E3 2008: Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon Hands-On Impressions

Turn your swords into plowshares and back again in this new farming adventure.

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Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon once again returns adventurers to the kingdom of Norad for more fantasy farming action. Much like the original, this game features a blend of Harvest Moon-style life-simulation gameplay and traditional Japanese role-playing game mechanics.

We scooped up the game to try out at Natsume's E3 booth, and the first thing that jumps out about the game is the visuals. We were roaming around town in the spring, and the gray stone buildings were framed in cherry trees in full blossom, with the occasional petal drifting across the screen. The backgrounds are quite attractive, and that was a good thing because it took us a while to get our bearings. Fortunately, the Nintendo DS's top screen displays a map that you can use to maneuver your way to your destination.

A few aspects have been changed around compared to the original. The first is that instead of pressing the start button to swap around your gear, there are new tabs on the touch screen that you can tap with your stylus to quickly and easily move items around. The second is that this is actually a multigenerational game; your character Kyle can attract a wife and marry, and then for the second half of the game you'll play as your child in a Generations of Doom sort of situation. Another new feature is that the townspeople will now give you short miniquests that will raise their affection for you if you complete them. It seems as if the game will be fleshed out more in the RPG area than its predecessor.

Other mechanics are still the same. You'll still rely on your meter of rune points to farm, fight, and perform other strenuous activities. To help extend your life in dungeons, you can plant crops in dungeons for later harvest that will supply you with rune points. You can still befriend monsters, who will aid you by producing materials (milk, eggs), taking care of some of your farm chores, or helping to guard you as you explore the world. You can gather materials that drop from monsters in the world and use them to craft items for yourself. Of course, you'll still be able to farm as well.

Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon appears to be a pretty little handheld game that adds some additional RPG elements while keeping the core spirit of Harvest Moon intact. Fans can expect to see this sequel arrive in fall of 2008.

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