Rune Factory 2 - Staff Review  

Dating a Cougar is Awesome
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

40-60 Hours
+ Beautiful still environments and character portraits.
+ Numerous side quests to take on.
- Forging items takes forever.
- Repetitive gameplay, even for a farming sim.
- Poor localization.
- Lag... more lag... still more lag...
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   Seldom at RPGamer do we review Harvest Moon titles. The simplest reason being the insane time investment that these titles demand, and the Rune Factory series is no exception. I am the first to admit that I adored the original Rune Factory. Sure, it wasn't a perfect game, but there was charm within the town of Kardia, something that does not translate over into the game's sequel, Rune Factory 2. The town of Alvarna, where our story takes place, does not possess the heart or the charm of its predecessor, and with the game's poor localization and frequent lagging, it's hard to recommend the sequel to anyone, even those who enjoys the Rune Factory series.

   Rune Factory 2 begins with an amnesiac hero who has somehow made his way to Alvarna. Upon entering the town the hero, who is also a farmer meets a cheerful girl named Mana, and her overprotective father, Douglas, who is instantly convinced you are out to steal his baby girl's innocence. Immediately after talking to both characters, the player is given a farm, some tools and is told to make use of the land. One of the most important aspects of the Harvest Moon series, and in turn Rune Factory, is farming and marriage. Unlike the original Rune Factory, however, the game makes it incredibly simple for the player to win over his dream woman by providing side quests that eventually allow you to marry the potential bride he desires. Farming becomes completely secondary to monster hunting as the player progresses in the game. Hunting is also a faster way to gain wealth without having to wait for crops to appear, so that put farming even lower on the priority list.

   The game is split into two different generations. In this first one, the player's main goals are to expand his house, farm, fish, gather animal companions and marry the woman of his dreams. In order to do all this he must take on various quests provided by the townspeople, and upon completing these tasks, the farmer is rewarded with special items or money to help improve his farm and ultimately have enough money to build a school in Alvarna. There are also four different dungeons to explore, though at the beginning of the game not all of the areas in each dungeon are accessible. Once the school is built and a bride obtained, generation two begins and the player takes on the role of the first generation's offspring, with the choice of being a boy or a girl. In this second part, the story changes so that the main character is searching for their father, and along the way, he leaves some helpful clues throughout all of the dungeons that will eventually lead the player to his whereabouts.

Cammy thinks you're not capable. Are you going to take that? Cammy thinks you're not capable. Are you going to take that?

   The story is fairly simplistic and while doing side quests provides some characterization for the townspeople, they are not well integrated into the plot. In fact, the player can pretty easily go through second generation without even interacting with them. During the first generation, tidbits of plot are provided through various side quests are important to capture the woman of your dreams. However, once in the second generation, the town serves little to no purpose, meaning that the player can completely ignore the town to concentrate on beating the dungeons. Since there is no forced interaction, this adds to the level of tediousness within the game, because by generation two there is no real reason to participate in farming or side quests unless the player needs more money.

   While generation one plays more like a typical Harvest Moon game, generation two feels more like a Rune Factory title. In generation two, areas that were inaccessible previously are now completely open to exploration. With access to the school, players can forge weapons, cook and create items. In order to gain item recipes, one must take classes in the school. However, forging new items requires a lot of luck and patience, and often only have a one percent chance of success. In order to create most of the best items, hours must be wasted forging items over and over in this tedious process.

   Another part of Rune Factory 2's problems stems from its poor localization. The game is full of typos galore, as well as several glitches and plentiful slowdown. For example, in generation one when visiting Natalie at the clinic and ask her to make you a Recovery Potion, the text will say "You obtain [insert random object here]." There are also moments where punctuation marks appear in the wrong spot or become completely nonexistence when talking to town residents. Lag is also a constant issue within the game, in that if more than two objects are moving at the same time, the game will slow down, causing the player to have to halt their movements until the objects have moved safely off-screen. This becomes incredibly problematic when fighting off a horde of enemies, because once two or more enemies are onscreen, the slowdown becomes so crippling as to let enemies always get the drop on the player.

   Combat in Rune Factory is a typical hack-n-slash affair. You can use items and magic spells, and in Rune Factory 2 special skills called "Seals" allow the player to unleash deadly attacks against the opposition dependent upon the currently equipped weapon. There are a variety of weapons, although the majority of them are slow and difficult to use, again due to the game's lag. Boss fights are irritating because they feature spamming of a couple of skills repeatedly, with various objects flying all over the screen to induce massive slowdown. While combat is not complicated, the lag make the battles more difficult to navigate thanks to sloppy visuals. It is possible to bring monster companions for assistance in battle, but only if one adores dealing with even more slowdown, caused by companions that die in one hit if their monster levels are not maintained.

Let's be friends! Heart! Let's be friends! Heart!

   While the town and dungeon environments are luscious, crisp, and colourful, the problem of having too many objects on the screen detracts from the beauty. In autumn and spring, petals and leaves fall, but the moment townspeople begin to walk from point A to point B, they become painful to deal with because they begin to skip. Numerous times characters will be stuck on the screen, unable to move anywhere, but the moment one moves to the next screen, they will magically reappear in their usual spots.

   Thankfully, the menus in the game do not experience any lag, but they do suffer from hypersensitivity if the player chooses to use the stylus. Though disposable items are carried in quantities of nine, a simple tap upon the item grouping will separate one from its group, even if the intent was to move the lot elsewhere in the item menu. Items cannot be automatically organized and must be sorted by hand. There is a quick-menu, but it is clunky to navigate and finding items promptly is very difficult thanks to the poor organization.

   The only area where Rune Factory 2 shines is in the sound and music department, but this does not say a lot considering the game's problems. From the pleasant town theme to the dungeon themes, there is good variety in the music, but the pieces are completely forgettable. There is also some voice acting, but it is so minor that it's generally a town person saying "Hey!" or "Hello!"

   Rune Factory 2 is not a difficult game by any means, but progressing is a problem due to its poor localization. The main plot can be completed within forty hours, but there is enough additional content that can make the game easily over a hundred hours. However, as soon as I visited Alvarna, I wanted to make my visit quick and painless, only to realize that the town itself was working against me, and forcing me to stay much longer than I had intended. Considering all of Rune Factory 2's problems, it might be safer to never visit Alvarna, unless you... want to... be stuck... in... perpetual... lag...

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