Fairune may look like a basic retro action RPG, but looks can be deceiving. Besides battling foes and leveling up, you will find yourself lost in plenty of obtuse lateral-thinking quests and spend most of your time simply asking, "What do I do now?"
There isn't much of a story in Fairune. Basically, a book wants you to go on a quest to acquire three missing Spirit Icons to bring peace to the land. You play as a girl who apparently is the chosen one. As the game begins, monsters won't harm you but once you discover a sword and equip it, it's time to lay waste to the foul beasts. That's about all of the exposition you need to go on your journey... right?
The game looks sharp with bright colours and early SNES-style graphics. Although this is on 3DS, there is no 3D functionality which is excusable but worth noting. As you traverse the world map, you'll see areas such as forests, rivers, and grasslands; the latter consuming the vast majority of the map. There are a few additional maps such as an underground world and an area above the clouds which help to diversify the environments. Subtle graphical flourishes such as shadows from clouds and lines indicating water moving through streams help to make the world feel more alive. However, it's quite static besides these few effects. The main character and all of her enemies appear sharp and stand out well from the environment. The music sounds like it's straight from an 8-bit RPG and it's pleasant to the ears. Sound effects as you slay enemies become repetitive since it's the same sound no matter which enemy you defeat. That being said, there are many effects such as when text scrolls or when you walk down staircases that sound like they're lifted straight from a NES RPG thus adding a layer of authenticity and satisfaction.
Fairune is played by moving your heroine around the world map to explore and discover while battling any enemy that stands in your way. You'll come across many items that are used in certain places to unlock new items and areas, which is generally how progress is made. It's simple and formulaic although you'll be doing more head-scratching than a lice-infested adolescent.
Enemies are battled by simply walking into them. If you are at the appropriate level then you can harm them but you will also receive damage in the exchange. Because of this, if you're running low on HP and have to make it back to a save point then you must avoid every single enemy which is impossible in most situations that you'll find yourself in. Therefore, you're forced to raise a white flag and get a game over. Anyway, if an enemy is below your level then you basically mow them down without receiving any damage or experience. It begs the question, why even bother keeping these enemies in the game? They serve no purpose whatsoever. You basically walk right through them. Also, if an enemy is beyond your level then they will cause severe damage while you can't hurt them at all. Because of these overly simplistic rules, levelling up is mandatory and hence completely unrewarding. If you must level up to damage an enemy that's slightly more advanced than you then you'll find yourself grinding with similarly levelled enemies to simply keep playing. Basically, this system is far too elementary to be fun for any serious RPG player.
As previously stated, it's not always clear what you should do next in Fairune. You may have to use an item in a certain location, find a false wall to walk through, or chop down a tree. If you decide not to use a guide then you'll find yourself traversing the entire map and backtracking as you try to finally get the light bulb above your head to light up. Once it does, it is very satisfying. Hence, when you resort to using a guide then a great deal of gratification gets taken out of the experience, but you may have to out of necessity from time to time. You only have so much hair on your head to pull out.
Fairune can easily be completed within a few hours and you will probably be satisfied enough to never pick it up again. However, there are incentives to play through again in the form of achievements, records (such as your fastest completion time and how many monsters you've killed), and item and monster collections (there are some rare ones that you may enjoy hunting). These are all superficial mechanics that extend the replay value of the game and if you're the kind of person who needs to achieve everything then they do a great job of making you want to play again. If you don't fit this description then you'll be happy to simply finish the game and be done.
If you're looking for a classic RPG adventure then Fairune may or may not be what you're looking for. You have to be the kind of gamer with a great deal of patience and forgiveness in order to thoroughly enjoy playing through this journey. Once you do, you won't regret it although you may not be as satisfied as you would expect.
- + Solid retro RPG presentation
- + Progression without the use of a guide can be a rewarding experience
- + Compelling replay incentives for completionists
- - Mandatory level-ups are unsatisfying
- - What to do next is sometimes too obtuse to figure out on your own
- - Can be completed easily within a few hours