Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Review «

The Harvest Moon series is famous for its blend of farming, small-town life, and courtship, but the Rune Factory spin-offs merge the core concept with traditional Japanese action-adventure elements. Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is the latest iteration of the “You got your dungeon crawling in my compulsive farm management!” mashup — and despite some pacing problems, these really are two great tastes that go great together.
Rune Factory 2 takes place over two generations. In the first, you’ll play the role of a boy with amnesia (naturally) who appears in the land of Norad and receives a house and a plot of land to cultivate. Clearing fields, planting seeds, and watering daily will be familiar to Harvest Moon devotees, and even the farmland-rich dungeons with year-round fixed climates will be old hat to fans of the game’s predecessor. How does Rune Factory 2 distinguish itself, then? By dividing the game into two generations, the first half of which — while meaty enough to potentially serve as a game by itself — plays like a very long tutorial for the second half, where the storyline begins in earnest as the focus shifts to the protagonist’s offspring.

Click the image above to check out all the Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon screens.
Since farming’s easy to learn and the dungeon crawling’s limited at the game’s outset, the challenge lies in figuring out how to progress in the story — sparse as it is in the first generation. The town bulletin board’s the only aspect that breaks up the daily grind of farming, fighting, and socializing, and while it’s mostly cluttered with simple fetch quests and delivery errands, it’s the only way the game steers you toward the next mysterious goal. Don’t get me wrong — the everyday routine remains satisfying for a surprisingly long time, but it can grow monotonous when the bulletin board isn’t doing its job of mixing things up.

This criticism mostly applies to goal-oriented players, though. The depth of crop cultivation, monster ranching (including capturing battle partners, farm helpers, and resource producers), social posturing, fishing, cooking, and smithing are enough to keep anyone busy for hours. The constituent elements alone are strong enough to warrant a recommendation — it’s only because the game has a plot that it seems like a slog to advance it. But hang in there: The second half of the game has your back when it comes alive with expanded dungeons, tougher enemies, new magic abilities, and more.

Despite the aforementioned pacing problems and slowdown that occurs when more than a handful of characters appear onscreen, Rune Factory 2 solidly integrates two disparate forms of gameplay in a lengthy, elaborate experience. Willingness to farm and fall in love with a doe-eyed anime girl are prerequisites, but trading your hoe — and I mean the farming tool — for monsters, melee, and magic is one helluva fantasy.

 

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