For my Runes of Virtue II gaming experience, I chose to play the Game Boy version, for two reasons--first, I am pretty sure it was first. Second, I've heard bad things about the SNES version, although it might be substantially different. If I do as a commenter suggested and play the SNES version of Ultima VII, I'll probably do ROV2. But both are not likely at this point! After a year, finishing this blog up seems appealing :-)
Runes of Virtue 2 is an awful lot like Runes of Virtue 1, but with a number of enhancements to make it seem, on the surface (literally--the surface world of Britannia) much more like the canonical games. In particular, the map looks pretty much like Britannia and all the towns are in the correct spots. Those towns are inhabited by equivalent characters from Ultima VI, including the mayors, whom a bored Black Knight has decided to kidnap. The Black Knight is one of the lone characters carried over from ROV1, but by my recollection he played very little part in that game besides blocking a bridge.
The mayors are kidnapped in more or less the expected order, slowly getting farther and farther away from Castle Britannia, where you, the Avatar, are summoned. Actually, it seems the Avatar was busy, because you really play Iolo, Maria, Shamino, or Dupre. Just like last time, I chose Shamino, because he has average stats and begins with a ranged weapon, the throwing axe. Just like the first game, I uncovered a second axe in the first dungeon, which was useful for pumeling enemies into submission during the first several levels.
My memory and enthusiasm do not permit a complete description of the first three dungeons (renamed as usual for the vocabulary-impaired NES crows: Hatred, Dishonor, Injustice), but I can say they have not changed a lot from the first game. Most of your time is spent moving rocks, barrels, and vases. The latter are slightly different because you can move more than one at once. There are plenty of chests, but also plenty of mimics that zap you ith lightning when you try to open them. The other major block of your time in ROV2 is spent with monsters, usually snakes, rats, mimics, wisps, and sometimes skeletons in this first part of the game. The more challenging beats include panthers or hyenas or something that runs fast, looks like a cat, and bites you. Reapers are omnipresent, but easy to kill. There's also some kind of goblin thing that runs away as soon as you hit him once--coward!
One curious detail is a side quest after finishing these three dungeons--Lord British asks you to clear up a Liche haunting Empath Abbey. Indeed, when you visit the place, it is totally infested with monsters! Yikes. The liche proves and interesting beastie, because one hit kills it, yet it comes back to life a few moments later and is much more difficult to kill. Most of the dungeon differences in this game are minor improvements to the original, such as this additional complexity.
A few random thoughts...
1) I believe whoever built this game must have been inspired by Gateway to Asphai, an old Coleco and possibly other system game, basically a dungeon crawl. I say this because a lot of the sound effects like the ghosts and the squeals of panthers are eerily similar to Gateway, as is a lot of the basic game structure. The thought immediately leaped to mind as soon as I began playing. Anyone else remember Gateway?
2) There is a very limited bit of NPC scheduling in the game, which was impressive! For example, townspeople in Trinsic will walk from one place to another, from the kitchen to the center of town, etc. Later in the game you can observe townsfolk picking up crops, and in Britain there is a blacksmith you can observe forging an axe.
3) The magic rope that somehow creates a walk-across net(!) over water is in this game, just like the last one. I still don't really understand how this works.