For players who grumble that games are not worth the money spent on them because they can be completed in too short a time period, I would recommend almost any Harvest Moon game, but especially Rune Factory 2. 60 hours is the minimum amount of time needed in 'real life' to complete the game. When one speaks of 'completing' any Harvest Moon game, it usually has nothing whatsoever to do with the 'END' of the game, but rather the situation where the plot has been completed and the player has achieved all basic goals. Harvest Moon games tend to last 255 years...
Rune Factory 2 contains more than 940,000 words, making it incredibly rich in dialogue. This allows greater character development and makes Rune Factory 2 a true example of an 'interactive novel'.
Tree of Tranquility is a game that spans more than one generation but the actual form of the game is the same in most basic aspects in both generations. You marry and have a child in the first game, but then have the option to replay the entire game as your child in the second.
Rune Factory 2 is another 'next generation' game but completely different from ToT. In Rune Factory 2, your first character is able to unlock only a limited number of new options. His essential role in the game is to marry and have a child. The initial character is male, but you can choose the gender of your child. It is the child who actually is able to unlock the major plot points contained in Rune Factory 2 and the child who will be able to fully explore all dungeons, defeat 'bosses' and perform the advanced skills such as Cooking, Forging and making Accessories.
The first generation game requires about 20 hours to complete if you are determined to marry at the earliest opportunity. The second generation game requires another forty hours... if not more...
Briefly, I was puzzled and frustrated when the gates in the dungeons would not open, no matter how many generators I destroyed, how many monsters I defeated or how many rune points I had in the dungeon plots. With a barn filled with monsters at maximum 10 hearts, a field fully tilled and planted and having shipped almost every item available to me, I wondered why I was given no new options in terms of expanding any aspect of the game. The Requests brought me money, items and an increase in Love and Friendship Points but unlocked no new areas and allowed me no significant progress in any way.
It was a relief to discover that I had done all that could be done in this generation apart from marrying and having a child. In all other Harvest Moon games, I take my time, raising every eligible girl or bachelor to the maximum 10 hearts before I marry anyone. I am not certain that I should take THAT much time in this initial game, as Rune Factory 2 is due to be released in a couple of weeks, and I would like to have a fairly decent preliminary guide in place when players gain access to it. I therefore will concentrate now on having a child who then can experience the 2nd half of the game.
I played only one game similar to this in the past. There was a wonderful game called 'Phantasy Star III' that spanned generations. You could choose a spouse and your character then would be the child of that union. In a 'third generation' option, you then would choose a spouse again and play the final portion of the game as the child of THAT union. It therefore contained a multitude of different futures and characters in a single game. I did not play the original console version. Instead, I found a copy of the GBA trilogy, containing all three Phantasy Star games in a single cartridge. It represented incredible value for the price.
I see now that a new version of Phantasy Star is being produced. I will be interested in playing it but hope that they will release a new version for the DS as that is my favourite platform.
In any event, players of the old Phantasy Star games should be very interested in Rune Factory 2 as it represents a detailed and complex universe where your own interaction can take place in two different generations and two different games.