At least as far as I'm concerned, Rune Factory 4 Special was the most interesting RPG at XSEED Games' E3 booth this year, for a variety of reasons. This was Sakuna's 3rd year at the show, and as such there isn't much else we can write about the game until it actually releases. Rune Factory, however, is a completely new version of the 3DS classic, retooled for a single-screen system and with various enhancements to the game itself. In addition to the standard HD remaster treatment - the game runs at a much higher resolution, with higher fidelity assets seemingly across the board - players will also receive access to new "Newlywed" and "Veteran" modes that seem to offer additional content for players, after the story's conclusion. Details about these two new modes are hazy, but Newlywed will introduce new cutscenes and events that will directly coincide with your spouse of choice.
We played one of the opening sections of the game during our demo time, infiltrating Yokmir Forest and taking down a butterfly-themed boss fight. We also took the oppurtunity to check out the farming controls and talk with some of the townsfolk: character portraits are shown in a much higher resolution this time around, and while its been a while since I've played the original 3DS release, most of it certainly looks better than I remember. Whether that is because of new assets or mostly just the higher rendering resolution, I don't know, but I'd hazard a guess that it's a little of both. It's Rune Factory 4, but it looks and plays better, with more content. While certain parts of the game still betray their 3DS/DS heritage, for the most part the title looks more than at home on the Switch.
The game seems to control well on the platform, though switching equipped items seems to be a little unwieldly, forcing you to pause and switch between your farming equipment and battle equipment by retreating to the bag menu. I don't remember if it was any easier to swap between equipment on the 3DS, however, so this might be a problem that has been retained, rather than something the port has introduced. In handheld mode the touchscreen can be used to move items around in the menu, which is certainly appreciated and can help alleviate some of the tedium that seems inherent to switching out equipment.
As for a release date - XSEED says that it'll launch this year, but couldn't share anything more than that. We'll have to wait a bit longer to find out when fans can return to Selphia - but Rune Factory 4 Special seems to be shaping up to be the perfect introduction to the series for anyone that has yet to play it, and looks to offer enough reasons for veteran players to give the new release a try.