Fairune was a game inspired by action-RPGs like Ys and The Legend of Zelda. You followed a young woman on a brief adventure, attempting to set things right in her world. You received little to no guidance. There were no elaborate processes. She wandered her world, collected important items and did things when they made sense. Eventually, perhaps within an hour, you’d do everything needed to set things right. Fairune 2 follows that example by offering more of the same. In so doing, it helps us understand why games like Ys and The Legend of Zelda evolved and improved and that it needs to grow too.
Fairune 2 follows very closely in Fairune’s footsteps. There’s a bit more exposition, but only slightly. Three fairies that help maintain and protect the world are missing, and a sentient book asks for your aid in gathering them. Aside from an occasional sentence or two explaining important interactions, you’re left to your own devices in the world. Much like the original The Legend of Zelda, you are left in a rather large map, swarming with various enemies, and must pay attention to your surroundings and remember where you’ve been to proceed. A basic map fills in on the lower screen, but it doesn’t offer detailed information. You can overlook an important clue that will help you advance to a new area or solve a puzzle, because Fairune 2 goes out of its way to offer as few clues as possible.
It’s these moments that helps you realize why every new The Legend of Zelda game manages to improve upon the last. In some ways, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker offer the same freedom and ability to aimlessly wander as that first NES game. But, they temper that with structure, in the form of guides like Navi and things to keep you on track. Fairune 2 doesn’t offer those kinds of improvements. It’s Fairune times four. If you had a little trouble finding your way through the initial installment, you’ll have two or three times as much difficulty once you reach the third or fourth location. Those little details you need to see to find puzzles or ways to new areas become more minute, as well as frustrating.
There are no adventuring advancements. The Legend of Zelda began offering people faster ways from one point to another, such as grappling hooks to pass divides and avoid longer routes or a horse to speed up the pace. Fairune 2 offers no such thing. Like Fairune, you may find yourself walking winding paths to get from one point to another, perhaps multiple times if you aren’t cautious when facing opponents and finding healing spaces.
Battle is another region in which Fairune 2 doesn’t grow from one installment to the next. It borrows the early Ys mechanic in which running into an enemy deals damage to it. If you and the enemy are at equal levels, you each take damage, but you’ll get experience for defeating it. If you are at a higher level, you take away nothing from a fight. The enemy will be gone, but you’ll have earned no experience from the affair. This means you might need to continually travel between the space where these newer, stronger enemies are and a healing plant. Otherwise, it’s quite likely you’ll die, regenerate at the starting point and have to waste even more time reaching the place you need to be.
I respect the decision to stick with this simplistic battle system for Fairune 2. It’s an interesting approach and did work for Ys for quite some time. But, it’s identical to Fairune’s. Were this a game of the same size and pace, then it would be fine if you needed to do the additional grinding and traveling to ensure the heroine is prepared to accomplish goals. When the game is essentially four times larger, you should implement improvements to the leveling and healing systems to cut back possible frustrations.
Growth is important. You can offer a retro experience that directly references classic games while still building on and improving your own product. There are times playing Fairune 2 where it feels more like playing a significantly larger version of the original game. This isn’t a bad thing in theory, as Fairune was a good game, but increasing the size amplifies the annoyances. Especially since they haven’t been addressed from one installment to the next. Like The Legend of Zelda and Ys, two series that continue to grow and improve, Fairune 2 shows it is time for the Fairune series to evolve.