Friday, November 28, 2008

Rune Factory 2, the ultimate fantasy fulfillment!

When the original Rune Factory game was released for the DS, I was overwhelmed by its incredible beauty and the combination of classical RPG elements with traditional Harvest Moon activities. The plot was strong and the characters were interesting. Beyond that, however, the ability to forge weapons and make accessories was far more extraordinary to me than anything experienced in any other game. I love Cooking in any Harvest Moon game, but forging a weapon or creating an exquisite, powerful magical ring or pin is even more thrilling!

Rune Factory 2 is not merely a second Rune Factory. It actually spans two generations and each generation has its own unique game. There are new characters in the 2nd Generation and the ability to cook, forge and create potions is not available until you reach the 2nd generation. The characters are even more developed than those in the original Rune Factory. With over 420,000 words of text in Rune Factory 2, it is a complex interactive novel that rivals any printed fantasy epic!

The graphics continue to amaze and delight. In every season, there are unique special effects. In Spring, cherry blossoms float through the air throughout Alvarna. In Summer, fireflies glimmer in the fields in the evening. In Autumn, falling leaves of various rich hues accompany your character as he walks or runs through the village areas. In Winter, when snow falls, snowflakes in unique patterns and forms are displayed. Finally, on any Festival day, multi-coloured confetti rains down upon you wherever you go in Alvarna.

The landscapes are extraordinary in their delicate beauty. It is the most incredibly gorgeous game I ever played. Moreoever, with two full generations to span, it is a very long, complex game with the value of three or four games made by any one else.

In terms of the way it spans two generations, I am reminded most of Phantasy Star III, although there are significant differences. In Rune Factory 2, the characters are developed far more fully and the game has far more options than Phantasy Star III. On the other hand, the latter actually had a myriad of different characters for you to play depending on the individual you married previously. In Rune Factory 2, your child can be either a boy or a girl, but his/her character will not vary according to the woman you married. The two games cannot be compared in terms of the options that exist in Rune Factory 2, such as cooking, forging, mining, farming, ranching, fishing and so on... The only point of comparison is the fact that both games actually encompass different games for each generation of character.

For players of Harvest Moon who enjoy the rituals of Courtship, Rune Factory 2 offers a wide variety of eligible girls in the 1st Generation as well as unique 'Heart Events' in the form of Requests for each. There is romance in the 2nd Generation as well, but your character can focus more on this aspect in the first generation, when there are not as many enemies to defeat!

I would recommend Rune Factory 2 even above and beyond any other Harvest Moon game, although every Harvest Moon game offers a wealth of experience and detail to any player. Island of Happiness is another recent release that is perfectly amazing and deserves a review of its own. I would not declare that Rune Factory 2 is superior to Island of Happiness or Harvest Moon DS/Cute DS... for me personally, however, the option to forge an edged weapon is too wonderful for words and that is what may place Rune Factory 2 ultimately at the top of my list!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tree of Tranquility for the Wii

'Tree of Tranquility' is Harvest Moon's latest venture for the Wii. Although a later version of 'Magical Melody' was released for the Wii, the game in fact was created for the GameCube platform. Tree of Tranquility, on the other hand, was created specifically for the Wii.

I was given the task of writing the official strategy guide for BradyGames. It was quite an undertaking. The biggest difference between my internet guides and a printed guide for Brady probably was the deadline and inability to update the guide once a certain stage of production had been reached.

The final retail version differs in some respects from the version on which the guide is based. There is nothing I can do about that, except to offer to help players as usual if they email me. One difference is the fact that the Fish Shop now does not sell raw fish. Instead, it sells only grilled fish. More sadly, you cannot buy Decent Cocoons in the final retail version at the Brownie Ranch, severely limiting one of the best exploitations I found in the game. You still can perform the exploitation if you have your own Cocoons though.

Tree of Tranquility has a very strong plot, and players who enjoy traditional RPGs probably will become quite involved with the plot aspect of ToT. One can choose to play either a girl or a boy. Courtship and marriage follow basic Harvest Moon traditions, including the wonderful romantic proposal tradition of the 'Blue Feather'. One very exciting difference in ToT is that you can choose to play a 'next generation' game as your own child!

With the possibility of saving an infinite number of files at different stages on memory cards, you can develop a basic game in terms of farming, ranching, fishing, mining and cooking, then branch off in different files to court and marry different individuals, creating new futures for your character in each. Furthermore, at the time of pregnancy, you are given the option to choose whether you wish your child to be a boy or a girl. If you save your game prior to that point, you can create different save files for each gender of child.

One of the most endearing aspects of Tree of Tranquility is the ability to tame a wide variety of wild creatures and persuade them to become your pets. Among the animals that can be tamed are a number of cats and dogs, a turtle and a penguin.
The landscapes are gorgeous and both farm and wild animals beautifully portrayed.
In Tree of Tranquility, transport options include an Ostrich!

The festivals are rather glorious, with colourful decorations, a profusion of seasonal flowers and ever-popular fireworks displays. There are a number of romantic festivals at different locations, including a Firefly Festival at the Waterfall. Trysts are held beneath a special Mother Tree in the Brownie Ranch district. The Starry Night Festival as well as formal Declarations of Love occur beneath the magical Tree.

Rival Couples not only can marry but have children as well in ToT. If you wish to meet all possible characters, therefore, you need to choose a candidate for whom no romantic rival exists. Of course, if you save files on a memory card, you can marry every single candidate in different games.

The Official Strategy Guide I wrote for this game can be found at all game shops and For all other Harvest Moon games, see my online guides published by IGN.
You will find links to ALL my internet guides on my Harvest Moon website at: