Fairune is a series I’ve had my eye on since it cropped up on the 3DS eShop back in 2014. I heard great things about it, from its lovingly-made pixel artwork to the gameplay being very reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda games. But for whatever reason I just kept putting it off, even as a sequel came out two years later boasting even more goodness. Now Skipmore and Circle Entertainment’s charming Action RPG is available in one neat bundle in the Fairune Collection and this time I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
You play as a red-headed heroine accompanied by the Ancient Codex, a magical talking book that needs help in rescuing the land of Fairune. The second game adds a little more but essentially that’s as deep as the story goes, which is a little disappointing as Skipmore has built an interesting world that leaves you with a lot of questions. However the story is not where the hook lies; for that you have to look at the gameplay.
Fairune is the first entry in the series and as such lays the groundwork for the franchise. After being directed to acquire the Sword of Hope you are left very much on your own to explore the world’s numerous nooks and crannies. Along your travels you’ll occasionally find tools to help you along your way, such as an axe for cutting down trees. Other times the exploration is much more vague, as blind spots exist behind pillars or sneaky paths lay in plain sight among a sea of trees. On an initial playthrough it’s very easy to get lost, and you’re likely to find yourself fumbling around at some point, but the freedom you’re given to scour every possible avenue is still very enjoyable and relaxing.
Battles are fought by simply walking up to an enemy and leaving them as a heap on the floor. The Ancient Codex recommends you a monster based around your level; monsters below that in the pecking order yield no experience and damage whereas the recommended or higher dole out suitable amounts. The more you level up the less monsters pose a threat, leaving you free to explore to your heart’s content. It’s a fun, simple way of fighting and makes an interesting way of nudging players in the right direction by seeking out their next foe.
Fairune 2 is by far the biggest entry in this collection. In the first game you had a simple 25 space overworld map plus dungeons to explore, but the second game expands this with 4 overworld maps combined, with more than double that in dungeons. The gameplay is kept largely the same and simply builds on the formula of the first; more story; more monsters; more to explore. Neat new features are also introduced to develop it further such as collecting money to upgrade skills.
Although bulking everything up does improve the franchise in most aspects, the no hand-holding nature remains. Instead of being stumped with an issue on one map you’re now on a new level of confusion with a world three times bigger. This can result in a lot of backtracking that doesn’t always pay off, and as the game doesn’t make it clear what items you get, trying to solve unclear puzzles results in a lot of frustration. If you leave the game for longer than 24 hours then good luck trying to remember where you left off. That said, once something clicks it’s hard to contain your child-like glee as the dominos start falling into place
Once you’ve completed the games there are reasons to return in the form of in-game achievements. These include speed running the first game in an hour, avoiding more than three deaths and collecting all the secret collectables.
If the second game is the biggest offering in this collection then Fairune Origins is the smallest with a map of just 12 spaces. The game can be played either from the start to give you an idea of the gameplay that is to come, or as fun little brain teaser for the seasoned player. It’s enjoyable, sure, but it’s mostly there to please Fairune fans as they get to play what is essentially the franchise’s prototype.
Closing up this neat collection is Fairune Blast, and like Origins it’s exclusive to the collection. When you first load up the game this title is locked off by three padlocks; in order to play it you’ll need to complete the other 3 titles. In Blast you control our protagonist as she takes to the skies above Fairune, shooting down enemies in simple shmup action. It’s only one level but fun none the less as it offers a change of pace. The mode is also kept fresh with multiple characters to choose from and an online scoreboard; there’s also a fantastic nod to any fans of Skipmore’s other title, Kamiko.
Before we finish I have to mention the visuals, as they are gorgeous in every aspect and across all titles. The retro pixel artwork is immensely charming and really gives some much needed life and interest to the world. The 3DS and Android origins are present particularly in the first entry, as the game view takes up half the screen leaving the rest for the map and inventory. Considering that the second game has a much larger view and that you can open the map and inventory with buttons it’s a wonder why they didn’t apply this to the first.
Fairune Collection is a great example of a lazy Sunday afternoon title offering laid back exploration with more of a focus on puzzle solving then monster slaying. There are moments of frustration when you’re lost, but these are fleeting; when you find your way puzzles are largely quick and enjoyable requiring little effort to solve. With four charming titles for less than a tenner, you’d be foolish to pass this up.
Fairune Collection is available on Nintendo Switch and PC.
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