Skipmore’s charming Legend of Zelda/Ys retro mash-up did some good service for 3DS owners in the past and it's once again being brought to the spotlight thanks to a compilation of both titles (and a couple of extra ones) in this new Fairune Collection. Are these brain-teasing adventures worth taking once again? Let's give them a 'Fairune' assessment...
Fairune is the first chapter in the series, and an ideal introduction to the core mechanics - an overworld made up of single-screen areas, and once you get the Sword of Hope, classic Ys-style combat ensues where you only need to bump into enemies to attack them. While you are free to explore the land in any order you deem fit, the game design cleverly steers you in the right direction by using different level enemies to nudge you onto the right path. Don’t worry if you get stuck, the Ancient Codex (a magic, talking book) will not only tell you what enemies you should be fighting at your current level, but also blabber about all sorts of hints to solve the various item puzzles needed to progress. You will probably solve this charming adventure in under a few hours.
While on the 3DS, the fact that the game kept its mobile 4:3 resolution wasn’t much of a problem, on Switch the action only takes place on the left side of the screen with the other half is used for the map and item selection. There was probably no way around this issue, but when playing on a big screen TV, it feels a waste to use such a small portion of the screen for the actual playfield.
Fairune 2 is the second entry in the series, and it's the biggest offering yet. The core concepts of combat and puzzle solving make a welcome return, but this time you have a vastly expanded overworld (and underworld) to explore. This one hits the spot on pretty much everything you could hope for a sequel and it will the one you will spend most of your time on.
Unlike the first game, here you get nearly all the screen real estate you could need to enjoy the pixelated land of Fairune, and it certainly is a very welcomed visual upgrade for those playing in docked mode. However, we do find ourselves frequently roaming the land in hope of finding that elusive ‘Eureka!’ moment that enables us to progress further. Thankfully, this is the only real minus point we find in this expanded sequel.
Fairune Origin is the third layer of this multi-tiered cake, but it's also the smallest. So small, in fact, that the overworld is made of just 12 interconnected single screen areas. Size is, however, unimportant because you will truly learn to appreciate the ‘less is more’ game design philosophy, with some truly neat and rewarding puzzle solving emerging from such a small playground. It's true that once you know exactly what to do, you can complete this one in around six minutes, but your first playthrough is a very rewarding experience.
Finally, we come to the cherry on top of the proverbial cake: Fairune Blast! This is unavailable when you first start your adventures, with three locks shut tight above the game icon. As you might have already figured out, you'll be able to remove each lock by successfully completing each aforementioned Fairune adventure. Up to this point you have been flexing your brain to solve puzzles, but this one is a rather radical departure because it's time to test your hand-eye coordination. Fairune Blast is a vertical scrolling shmup of the cute variety! Simply pick one of three different coloured fairies and blast your way to the top on what could easily pass as a game of the TwinBee franchise. An outstanding original reward for dedicated players of this package.
The game’s aesthetics deliver charming 8-bit style sprites and tiles that successfully manage to be distinct enough to be both pleasing and functional. The music is lovely, pure chiptune that could be playing straight out of a proper NES. Veteran 3DS players will notice a few enhancements on a few choice melodies here and there that, thankfully, do not break the faux nostalgic illusion this whole package blissfully delivers. Speed-runners rejoice: worldwide leader-boards will keep track of your best times playing through the adventure games and your Fairune Blast high-scores.
Fairune Collection is a deliciously big slice of brain-teasing RPG fun with a sprinkle of shmup action on top. None of the games will require a huge amount of time to complete, solving many of its puzzles feels truly rewarding and both graphics and sound will take you back to a simpler time in this industry. If you were a fan of the original outings, you will certainly like this ‘upgrade’ but if you are venturing into the realm of Fairune for the first time, heads up: you might have just discovered the perfect lazy summer afternoon game of the year.