I Didn't Beat This Game: Rune Factory 2

Rune Factory 2 CoverI began playing Rune Factory 2 almost 14 months ago, I enjoyed the original Rune Factory but thought there were quite a few flaws that needed to be dealt with. With the inevitable Harvest Moon sequel, I knew that I would have a chance to play their next iterations of the "fantasy Harvest Moon" series.

Rune Factory 2 was released in late 2008 but I didn't bother picking it up until a year later, the Nintendo DS is probably my most played platform so there are a lot of games to get to. I played pretty hardcore for a month, which ultimately, probably is what did me in. I was making cash hand over fist and it wasn't even the end of the first Spring; my farming was so profitable but time-consuming that I burned myself out.

I picked up the game again a few months later and managed pretty successfully to continue where I left off: making lots of money and not actually having a lot of fun. I hate to blame myself for this though as the game readily enabled me every step of the way, but my extensive Harvest Moon knowledge and wealth of strategies certainly didn't help either.

My notes on the game have been languishing for months though, so I'd like to get my thoughts on the game out there in the wild. I'm horribly late to the party as Rune Factory 3 was released in November, but to not comment on a game I played for tens of hours seems like a travesty when I write a thousand words on games I beat in eight hours. So please note that this is not a review, but merely an observation of my experiences, there will be no score awarded for obvious reasons.

Rune Factory 2 Farm HouseWhat I loved: The new quest system is excellent! This feature probably kept me going better than any other, even making lots of money. At the center of town is a board where citizens can post their problems. You pick up a quest (one at a time), report to the person in question, and they'll explain to you what's going on. They're generally pretty simple and can be completed quickly, such as finding another person in town or mining for a particular gem, but they're used very effectively in expanding on the supporting cast. Something that many Harvest Moon games have a problem with is that there's just not much of a reason to care about someone that you're not going to marry. They might be underwritten from the start or they're just too far on the fringe to be interested, but Rune Factory 2 solves this problem by having everyone in town give you multiple quests. To expand on your relationship with anyone, you have to help them out.

The game's graphics are also stunning, I have no idea why the mainstream portable Harvest Moon series still insists on using the classic, blocky graphics when the hand-drawn art of Rune Factory just looks amazing. The town in particular is beautifully drawn, and while the quality drops in the dungeons, it's still much higher than what we're usually seeing on the Nintendo DS for sprite-based graphics.

Rune Factory 2's gameplay is well polished, to the point that the farming is as good as Friends of Mineral Town and the combat resembles classics such as Secret of Mana. Absolutely no complaints here, except what I noted in the introduction: this is tried and true Harvest Moon gameplay and if you know how to take advantage of it like me, you may become quickly bored with your riches.

What I liked: My biggest complaint about the original Rune Factory is that the game's dungeons very slowly open up. I believe one of the last dungeons wasn't even available until Winter, and I was ready for it by Summer (meaning Summer and Fall were just a blur of mostly boring farming). Rune Factory 2 opens up the game's four dungeons immediately, but...

What I hated: ...they're very limited and simple. This is worse than Rune Factory 1 as there are no bosses to fight and you will quickly become way too powerful. With me just farming and farming and farming until I was ready to marry to advance the game, I became bored with the monotony.

What I missed out on: I did spoil myself a bit to see what was around the corner (well, down the street and around the corner), and it seems like there's a major twist thrown in that mixes everything up. I still feel like I'm at least a season or two away from this happening though, which isn't encouraging on getting me to finish the game. I invested a lot of time in Rune Factory 2, but since the fighting was so easy and underwhelming before the twist, it feels more like a traditional (but beautiful) Harvest Moon game. Which is too bad, because I really wanted another Rune Factory.

Rune Factory 2 art Kyle Mana Dragon