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Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

One of gaming's most significant draws is the medium’s ability to turn what would be an otherwise mediocre task or real-world job, into something that - with tweaking and alterations here and there - can actually entertain. Maintaining the budgets and spending of a bustling metropolis may sound mundane, yet SimCity delivers in gaming value. Arguing a case in the courtroom is snoresville in the real world, but the Ace Attorney games are anything but. Perhaps the most gruelling profession on the planet, the muddy, smelly world of farming, has been well represented in the form of the Harvest Moon franchise since 1996, and new editions have graced consoles and handhelds to this very day. Rune Factory is a more recent spinoff series of Harvest Moon, and it combines more proficient role-playing elements with the agricultural traits that Harvest Moon is known and loved for. Gracing the same machine as its predecessor, does Rune Factory 2 on DS blossom in a sea of colour, or wilt in a bed of weeds?

Rune Factory 2 builds upon the first game in every sense of the word, with new features, tasks, and a whole new world to maintain and explore, all the while reintroducing a couple of old faces. Fans of the original Rune Factory will be in familiar, but comfortable territory here. Rune Factory 2 begins with the introduction of your first controllable character, Kyle (renameable if you wish), as he wanders into the village of Alvarna with only a talent for monster battling and farming to his name - but no memories to go with them. He meets a girl named Mana, who helps him out by letting him take over a derelict farm on the outskirts of the village. Thus your two main tasks begin: turning your new home into a profitable business, and seeking answers to your amnesia.

The game starts off fairly light, with a gradual introduction to your living quarters, all the tools at your disposal, the nearby dungeons that you can explore at your behest, and the locals living in the village. The latter is helped along with some striking, if oddly placed, voice-acted segments for certain characters, and what is in general excellent writing for each and every one of them - a very helpful trait for seeking a companion later on.

Screenshot for Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The game world as a whole doesn't reach Galactus levels of size, but every main area is connected effectively for quick travel and access, with confusion on where to go kept at a bare minimum. Each and every part of the game is shown in immaculate detail, with striking seasonal weather effects, highly detailed pre-rendered backgrounds, and effective 3D where and when it is used. Pleasant, ear-pleasing melodies accompany these places, used brilliantly in conjunction with the seasonal aspect.

The game strikes an even balance between the two main activities you can do; farming, and monster battling/dungeon exploring. The former is the one that opens up the most for the first half of Rune Factory 2, so it's what you'll devote the most time to initially, though the individual tasks the local residents give you more often than not require a venture into those dungeons.

One aspect that is given much emphasis in this sequel, and plays into both activities, is the concept of monster capturing. Once you obtain the relevant item, and get a barn built near your farm, you can tame creatures you otherwise fight in the dungeons, and take them there with you next time, or assign them tasks on the farm. How well they perform those tasks, or how proficiently they fight for you, is dependant on their friendship levels with you, so choosing the right creature for the job, and feeding and grooming them at regular intervals, is vital for their assistance. Some monsters, conveniently based on real world animals, also give materials and foods such as wool and eggs too; again, quality and quantity are maintained by the friendship statistic.

Screenshot for Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Rune Factory 2 sticks to its guns with conventional control, only allowing the touch-screen to act as a replacement for the D-pad, so there are no forced gimmicky mini-games here. D-pad control, together with combinations of other buttons to get to the items you need, is easy and instantaneous, but the touch-screen option is a helpful one to have.

With the main isometric view being on the bottom screen, the upper screen is used for a map view only, which is basically useless outside of a dungeon but a godsend for when more paths open up later on. The time of day, season, and the day number of that season (30 to each) are shown on this screen too, acting as a handy reference for planning your schedule.

Rune Factory 2’s farming is considerably easier and quicker than all the huffing and puffing you'd see on real land. Equipping the right tools to clear the field, hoe the remaining land, and plant and water your future wares, takes barely any time at all, even with the full field at your disposal. Rune Factory works on a season-to-season, day-to-day, morning-to-night basis, on an in-game clock not unlike Animal Crossing's system, so your tomatoes and cabbages will be sprouting out of the earth in no time at all. Characters in the game are in different places depending on the time, and each building has opening and closing hours to bear in mind also. Seasonal changes demand different crops to be sown due to shifting temperatures, and weather movements like rain, or even blizzards and dangerously high winds (both quite rare) that mess about with your field, demand that you plan accordingly. Upon trying each task or piece of equipment for the first time, you are given pointers on what to do, but the game does leave a lot to discover on your own, including charge techniques to prepare the land even quicker, or fertiliser you can obtain later to change growth speed; the game guides you along, but doesn't tug you towards a linear path.

Screenshot for Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The monster fighting and dungeon exploration follows an action role-playing game structure, with different weapons, armour, and accessories to equip, levels to gain, and stats to raise to become more proficient at certain actions - the better your stats, the less Rune Points (an overall stamina meter) each action costs. These fights are by no means easy, with monster strength increasing at night and also as you explore further but, like any RPG, levelling-up and stat boosting are the way to go.

During the second half of the game, far more of these stats and abilities become available by way of a newly built school; you'll be able to forge new equipment, create new medicines, learn cooking recipes, and improve your current farming tools. The first half of Rune Factory 2 is by no means a crawl, but it is more of an introductory phase, albeit an important and involving one.

To boost an already extensive single player campaign, the developers have added online features too, comprising of three modes. Item Exchange is self-explanatory, for when you have that super rare item a buddy wants. Monster Meadow is a playground for whichever creature you choose to bring along, and Sugoroku is a board game that can offer varying levels of prizes, which you can play after the school has been built. The service is, as more often than not, restricted by the Friend Code system, but the actual connectivity works just fine, and all three modes are fairly useful.

Rune Factory 2's issues are minimal at best, though certain aspects, such as the produce-depositing shipping box, don’t receive thorough enough explanation, and there is the feeling that you are being restricted for a considerable amount of the story. For any player willing to give it a go, however, this game will involve you in its world like few others can - a testament to the uniqueness of the Harvest Moon franchise as a whole.

Screenshot for Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

A vast amount to see and do, but owing to a solid game structure, and responsive and reliable control options, is never overwhelming. A game that rewards the time and effort put into it.

Graphics

Eye-pleasing and gloriously detailed 2D backgrounds, with nicely varied environmental design owing to season changes. Monster design is a little stale, but are recognisable for the produce they can offer, making them easier to use.

Sound

Themes and melodies are catchy and fit their respective seasonal elements to a tee. Voice work is limited, but acted well, if implemented in odd speech segments.

Value

With just the single player orientation, a number of hours to rival any RPG. With the WiFi features on top, far more is added.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

A game highly accessible to newcomers, and another quality installment for franchise fans, Rune Factory 2 rewards effort with an excellently realised game world, solid gameplay mechanics, and a unique premise. It’s not for those looking for a quick gaming fix, and it isn’t without issues, but it is an effective example of two genres blending seamlessly into one.

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07.12.2010

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Developer

Neverland

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Wow, sounds great! Sadly GAME wouldn't even stock this here in the UK, and I believe it was the same case with many other retailers, meaning the chances of getting RF3 in Europe could well be slim to none Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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