A simple but Fairune-ly good package of puzzle-heavy adventures.
The “Fairune” in Fairune Collection may be invoking the Old English term for beauty, and it would be justified in doing so. There is something beautiful about the simplicity of the games in this package. Think of a more colorful and vibrant Legend of Zelda without the combat and bosses, or Hydlide on the NES (a deep cut, I concede), and you have an idea about how the Fairune games look and play. Fairune Collection includes Fairune, Fairune 2, Fairune Origin, and Fairune Blast, the last of which is unlocked only after completing the first three games. Origin is a very stripped-down version of the first two games in terms of visuals and content. For example, its world map consists of only 12 tiles, compared to the 100 tiles and 225 tiles of Fairune and Fairune 2, respectively. Blast is a vertical shooter game that features three playable characters, but only a single stage; both Origins and Blast are really more like mini-games. Nonetheless, there is quite a bit of content on display here, and the increase in scope of the second game compared to the first is significant.
The first Fairune is a great stepping stone into the series, and I found that it didn’t overstay its welcome. The game begins with an option to show you the manual before embarking on your quest, which is helpful as in three pages it explains the very basic control scheme, the information displayed at all times on the screen, and hints related to combat, the map, and items. First, combat is extremely simplistic. There is no sword-swinging or spell-casting of any kind; you run into a monster and one of three things happens: you kill it with no experience points gained or damage taken, you kill it and gain experience but take damage, or you don’t kill it and take damage. As you level up, your health bar grows and you can defeat stronger enemies. The Ancient Codex, an item permanently in your inventory, will suggest a recommended monster for you to fight, which changes whenever you level up, but you can defeat one other type in addition to this one; your character will bounce off of and take damage from anything else. Special rare monsters appear randomly and can be sought out to complete an in-game collection, a bestiary of sorts. The game’s map has only a surface world at first, but three other maps open up as you explore. The crux, however, lies in its puzzles and exploration. As you traverse the map, you find items that can be used to open doors, create pathways, and reveal hidden stairwells. Collecting new equipment and objects and determining where and how to use them is enjoyable, with a solid mix of simple and more complex puzzles. Some partially-hidden pathways are a little difficult to see, in addition to more carefully-hidden secret rooms that have special items that bestow special perks.
Fairune’s story can take a little more than two hours to complete, but achievements for finding all the items, defeating every monster type, and finishing the game in under an hour add a little more depth. I found its length and gameplay very satisfying and worth experiencing. Fairune 2, on the other hand, can take 4 to 5 hours to complete and has 12 total maps of varying sizes, most of which are larger than the largest map in the first game. It also has many more monsters and items to defeat and collect. By the time I was halfway through the second game, I was about ready for the game to end. Taking the same gameplay and stretching it across so much more space and time just wasn’t as satisfying. As someone who quite enjoyed the first game, I found Fairune 2 to be a little too much of a good thing. At times, it felt like it added more items to collect without adding that many more puzzles. In a word, it played more like a collectathon. Another minor aspect that bothered me was that the second game uses the entire screen for the gameplay, relegating the map and items to separate menus; the first game has an albeit smaller map and items displayed on the main screen, at the cost of about half of the viewing area. I might have simply gotten used to the screen layout of Fairune, so your experience may be different. That said, the extra content and achievements of Fairune 2 do add a lot of value to the collection; I just wouldn’t recommend playing the two games back-to-back.
There is a lot to like about Fairune Collection, and despite somewhat lacking RPG mechanics, an uninspired story, and some monotonous backtracking, the two main games offer a charming and accessible take on the top-down adventure genre. No deep challenge exists in any of the four games, but the in-game collections and achievements add replay value. Online leaderboards compare your best completion time or score (for Fairune Blast only) against other players, so speed-running fans might want to look into Fairune Collection, too. Without further ado, cue that Zelda treasure chest sound effect!