moon series, which includes recent titles like One World, still doesn't allow for same-sex marriage.
It might seem a bit odd that another Marvelous-owned and Xseed-developed IP would fall so far behind in this area. But while Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons has had female player options for decades and DS Cute had initially allowed for same-sex romantic partners, the franchise would later backtrack on this and not include the feature until Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, and this was only properly done in the English localized version. The Japanese game brought back the "best friend" mechanic.
Rune Factory didn't add a female player character until Rune Factory 4, and Rune Factory 5 will finally be the first game to allow for marriages between partners of the same genders. When fans heard the news based on the Japanese version of the game, fans were crushed. According to Xseed, however, the developer was asking for the addition of same-sex relationships in Rune Factory 5 as early as 2018 after success with the Friends of Mineral Town remake. Thankfully, Marvelous approved this localization feature and the team was able to move forward with queer couples, leading up to the beautiful wedding clip shown at the Nintendo Direct.
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Not many changes will be made to the game otherwise, aside from some bug fixes. However, the same-sex feature will affect the pregnancy and childbirth events and will be handled differently, though Xseed hasn't gone into details to avoid spoilers for prospective players. Otherwise, players can expect Rune Factory 5 to treat same-sex relationships exactly the same as opposite-gendered couples.