I played the original Rune Factory about a year ago and remembered having a blast with it. It was Harvest Moon, but with an action RPG element. It was best described to me as Harvest Moon meets Pokemon. Like most Harvest Moon games, completing them is always a challenge considering the time commitment, and Rune Factory 2 does expect you to pour the time in though with very little reward.
" Rune Factory 2 is not by any means a total rehashing of the first game, as it creates a new sense of variety with the generation system"
One of the best aspects of Rune Factory 2 is the generation system. In generation one, you begin the game as an amnesia ridden farmer, trying to remember who you once were. The farmer meets Mana, a cheerful girl from the town of Alvarna, and her father, Douglas, who's convinced that you are out to take Mana's innocence and marry her. After hilarity ensues, you are presented with a farm that you must take care of. The whole purpose of generation one is to get married, have a child, and of course, fulfill your dream in building a school for the children of Alvarna. As soon as these tasks are complete, the game shifts into generation two, where the player takes on the role of the child – this is where the true adventure begins, and Rune Factory 2 takes flight.
Generation one feels more like a Harvest Moon game. Your farmer will till his fields, gather minerals and attempt to woo a beautiful young lady. One of the key issues in generation one, however, is the number of glitches that seem to plague it, the most noticeable being when you speak to Natalie about getting a recovery potion and the screen says, "You get a TOMATO!" or some other random object. As I giggled over that, I also noticed that when you speak to Gordon, the priest, during the hammer quest, parts of his dialog are missing to the point where there is blank space and then a large period. While these are just some of the glitches I have encountered, in generation two, I have yet to actually find a glitch that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Generation two plays almost exactly like the original Rune Factory, and brings back the monster taming feature. Using the friendship glove, players can capture monsters and use them either as allies in combat or helpers in the fields. You would think having a party companion would be useful, but often the companion monster tends to die more quickly than you do. While I found that monsters weren't as useful in combat, they were great in performing tasks on the farm so that Rune Points (RP) were not wasted.
One of the key design changes made was the dungeon setup. In the original Rune Factory, the player was only allowed to enter a new dungeon if the previous dungeon had been completed. In Rune Factory 2, however, all the dungeons are fully accessible, each with its own difficulty rating listed before you enter. Although you can enter generation two rather quickly, it is advised that your farmer in generation one be leveled fairly well, because all his stats transfer over into generation two. If you haven't leveled enough, be prepared for monsters to take you down in one hit. In generation two, monsters will swarm, and when this happens, it's safe to say you're done for.
Part of the problem with generation two is that it feels unbalanced at times. In some cases the bosses and areas provide little to no challenge, while in other cases, the bosses have attacks that can easily take you down in one hit. The problem is leveling: in Rune Factory, the player levels as they complete each dungeon, but in Rune Factory 2 with the dungeons being fully accessible, gathering levels is not a gradual process, and the space of the dungeons is a lot smaller, making it difficult to find spots to rack up levels. Another minor problem is that the combat is tedious and slow unless you're using a short sword. This means the enemy will almost always land a hit before you do.
Item creation in Rune Factory 2 also poses somewhat of a challenge, specifically when attempting to forge new weapons. With forging, it is difficult to raise the skill level because the skill level will move up if only you are successful in creating items. Meaning that if you're at level eight and you want to create something at level nineteen, you either have to have a lot of luck, or you have to have created enough of the simple items to reach a higher skill level. This can be very frustrating because as you forge weapons or create items, your Rune Points (RP) deplete very quickly, to the point where you can easily faint and lose a day.
Although I have mainly focused on some of the gripes I've had with the game, there have been some positive aspects. The game is full of many quests that you can complete at your leisure in both generations. These quests will provide you with your starter farming tools, as well as money, wood, and other helpful items and objects. There is also a wide array of bachlorettes in both generations, and in generation two you also have the choice to play as the farmer's son or daughter. You can also get married in generation two and have a mock wedding be performed, although my experience with this was rather questionable in that my boy is only nine, and he married a thirteen year old.
Rune Factory 2 is not by any means a total rehashing of the first game, as it creates a new sense of variety with the generation system. But what this game lacks is a sense of balance that could have easily been fixed. Although the generation system is the newest addition, the game continues to play very much like its predecessor. Still, elements such as marrying a cougar help keep this game interesting.