|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Neverland||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Natsume||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
is better than Ever
by Joseph Catalanotto
August 27, 2008 - Harvest Moon games have been suffering somewhat lately, particularly on the DS. Series offerings late in the lifespan of the GameCube, particularly Magical Melody, were among the best the storied franchise had to offer. But the fan-favorite series has put forth some less-than-spectacular material up for grabs on the DS.
Interestingly enough, the best Harvest Moon title on the platform has not been a traditional farming sim, but rather a game that combined the farming elements of the past games with a dungeon-exploring mechanic that's new to the series. Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is now getting a sequel, and it's a game that is sure to challenge its predecessor for the title of best Harvest Moon game on the DS. The story follows in the footsteps of the original Rune Factory, and you play as a character who awakens without any recollection of who he is. But identity issues are put aside for the time being as you're greeted by a young girl and given a plot of land, with the task to create a successful farm.
Much of the "story" of Rune Factory 2 is very player-driven, as you're again given the option to find yourself a wife. Character interaction plays a huge role in Harvest Moon games, and Rune Factory 2 is certainly no exception. Farming and monster-battling take the forefront of this Harvest Moon title, but you're free to take the initiative and pursue some of the social aspects of the game as well.
The real meat of Rune Factory 2 lies with the farming and dungeon-crawling mechanics, which, while seemingly polar opposites, actually work surprisingly well with each other. You will have a Rune Points meter which is depleted with every action you take, from watering and harvesting crops to fighting monsters. This sort of "life meter" has been a staple of most Harvest Moon games and forces you to manage your time wisely. It can be a bit restricting at the beginning of the game and starts the game off slowly, but having the patience to work your way through this period rewards you with some seriously deep and addictive gameplay.
The dungeon-crawling mechanic is fairly standard and doesn't vary much from what you'd expect from games of that genre. You'll explore dungeons, all the while fighting monsters, finding treasure, and even facing off against bosses. However, Rune Factory adds a few little tweaks to this tried-and-true formula. You'll be able to capture monsters which can protect you in dungeons and even help you out with your work on the farm. Additionally, you're able to plant crops at certain areas in dungeons, which allow you to replenish your Rune Points and press further into the dungeon.
While the dungeon-crawling and farming elements mix nicely together in examples like this, there are also plenty of opportunities for straight-up farming that countless gamers have found so fun since the Harvest Moon series was first born. You'll purchase seeds, equipment, and livestock and create a suitable farm. As you make more money from your farming, you'll be able to expand your operation. Collecting building materials such as stone and lumber as you work provides you with equipment for building upgrades. You can even purchase new land and construct entirely new buildings as you expand your farm.
Harvest Moon games aren't for everybody, but the farming mechanics have a certain charm to them. In many ways, the gameplay is somewhat monotonous; you'll perform many of the same tasks every day. Watering plants, harvesting crops, and taking care of livestock are all daily chores. But Harvest Moon is a game that has a long-term appeal, as looking back on your progress of the past year is something that's highly rewarding. Plus, the addition of the monster-fighting mechanics makes for a more action-filled gaming experience and relieve the slow-paced nature of the game.
Rune Factory fans will be happy to know that Rune Factory 2 is receiving a number of satisfactory upgrades from the original. The visuals look quite nice and are definitely preferable to the overly-simplistic graphics of the Harvest Moon DS line of the series. The sound also promises to be quite good, and menu navigation has been upgraded as well. Rather than dealing with button-presses to change items, this can easily be done with just a few taps on the touch screen. Finally, Rune Factory 2 takes place over two generations: the first half of the game will be played with the original character, and the second half with the child of your first character.
Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is continuing the popular sub-series of Harvest Moon and is sure to appeal to even more people than the first Rune Factory did. The fun, addictive farming mechanics are in place and the dungeon-crawling meshes quite well with the core Harvest Moon set-up. Those looking for a solid handheld iteration of the Harvest Moon franchise need look no further than Rune Factory 2 when it releases this autumn.
CCC Freelance Writer