Narphinean's Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Review
Run Factory 2 Pages
~The game might seem too tedious to some players, as there is often not much to do between major tasks.
~The game lags at critical points, which is extremely frustrating and a disappointment compared to the first game.
~You must use a certain multiplayer location for each activity, which is a bit unnecessary.
~Grammatical errors, while less glaring than they were in the first game, detract from the experience.
~The plot is not very unique, since it was already used in part.
When the first Rune Factory game came out, it confused and excited gamers. On one hand, it was a Harvest Moon game, with the farming, the village, the animals, and the bachelorettes. On the other hand, the animals were not normal farm animals but monsters, the village had spellbooks for sale, and the bachelorettes were sometimes witches. There was even quite a bit a fighting to be done, which was a new concept for the always-happy series. It was a hit, and sold so well that a sequel - this game - was produced. Although it doesn't add much to the first game's concept, it does improve on the weak points.
The first part of the plot, although interesting if you haven't played the first Rune Factory game, is not unique at all. Like the first game, you start out playing as a character who has come to a village with no memory of where he came from or what he's supposed to do. A girl comes along and helps him (this game's girl is named Mana) by giving him the farm that belongs to her and her father. While working on the farm, exploring the nearby "dungeons" (which are not underground at all, but range from an island to a forest), and wooing the single women in the town (called Alvarna), he tries to remember his identity. This is where the game comes up with its own plot: the town has been experiencing mysterious earthquakes as of late, and it's up to you to find out why they're happening.
Unfortunately, you do remember who you are - after marrying and having a child (you can choose the gender). You leave on a stormy night, ignoring your child's protests but giving him or her a book written in Earthscript, an ancient language. Now the real adventure begins, as your new character (the child) tries to pick up where his or her father left off, and searches for clues on his whereabouts...
This game does well in keeping the balance between farm life and warrior life, as you have plenty of each. For instance, in one day you might water your crops, brush your animals (or monsters, as they are called here), talk to the townsfolk and take out a few monsters in order to get to a new level. Although there might be sections of the game devoted to one over the other, rest assured that you will get your fill of both over the course of the game.
The battle system especially is an interesting feature of the game. Although it is fairly standard by an RPG standpoint, it is certainly new to the Harvest Moon world. Basically, you will have your choice on equipping your character with a sword, staff, hammer or lance/spear and using them along with magic on your foes. If you get low on health points, there are a variety of health restoring items (as well as most foods) that you can use. What makes this game different, however, is through its use of "Rune Points", which dictate how well and how much you'll be able to use tools or magic. Once the Rune Points are depleted, you can cut into your Health Points - however, if you reach zero, you'll either faint or die, depending on your location. This system works well, and also has a place in the game's overall concept, which adds a sense of a multidimensional world to the game.
The graphics are well done in this game, and are an improvement over the first game. I remember that one of my greatest complaints with the first game was that people didn't mesh well with the 2D backgrounds and looked unnatural. Well, this game does a much better job, with characters that not only look well meshed into their surroundings but also look more normal. In addition, a little red arrow appears over a character's head appears whenever you are close enough to them to interact, which takes the guesswork out of gift-giving (which requires throwing items at them). My only complaint is that the graphics take a lot of power to run smoothly - so much, in fact, that they exceed the capabilities for the small DS. Because of this, horrible lags occur - especially during boss battles. This is easily the game's worst feature.
To add to the game's value, the developers also created features that make use of the DS's Wi-Fi function. In this game, not only can you trade items and tools with other players, but you can play a game and have your monsters interact with other monsters, which increases their relationship with you. Although these features probably seemed good in concept, however, they disappoint greatly (besides the item exchange). In addition, you must go to a different locale in order to engage in a certain activity.
The audio and music are fairly done, but neither is anything special. The music is invariably standard Harvest Moon fare with several battle themes thrown in. Of course, how you feel about this will be colored by how you feel about Harvest Moon music in general. If you love the music, chances are you'll love Rune Factory's music as well. If you hate it, however, I advise you to keep your sound off for all but the intro video. In this game, there are also spoken lines of dialogue that occur when you first meet a character. These lines often help to establish the character's personality, although voicing can be extremely obnoxious at times. Like the music, you will either love or hate the character's voices.
What is a little sad is that in this game, there is little to no use of the Touch Screen, the best feature of the DS. And if you do decide to use it to navigate menus, the calibration is woefully off. You might bring up other menus while trying to carry something to your hands, or accidentally separate items while trying to move them (items are kept in bunches of 9). However, the controls are easy to use if you keep the stylus out of your hands.
Another low point of the game is its "grind" factor. Sure, there is plenty to do between exploring the areas, defeating bosses and collecting clues about the father, but when you've hit a wall and can't move on for a while, there's almost nothing to do. Although Rune Factory 2 helpfully introduces the "bulletin board" feature, on which townspeople post requests for deliveries or items, requests don't come by that often unless you can increase your friendship levels with them. Most of the game, in fact, is probably spent just bumming around Alvarna, waiting for the next festival to come or for crops to ripen.
Despite the fact that you normally do a lot of the same stuff over and over, the Wi-Fi function coupled with the fact that you can always make stronger and better weapons will keep you playing for a long, long time. It can be addictive, but that mostly comes from just wanting to move on in the game. For the record, I've played for at least 36 hours and have still not beaten the game nor maxed out any skills other than the Farming skill. This can be good or bad, depending on how dedicated you want to be to the game.
This game, like its predecessor, also has its share of glitches. Normally, they aren't bad, and they never affect your ability to play the game. But they still show weak game testing, and most likely could have been easily avoided if the developers took the game to look over them. For instance, characters will sometimes address the child character by his or her father's name.
In conclusion, this game can be of great value to you if you've ever wanted more out of a Harvest Moon game. It's more intense, there's much more to do, and its variety of activities will most likely have you playing for weeks on end. If you played the first Rune Factory game and liked it, you'll most likely enjoy this game as well. However, non-fans of Harvest Moon should probably ask around first before getting this game - unlike the first Rune Factory, this one is purely hit-or-miss with overall enjoyment.