Fairune Review (3DS eShop)

Fetch quests don’t exactly have a sparkling reputation. If you were to check a thesaurus for the word ‘entertaining,’ you’d also find antonyms like ‘boring’ and ‘dull’ before eventually stumbling upon ‘fetch quest’ right next to ‘snoozefest.’ Regardless, fetch quests are everywhere because snickering game designers love keeping players and desirable items as far away from one another as humanly possible. But then there are games like Fairune which approach fetch quests from a much needed different angle.

Fairune is a loosely puzzle-action-adventure hybrid that stars a sword-weilding princess as she seeks out three goddess icons to vanquish an ancient evil known as the Dark Scourge. It’s a simple premise for sure, one that’s basic idea has been told countless times before, but the story here only really exists to incite the player’s journey. This isn’t to say there aren’t narrative elements throughout Fairune, it’s just that they are delivered through implicit means like the setting rather than being told primarily via text or dialogue. Without spoiling the game’s secrets, I’ll just say that below the surface of the fantasy-tinged overworld exists some intriguing locales and unforeseen–actually, no, I’m not even going to go there. Bottom line is Fairune is very mysterious and I for one love a game that poses more questions than it seeks to answer.

In terms of gameplay, there are clearly some ideas lifted from the beloved Game Boy title For the Frog the Bell Tolls, which was sadly never released outside of Japan (an English patch exists, though). Much like its frog-ladened ancestor, Fairune‘s combat is automatic in that players walk into an enemy and you’re either a high enough level to instantly obliterate your foe or vice versa. By slaying a few monsters here and there, you gain experience which raises your health and attack points. It’s a necessary evil that’ll allow you venture into new areas chock full of badder dudes to rumble with as the game advances. I’ll admit that this system isn’t always as stimulating as it could be since there’s oftentimes a need to tediously grind levels by walking up and down screens for several minutes at a time. It’s cool and all that the dev took inspiration from the classic 8-bit look and sound of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, but borrowing the exasperating grindiness of those titles as well seems like overkill. Thank Cid that the max level in Fairune is only 25, but still the needless grind is hard to pardon.

The real meat and potatoes of the game, however, is the fetch quest, which has been transformed into a diet-puzzle-adventure akin to Zelda or, again, For the Frog the Bell Tolls. Like the latter, Fairune builds a game around making the fetch quest engaging instead of an undercover chore and, as such, players must find key items that interact with a respective catalyst, opening up new paths or yielding another item in the process. These items are almost always expertly concealed by a puzzle or blocked by brainteasing circumstances that require a quick wit and sharp eye to solve. I can think of at least one specific instance where one room was filled with two enemies, a blocked off staircase that led to the next area, and a stone that looks just like every other rock littering the open overworld. After slaying the enemies, I assumed an accompanying staircase would manifest, but no. It turns out I had to push the stone (which happened to be one shade lighter than its rocky compatriots) to reveal the needed staircase. At first I felt frustrated by how obtuse this all seemed, but as I spent more time with Fairune, I realized the game almost always provides hints in the form of these subtle visual cues. If anything, the game conditions the player to read every room carefully because chances are the answer lies somewhere within and this is the sort of clever game design you often see in Metroidvanias, so it’s pretty neat to see this principle used here to further supplement the fetch quest at large.

It’s also worth mentioning that Fairune began its humble life as a free-to-play mobile game, but publisher CIRCLE Entertainment decided to give it a new home on 3DS where it’ll no doubt appease the retro-inclined eShop audience. The base game has largely been left intact, but there have been a number of enhancements like an ever-present map on the 3DS’ top screen and a greatly expanded final dungeon, so kudos to the folks who put this port together because it’s definitely a thoughtful one. This 3DS version is absolutely the definitive way to experience Fairune and even though it’ll cost you this time around, the additional features are certainly worth the low price of admission.

Fairune can be completed in a few hours and thus it makes for the perfect lazy afternoon sort of a game. It doesn’t have a whole lot of immediate replay value, so savor the experience while you can, but that shouldn’t be too hard considering that some of the puzzles are REAL headscratchers. Fairune also crescendos with an unexpected finale that might cater to those of you who are looking for something more actiony like Zelda in case the puzzles got you like ehhh. Nevertheless, this is a rare portable experience that’s been made even better on the 3DS and if you’re at all interested in free-roaming exploration, clever puzzles, or even a JRPG fan looking to invoke some serious nostalgia then Fairune is the game for you.

Fairune is available on both the North American and European eShop for $2.99/€2.99.

Fairune Review (3DS eShop)
Gameplay8
Presentation8
Lasting Appeal7.5
Goopy Not-Slimes10
Pros
  • Excellent 3DS port
  • An interactive fetch quest done right
  • Ominous narrative elements
Cons
  • Mindless grinding needed
  • Some REALLY obtuse late-game puzzles
8Overall Score
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About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.