Imagine my surprise when I played Rune Factory 2 and it was like Harvest Moon had a baby with Secret of Mana.
Gallery: Rune Factory 2
I really don't have any better way to sum it up. The farming is robust, bordering on all of the things you can do in a Harvest Moon game, yet, to break up the action, you can also travel out and fight monsters for EXP, items and as part of quests. It's chock full of content, from what I could see.
Now, the farming bits I didn't get to see much of. It appeared to be the usual: planting crops, tending to them and managing an estate. Obviously, with it being the demo, there were some perks. For one, I had a ton of equipment to start with, along with a full backpack of goodies for farming and destroying baddies. Also, the farm was pretty developed from the time I picked the DS up. As fun as the sim stuff is, it was when I got away from the farm that the title really started to grow on me.
This is an RPG, but the combat is done in real-time (remember that Secret of Mana line? Yeah, like that.) and allows you to not only perform physical attacks and guard, but also cast magic. Real-time. It just felt so natural to me and the game kept a steady pace for it. Without the pain of random encounters, I was able to actually do some exploring. Imagine that!
Another thing that blew me away were the visuals. The backdrops were meticulously crafted and looked great, and, frankly, I'm surprised such visually-pleasing environments could be crafted. The polygonal sprites animating throughout the locales also looked good, as monsters and my hero all interacted and moved well. It was mostly the environments that done it for me. They were really something to behold.
Rune Factory 2 seems to be a very entertaining title. It breaks up the monotony of tending to a virtual farm by also incorporating a full-fledged RPG experience into the game. It's like a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich, combining two things together to create something all its own. Now I see why Candace has been so crazy for this game!
I can't wait to check it out this fall.