Monday, December 15, 2008

Harvest Moon or Rune Factory 2?

Two readers posted comments to which I would like to respond in an actual post. Both basically asked me my own personal opinion of the merits of Rune Factory 2 as compared to the original Rune Factory and other Harvest Moon games.

From the first reader: 'Recently I found myself with fascinated with the whole farming game genre. So, in your opinion which game is 'better' and explain why?

I'm conflicted of getting into the Harvest Moon series or the whole Rune Factory series.'

From the second reader: 'I also never even completed the first requests in Gen 2 for Julia, Barrett, or Herman... It just seems to me that you should have to complete some of these tasks in order to defeat the final boss and beat the game.

All that said, I can't wait for RF 3. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on some of these things and on the game overall compared to RF 1.'

First, I would like to go on record once again in stating that I never played ANY Harvest Moon game that I did not enjoy thoroughly. I do prefer games that allow the player to 'live' his/her life without pressure of conforming to a specific timetable, but although 'Save the Homeland' and 'Innocent Life' both required the player to complete tasks in a specific time period, they nonetheless were wonderful games. This is ironic, in a way, because I am a player who tries to complete all goals at the earliest possible opportunity. Even so, I like the idea that a player can take one year to court and marry his/her heart's desire or take a decade to do it. That is very much like real life after all.

Where Rune Factory and Rune Factory 2 are concerned, I think that a player who is accustomed to traditional RPGs may not realise how much both games truly are part of the Harvest Moon genre.

Harvest Moon games are NOT linear in nature. RPGS tend to be fairly linear. Rune Factory and Rune Factory 2 have very definite plots and goals but the player is given almost total freedom to choose when, how or if he/she wishes to complete the story.

If you wished, you could stay in the 1st Generation in Rune Factory 2, living happily as a farmer in Alvarna, with only the occasional earthquake to remind you that there was a nebulous threat somewhere in the future. You could tame the Monsters who produce Ranch products, reach 10 hearts with every one in Alvarna and focus on growing the rare Crops rather than moving into the future. If you did this, you would be playing a classical Harvest Moon game.

I think this is where some players misunderstand the concept of Rune Factory. The plot and the combat aspects of the game are 'frills' in a sense. The fundamental game is Harvest Moon. 'Beating' the ultimate Boss isn't the purpose of this game, either in Rune Factory or in Rune Factory 2. The purpose of the game is to restore the farm and to create a decent life for yourself.

The player who feels a little cheated because he really did not NEED to make the most powerful weapons in order to defeat the Boss may not be aware of the role that 'Cookbooks' play in any Harvest Moon game. In a sense, Harvest Moon is based on completing Items Lists. You obtain or make every possible item in the game not because each has a distinct purpose in the sense of plot but because doing so represents 100% completion. In most Harvest Moon games, there are 'secret' items that are discovered by oblique means.

Many players of 'Friends of Mineral Town' and 'More Friends of Mineral Town' may not ever have known of the existence of 'X Wool', for example. The 'Gold' Crops in Rune Factory 2 are secret items. Recipes include them as ingredients but it may be only through exhaustive research and experimentation that players stumble upon them.

The 'Secret Concerto' in the 1st Generation is a clue that ultimately can lead you towards the 'Inquisitive Waltz'. There always are clues to the secrets in Harvest Moon games, although you have to pay attention. Sometimes it is nothing more than a single statement by a character at a specific heart level.

The plot is important in Rune Factory and Rune Factory 2 but ultimately, these games are about a world and the people who inhabit that world. Characters in Rune Factory 2 speak of individuals in the original Rune Factory. This is very typical of Harvest Moon where people who lived in Mineral Town would speak of Forget-Me-Not Valley long before players had any opportunity to experience an intersection between the two.

When I compare Rune Factory with Rune Factory 2, I detect more of 'Harvest Moon' in the sequel than in the original. There is so much quirky humour, sly little asides and detailed character studies in Rune Factory 2. Although it takes the player through two generations and therefore includes an incredible plot structure in its way, it concentrates more on the individual personalities of the characters in Alvarna than on the drama of the Caves. Rune Factory was more 'plot-driven' in a sense than the sequel.

