Thought the 3DS was done for, did you? Well, despite Nintendo’s best efforts with the announcement of the 3DS eShop's closure in 2023, the company’s popular handheld is still alive and kicking, and it’s recently seen a brand-new release with Fragrant Story. This odd micro-SRPG comes from an indie developer William Kage and gets the honor of being the very last 3DS game released in both digital and physical formats in North America (and North America only).
So, is it a fitting tribute to the 10+ year run of the 3DS? Well… no, not even close. But! It is a delightfully weird release that’s still worth your time, even if just for the sake of seeing what the last 3DS game is like.
The narrative takes place in the kingdom of Flowergard, a society where everyone is named after a plant of some kind and speak in endless, groan-inducing botanical puns. You start out as a novice defender of the kingdom and rise to ward off its greatest foe yet, though the path you take to get there is hardly the stuff of legends. It’s abundantly clear that narrative isn’t the focus of Fragrant Story, but what’s here is just goofy enough to be entertaining.
Gameplay unfolds in a typical isometric tactical RPG format, where you individually move your party characters around a grid and battle enemies in simple turn-based combat until your party attains a victory. Some characters are melee-only while others are ranged, and everybody has one unique skill to give them a bit more utility, like being able to summon a bee or hit enemies with a lifesteal attack.
Killing enemies nets you experience points that boost parameters like health and critical chance, while any units of your own who fall in battle are dead for good until the end of the run. Worry not, though, this permadeath mechanic isn’t as devastating as its equivalent in Fire Emblem. Why, you ask? Because Fragrant Story only takes about 15 minutes to play through.
There are only three levels to overcome in the main story mode, each with a couple of waves of enemies. Once you’ve done this, you then unlock a few challenge missions that mix up the enemies that spawn on maps, though each of these missions only last a few minutes themselves. Every time you beat the story mode or a challenge mission on a new difficulty level—of which there are three—you’ll obtain a Mango Ticket that can then be spent in a shop to spend on slight permanent buffs to different units’ stats. Collecting all the Mango Tickets is its own overarching goal, then, though even this doesn’t take all that long to accomplish. Fragrant Story will last you maybe five hours at the absolute maximum, but it’s more likely to run out of gas around the three-hour mark. Considering that the digital version will only cost you four bucks, this short runtime is a much easier pill to swallow. Just bear in mind that Fragrant Story is very much a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of game.
Even though it feels like it’s over before it even gets started, Fragrant Story at least manages to land most of the mechanics of its gameplay. For example, every combat encounter will display a spinning wheel that determines the outcome of the impending attack. If you’re good with timing, you can stop the wheel on a ‘critical’ slice of the wheel and do extra damage. This also goes for enemy attacks, which you can influence to miss your character completely. Having that extra bit of skill that goes into each conflict makes them a bit more interesting than just raw stat checks, and it can greatly affect whether you succeed or fail a mission.
Aside from that, all the basic features of an SRPG are here, although none of them get enough time to properly develop. For example, one or two battles are usually all it takes to level up a character, but the effect of this is blunted by the fact that the character’s progress will be wiped as soon as you complete that mission or campaign run. Meanwhile there are some interesting mixtures of skills among the various classes, but the brief length and simplistic map designs ensure that there aren’t many opportunities to experiment much with the possibilities. If it was spun out to a more fully-featured game, we could easily see Fragrant Story having some real quality appeal, but here it’s kneecapped by shallowness of the overall experience. What’s here is good, but it doesn’t have the time to even attempt to be great.
Regarding its presentation, Fragrant Story closely adheres to an authentic 16-bit art style that looks fine, if a bit simple. The lack of stereoscopic 3D is rather disappointing, while the spritework is rather plain and uninspired. Maps don’t have any real sense of presence to them—they’re just big, flat squares floating in a formless void—while there’s a lack of environment diversity to easily tell them apart. None of it looks bad, but this art style is quite forgettable and clearly isn’t trying to wow the player. Similarly, the low-key chiptune soundtrack from Hitoshi Sakimoto (composer of Final Fantasy Tactics and many others) and his company Basiscape is just kind of there; it’s not doing anything to take away from the overall experience, but it also doesn’t add much.
Is Fragrant Story worth picking up? Sure, as a curiosity and conversation piece perhaps. Four bucks isn’t much of an asking price, and the content on offer here is enjoyable and engaging for what it is. For the afternoon it’ll take you to play Fragrant Story, you’ll probably be satisfied with it — then you’ll have seen everything it has to offer, move onto something else, and never boot it up again. If you decide to pass on this one, there’s really not a whole lot that you’re missing out on. Given its low price and goofy nature, though, it may be worth picking up just so you can say you grabbed the last game on the North American eShop before Nintendo locked the doors for good.
I don't know. If you have to finish the 15 minutes main campaign over and over, it just feels like a different type of mindless grind.
I will have to get another look at it
Thought it looked a little bit bad... But I also feel like there hand could have been forced by the eShop closure. I know they went ahead with a physical release but they were in a truly bad situation
Maybe it's my eyes but those screenshots look like they have a blur filter on. Then again I've never played a 3DS so maybe that's normal.
