Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 is a lighthearted role-playing game that satisfies the need to explore dungeons, collect items, fight evil monsters, and save the world. But the game's simplicity works against it at times, making it feel somewhat limited compared to other role-playing games, which are typically much more far-reaching and complex. The generic story and tiny world of Swordcraft Story 2 are disappointing, but once you get past that, you'll find yourself having a lot of fun with the endearing characters, rewarding weapon-crafting system, and frequent boss battles.
Even though Swordcraft Story 2 takes place in the same world as the first game in the series, the two games are completely unrelated, so you don't have to have played the first game in order to know what's going on in this one. As the story begins, Swordcraft Story 2 jumps right in with the clichés. You play as an orphan that's descendant from a long line of noble warriors who have always protected the Seal of Goura in the small village of Cliff. The Seal is a magical barrier that keeps the evil beast known as Goura safely confined where it can't hurt the peaceful residents of the town. One day the seal is broken by some mischievous meddlers, threatening the very existence of the town of Cliff and the world beyond. It's up to you to search for the legendary Daemon Edge, the only sword capable of defeating Goura. To do that, you have to become a craftknight, which is sort of a fancy blacksmith who can create powerful weapons with the help of a special helper known as a guardian beast. The story is about as derivative and generic as it comes, but it takes a backseat to the basic dungeon-crawling that makes up the bulk of the gameplay in Swordcraft Story 2.
When you begin the game, you're given a choice of playing a male or female lead character. The differences between the two are entirely cosmetic, though, and the story doesn't change at all whether you're male or female. The story does get a bit more varied depending on which of the four guardian beasts you choose as your partner. The main character and the guardian beast interact frequently and at length, and since each of the four beasts has a distinct personality, the beast you choose has a substantial effect on the story. The dialogue between you and your guardian beast can be quite funny at times, so there's some incentive to playing the game multiple times to get to know each of the different beasts.
In addition to comic relief, the guardian beasts also provide support in battle. You can equip your beast with magic spells as well as items that can be used to heal your hero or damage enemies. The magic system isn't implemented very well in the game, though, because you can only cast each spell a limited number of times and your beast only gets a handful of actions per battle. The magic is also devalued by the fact that the battles are real time, which means that it's much more effective to just mash the attack button and slash away at enemies than it is to scroll through a list of spells in the midst of battle. In the longer boss battles, you'll often need to use some healing items or spells, but beyond that you'll rarely need to summon your guardian beast during battle.
Swordcraft Story 2 uses a random encounter system like many role-playing games, but instead of initiative-based battles, the battles are in real time. The fights take place from a side perspective, and you can block, jump, attack, and move around freely. Most of the enemies simply require you to walk up and slash them a few times, but there are particularly tough enemies that might require you to mix things up with the occasional block. You can take three different weapons into battle, and each weapon has a durability rating. Your weapon takes damage with each strike or block, and it will eventually break. If all your weapons break, you're left with your smithing hammer, which isn't enough to keep you alive for long. It's an interesting consideration to keep in mind during battle, but for the most part you can just ignore it. Most of your weapons can take a lot of damage, and you can also get items to repair them before they break. Even then, you'll very rarely ever find yourself lacking a weapon, because most of the dungeons are very short and you can always warp back to town for repairs.
Since you are a craftknight, you have the ability to make your own weapons rather than purchasing them from vendors or finding them in treasure chests. You have to find special templates to create specific types of weapons. You can create swords, axes, spears, drills, and knuckles, and each weapon type has its logical advantages and disadvantages. The axe is powerful but slow, the spear has good range but isn't powerful, the drill can break through defenses, and so on. In the previous game in the series, you could derive raw materials from all of the items you collected in the game. In this game it's much simpler: You find materials in an already usable state, take them to your workshop, and forge weapons. Depending on the materials you use, your weapons will get special stat bonuses. You can also upgrade and disassemble weapons to make them stronger or imbue them with elemental properties. The weapon-crafting system is quite simple, but with more than 200 different weapons to create, it can be rewarding to search for materials and experiment with different combinations to upgrade your weapons or create new ones.
When you aren't making weapons or chatting it up with your guardian beast, you'll spend most of your time exploring dungeons and forests to collect special items or to talk to certain characters. Most of the game takes place in the forest area on the outskirts of the game's single town. There are only a handful of dungeons, and none of them are very large or complex. You'll have to visit the same couple of dungeons several times throughout the game, and a lot of the quests require you to skip back and forth between town and dungeon, which results in a lot of tedious backtracking. Although the game will take you around 15 hours to complete, it feels much smaller than that because you never really get the feeling that you're going anywhere. Instead, you just keep covering the same ground and talking to the same people.
The presentation in Swordcraft Story 2 is bright and colorful, with detailed backgrounds and attractive (if a bit saccharine) character designs. Several of the dungeons in the game do use the same generic tilesets, which can get dull after awhile. There's the forest area, the underground cavern, the ice area, and the futuristic factory, all of which look like they could have come from just about any other role-playing game. The bosses and enemies all look large and imposing on the battle screen, and they animate well. There are some special effects to accompany magic attacks, but they aren't especially dazzling. Still, the graphics look charming overall, and they fit the tone of the game well. The music is good as well, with themed tunes to fit each area you visit. There isn't much in the way of sound effects, except the clank of weapons during battle and a couple digitized battle cries.
Swordcraft Story 2 doesn't take any chances with the formula established in the first game in the series, but that works to its benefit. Like the first game, this one has a simplistic charm that makes is easy to lose yourself in for a good, long while without getting frustrated with bloated, nonsensical plots or convoluted design gimmicks. If you're looking for an epic saga to embark on, this isn't your game. However, if you're looking for a simple role-playing game that doesn't require a lot of effort to enjoy, you should give Swordcraft Story 2 a look.