All Harvest Moon games have a plot and definite goals. For example, in Harvest Moon DS/Cute DS, your goal is to rescue all 101 Sprites. This is not necessary in order to enjoy the game, but it represents the same sort of 100% completion philosophy that appeals to players of Harvest Moon. You really only need to rescue 60 Sprites in order to bring the Harvest Goddess back to the Valley, which is one of the requirements for marriage in HM DS/Cute DS. As previously stated, Harvest Moon is NOT linear.

Rune Factory 2 is one of my favourite games at this point, but it is difficult to rate Harvest Moon games. I adored Harvest Moon DS and Cute DS, because I loved the way those games combined the characters of 'A Wonderful Life' with the characters of Mineral Town. 'Island of Happiness' is another incredible game and may be the ultimate 'farming simulation' game, with its strict realistic requirements for crops and the ability to grow grains like rice. I loved the way Island of Happiness incorporated actual rice paddies into the farming experience.

For sheer beauty, however, I could not imagine any game more breathtaking than Rune Factory 2. THe original was exquisite but the sequel is even better. It is a world that constantly delights the eye. The music is wonderful and the landscapes are magical.

For a player who never played any Harvest Moon game before, however, I would be inclined to recommend something easier than 'Island of Happiness' for 'starters'. The farming and ranching aspects of Rune Factory 2 actually are easier for a novice than Island of Happiness. If you are not interested in combat at all, though, you probably should play Harvest Moon DS or Harvest Moon Cute DS. Either would be a fantastic introduction to Harvest Moon. If you like combat and the element of fantasy, then play Rune Factory or Rune Factory 2. I actually would recommend Rune Factory 2 above the original for a player who is more interested in simulation farming than in a traditional RPG. For the RPG player, the original Rune Factory is more 'true to form' but for any true Harvest Moon fan, I think the sequel is even better.

11 comments:

Figcoinc said...

That was an excellent read. I am just coming back to the Harvest Moon world, and I feel like I missed so much. I am currently playing Rune Factory 2, and it is amazing. I am still in GEN 1, but just lingering about until I get all the ladies to 10 hearts. I agree with you totally how Rune Factory's roots are still much in Harvest Moon. You can not deny that at all. It just gives you a different experience with this formula. It is not better nor worst than Harvest Moon. It is simply a change of venue, style, but keeps the same formula.

I am very happy I have come across your site. I am reading your guides, and enjoy reading your blogs. Keep doing what you do, and most of all have fun!

sister dew said...

Hi Freya,

Thank you for yet another thought-provoking post! I've played most of the handheld HM games (for Nintendo consoles anyway) but I have to say that Rune Factory did not have the same appeal for me when it was first released. The idea of combat in the HM universe is a little jarring for me - I was not a prodigious miner of the HM DS caves for that reason - but your descriptions, screenshots and videos of RF2 are swaying me slightly! It has a beautiful 'otherworldly' fantasy feel to it, very appealing to the Tolkienite in me, and I can see me being tempted to give it a try once I have more free time.

As Serena of Moon Ranch in Island of Happiness, I finally feel like I'm hitting my stride in this game. Thanks to your wonderful walkthroughs and guides (along with my own stubborn determination) I'm currently in Winter of Year 2 with a full compliment of farm buildings (oh what a joyous day it was when my Greenhouse was finally built!) and the majority of Primary Characters at 5 or more hearts. Still yet to open the Jungle - I want to work a bit more on my friendship levels with the existing chracters first - but since I know that's where my future husband resides I doubt the bridge will stay unbuilt for much longer!

I completely agree with your assessment that Island of Happiness is not a game for the HM novice. I'm a veteran player of FoMT, MFoMT, A Wonderful Life and HM DS, yet when my first batch of Eggplant in IoH took 30 days to mature, ruining my chances in the Fall Crop Festival, I was very nearly ready to throw in the towel! Happily I took your words of encouragement, took a deep breath and started the game over again. And you were right - with a few Wonderfuls and a pair of Turbo Shoes the game is much less hostile!

Thanks again for your dedication and all your hard work. When Serena finally takes the plunge and marries Shea, I shall make sure that they name their firstborn daughter Freya!

Freyashawk said...

Wow, I am honoured! How wonderful to be godmother to a child in some one else's Harvest Moon game...

I felt a great surge of excitement when my Greenhouse was built in my first IoH game as well. It really makes ALL the difference in farming.