Ordered the physical just to have the last North American 3DS release.
@SteamEngenius Never? 😔 That's a shame. 3DS is amazing.
Nintendo should do one final mass reprint of their 3ds catalog, at least the nintendo selects line, for one last hurra for the little console that could.
Well the title is stupendous.
Was going to pick one of these us, but $45 shipping to UK was a bit extreme. Someone is already trying to flog one on eBay for £250 🙄
I ordered the physical..... and, yikes, that isn't much gameplay.
Wait....is it not releasing digitally anywhere else?
Well, it's certainly something.
I feel like if you're gonna make a pun on Vagrant Story, then maybe make the game... you know, actually anything like Vagrant Story? You know, like a dungeon crawler or whatever.
I'm a little more interested in picking this up after the review so I'll grab the $4 eshop version. The screenshots with tiny flat maps didn't appeal to me but hearing how short it is and that it has permadeath has kinda turned it around a bit for me. Sounds like it be a fun short session and actually living with my consequences unlike resetting like in FE. XD
@The_BAAD_Man The game has been getting extra attention for being the last 3DS game, so once sites stop promoting it and sales dry up I imagine they might be interested in porting to another platform.
@Moonlessky They won't even do an eshop sale of their titles so I don't think is unlikely unfortunately.
@SteamEngenius No I see it too. Bad screenshots. Probably a weird file format.
@SteamEngenius These screenshots are really bad quality. I'm sure the text is far more readable in the real game
@Pjira Oh I wasn't talking about other consoles, sorry. I'm disappointed that it's a North American exclusive digitally too!
Nice review, I heard a lot of disappointment over the length, but this feels like a fair assessment.
I did end up ordering the physical in the second batch, so it should be coming soon here. Bit pricey for the length, but as the last 3DS game, it’s a decent novelty to have for the collection. I did hear the developer promised that updates were on the way, so I’m curious how substantial those will be.
I preordered the physical collector’s edition before I heard about the game’s digital price and length. Is it worth $4? Sure, as the last 3DS game it’s a nice little novelty that’s the price of a cup of coffee these days. For $35? For $75? That’s another matter entirely. Can’t say I feel ripped off exactly, but this’ll teach me to rethink preordering games before I know all of the details. The collectors edition will be an interesting conversation piece on my bookshelf, I guess. I bought the digital version day of release out of curiosity, so I was one of the first to find out about the game’s short length.
@The_BAAD_Man Ah I gotcha, weird that it's an NA exclusive also. lol
The physical version is still for sale if anyone is interested. I bought the normal physical a month ago (still hasn't been shipped yet though). it might not be worth 35$ as a game, but the simple fact of it being the very last official 3DS NA cartridge ever makes it very much worth it for me, especially considering that I have the very last official Wii U NA game (Shakedown: Hawaii) too
Wait this is real? NL did an article on 4/1 about it and I thought it was an April Fools joke.
I like the genre and thought why not I'll pick up the physical because it's the last cartridge ever. But it doesn't seem to be available on any Canadian retailers' website. Guess I'll just grab the $4 digital then....at least I'll get some more Gold Coins to put towards Splatoon 3 when it launches (totally buying that digitally).
@DarthFoxMcCloud you can get it from their website and choose Canada shipping. Shipping will cost a bit more but it works.
PS: Still haven't gotten any email about my copy being shipped, even though according to their website page it should have shipped yesterday :/
So this is interesting, Fragrant Story isn't available on the 3DS eShop digitally in Canada. I just tried searching for it and it's not appearing in the search. And it's nowhere on the main page either. Very weird as there's usually not a difference (other than currency) that separates the American and Canadian eShops. UGH. I don't want to pay to import, it's way too expensive for what this game is. I would have been fine paying $4-8 digitally for this but it seems they're not giving me the chance to do that.
Just got this in the mail today (2nd Batch) and I’ve played it a little bit. And by “a little bit” I mean I’ve cleared the story mode lol. Yes, it’s that short. HOWEVER, the real meat of it comes from the challenges and unlocking stuff. The game expects you to replay the story over and over to fully unlock everything. Also, there are extra challenges to play as well.
Personally, I found the gameplay fun. It’s a decent RPG and the wheel mechanic adds an extra layer to fighting. I will for sure keep playing it on the different difficulties and work towards 100%.
Worth noting, I got the physical version and there was a note inside from the developer that claimed an update has already been made and is awaiting approval from Nintendo. He doesn’t specify what the update includes, but I’m all for extra support and content. Hopefully the developer follows through and turns this into a bit meatier experience. Still, not a bad little game and I don’t regret buying the standard edition. But if anyone reading this is on the fence, and you can still add money to the eshop, it’s definitely worth the eshop price. Long live the 3DS!
It's funny how quickly people assumed this'd be the last 3DS game. Not only have many games come after it on the eShop, but there's even been another 3DS physical release after this as well!
A Free DLC Expansion coming soon. ''Papaya's Path'' with new story campaigns, characters, enemies ,bosses etc. Great news .It will increase the lifespan of the game drastically! I hope this expansion to be ready for downloading before the eshop closes.
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