Anonymous said...

Hi,Thanks soo..much for your help
i have played HM for sometime now too.Your blog here has helped me..
BTW i never finished ioh,because i was dragged to play Rune factory2
I am in 2GEn right now and i need help w/ julia's 2nd request
WHere do you find Gold Pumpkin?
and I just found out Cammy love Marmalade and Rainbow Sashimi and Roy love steamed Gyoza and Ice Cream (the bad thing is i can't make them)
I WISH they make more space to store

Freyashawk said...

Anon, I agree with you about the lack of space. It is very frustrating, especially when you have all the Skill Seals and Spellbooks to store as well as War Trophies and special Weapons and Accessories. Lack of storage space is the biggest challenge in the game.

I am going to write a little 'cheat' section for my Guide, telling players which items SHOULD be stored to help with the requirements in the 2nd Generation.

I made a video for you showing how to obtain the Gold Pumpkin. Basically, you use Inquisitive Waltz in the Summer chamber in the Palermo Shrine.

Anonymous said...

RE:
thanks you so much!!!
I haven't even beat bane Dragon
in autumn cave
the request must be postponed then
*sigh*

eening said...

hey your harvest moon guides are great! plus they're all super detailed. :D

jcsimpson said...

Hello Freya...My problems with Rune facotry two is that marriage is rushed so you can get to the second generation. I'm on the 20th of my first Summer since staritng the game and I can already give the engagement ring to Mana. I wish eac part had a long story line like in Rune factory 1. My other probelm is the dungeon system. You only have four places to go to with about 5 bad guys each, I know you get more in the second generation but it's still lacking and again makes it sort of psuh the seconde generation on you.

My main problem though is when you enter your bar and the lag that it creates having all those sprites on screen at once...it's furiating.

Freyashawk said...

JCSimpson, I understand your feelings here, but remember that we are dealing essentially with Harvest Moon here and not a traditional RPG. Players SHOULD be happy to grow crops, fish, mine, make friends and court girls... without worrying too much about a 2nd Generation option. Even though you CAN move forward into the 2nd Generation almost immediately, you are not forced to marry. I think that once you marry, the handwriting is on the wall, so to speak, ending the potential of the 1st Generation even if you delay in building the school. The trick in this game if you wish to enjoy the 1st Generation longer is NOT to marry until the 4th year, thereby allowing all the Rival Marriages to occur. I missed those in my test game, as I needed to move forward for the sake of the guide. I therefore went through all the Eligible Girls' marriage events myself, then married and built the school immediately for the guide. In my next game, I won't marry until the 4th year, and experience all the 'Graduate' 'steal the bride' dramas at the altar. The beauty of Harvest Moon is in the details, in the discovery of little secrets and events... rather than in a BIG plot. I do agree with you that the lag in the BARN can be annoying, but it is SO sweet that all the monsters come to you when they love you!

jcsimpson said...

I can agree with you on certain point but my main problem is that if you do wait till the fourth year there is just not much to do except battle the same limited monsters in the same limited areas. There is not much filling or really any will to not get married because only then does more happen as your child. I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree.

- jcsimpson

Snork said...

Thank you for a wonderful review, Freya! I have recently become a Harvest Moon fan, and as much a sI like the "mainstream" parts, RF series has captured my fantasy-and-JRPG-obsessed heart. I even try playing Rune Factory 3 despite my next-to-zero knowledge of Japanese, and I'm dying to see the English release to understand the plot. Actually, anyone who liked the first two Rune Factories is almost destined to like RF3 which takes a big leap forward in terms of gameplay and AI. I'm still playing RF2 as well, determined to witness all weddings. Heh, I'm probably gonna max out some of the skills till then...
My wish that will probably never come true is that they put changeable voice-over in the American release or even skip the dubbing anyway (DS has some good games with Japanese voices untouched). I'm very doubtful about the quality of dubbing, having seen too many bad dubs. On one hand, some voices in RF2 are dubbed decently and Dorothy's dub voice is pure win; on the other hand, I can't stand the voices of Alicia and Roy, especially after hearing the much cuter and more natural originals. Chances are I'll have to search for the rom and undub it manually like with the previous games. Oh, well...
Let's all wait for the localisation of RF3 and see what we shall see. Other HM and RF games are enough to keep our attention in the meantime.