This is yet another game that I knew relatively little about until it showed up in the release schedule. Understanding only that it was an RPG, my first reaction was to do what I usually do in this situation. I jumped over to check out the store description and found the following:
"Light Fairytale is a turn-based Japanese style RPG in full 3D, set in a dying underground world ruled by a fierce and powerful empire. The goal of this project is to bring back the immersion and emotion of 90s era RPGs on current hardware, with the expected evolution in both design and technique."
And with those words, I was instantly intrigued.
You see, I'm easily old enough to remember the 90s. I was a teen then and spent my time playing all-sorts of RPGs, both Japanese and Western, with the very best of them having a really profound influence on my gaming tastes. Franchises like Breath of Fire, Phantasy Star, and the AMAZING Final Fantasy series really got me hooked, and the idea of a title trying to capture that old magic while also updating for modern tastes was something I knew I definitely wanted to play.
Light Fairytale is set in a world where technology and science were once particularly advanced, with its people living in great pleasure and comfort. All of this came to an end however when, out of the blue and seemingly in an instant, their entire world ended. Desperate and forlorn, the relatively few people that survived tried to scrape a living from the devastated surface but soon found they had little choice but to retreat to the only habitable space left to them. They had to go underground. And here they stayed and not only survived but slowly began to build a society too. Flash forward a few thousand years and all knowledge of the surface has now disappeared, the technological wonders of yesteryear are mostly forgotten, and even the word "Sky" has lost all meaning. And then a young boy named Haru woke one day. All his life he has dreamed of strange landscapes, of vast green plains and of clear blue skies. As these visions grow stronger, he wishes for an explanation, and this search for the truth leads him on a great adventure. After an innocent game of hide and seek gets a friend sent to a brutal work camp, our heroes are brought into conflict with the rulers of their dystopian society and may very well bring to light the entirety of their forgotten past
Now one thing I'd like to clarify or explain before we continue is how the series is being released. You see this is just the first episode in what will hopefully be a much larger saga. Speaking about the story or character development is a little difficult, as this first episode ends where a traditional JRPG would be revving up to really get going. For that reason, I'm trying to keep story details vague but I will say this, the story was good enough and showed enough promise for me to be interested in seeing where this goes.
The story begins with us being introduced to our main protagonists, Haru and Kuroko. You can actually play through the game from both characters perspectives, but only Haru’s is available at first, with Kuroko’s unlocking upon its completion. The two stories do have a good bit of overlap, but each has its own unique sections too and reveal details about the relationship between the two friends. The main focus of this episode is introducing the world and character relations, and all the familiar tropes are represented. Haru is a dreamer, a bit lazy and a bit naive, especially when it comes to women; he is, however, a good soul and can handle himself when push comes to shove. Kuroko on the other hand is full of energy and always up to something. Short and cute, she's the childhood friend, and is obviously in love with Haru but won't admit it to herself. Haru, of course, is completely oblivious to this, much to the annoyance of Kuroko. Alongside these familiar tropes, are others like the overtly sexual barmaid, the beautiful, mysterious and ruthless female general, and even a whole literal "Notice me senpai" scene between two guards. All these predictable stereotypes might annoy some, but knowing that the Dev was going for that 90s feel, a lot of these additions played out like knowing winks and a nod to "well that's what it was like back then". For me, although they felt very familiar, they were also decently done and were charming enough to keep me interested in the story. As you explore the world, you'll see the brutality of the regime first hand, but also experience the simple joys of people just going about their lives. There are little secrets and story beats hidden around, many with achievements attached, and there's even a motorbike arcade game and a stealth minigame to beat. Although the overall playtime is relatively short (you can see everything in around 7-8 hours) it certainly has the classic JRPG feel that they were aiming for and includes enough sidequests to keep you entertained.
While playing Light Fairytale, I was really reminded of the opening section of Final Fantasy 7. The city is very similar to Midgar, both being industrial steampunk- styled dystopias, whereas Haru and Kuroko could easily be Cloud and Tifa type characters. The Final Fantasy 7 similarities don't end there though. When it comes to combat, the system seems almost completely ripped straight from the Squaresoft classic: Active Time Battle system and Materia included. For those who don't know, it’s the familiar menu-driven system where you choose a command from a list. Characters can attack, defend, cast magic and use items on their turn, and this is decided by a bar shown beneath their health. When this bar fills, the character can take action, and then must wait till it refills. Characters can buy armor and weapons, increasing their effectiveness, but to cast spells they must equip orbs. Each weapon or armor piece has slots that these orbs fit into, and grant the relative ability when doing so. So equipping an electric orb will allow the wearer to cast lightning, for example. Unfortunately, though, there are only a couple of orb types available so we'll need to see how it develops in further episodes. As it stands though, it's an almost identical copy of the Materia system from FF7, and while that is a decent system, it won't surprise or impress anyone familiar with these game types. One feature that is added, however, is how random battles play out. When entering an area where fights will occur, you can use your A.R glasses (which is basically a detective mode) to see how many enemies are in each area. Shown as a percentage, each battle you win will lower the number, and by reaching zero the area will be completely cleared. I'd like to see this mechanic used in more games, as it's a nice way to allow random battles but also means players can't grind to become too overpowered either.
When it comes to visuals, Light Fairytale fulfills its "90s JRPG with a modern twist" quota here too. I already mentioned Midgar earlier and Light Fairytales’ underground city with its rusting metal, jumbled tech, and neon lights are certainly reminiscent of FF7s slums. Characters, however, have a much softer style, with the chibi design giving a bit of cuteness to the overall look. There’s a lot of charm, and the little details like your character taking their goggles on and off when A.R mode is activated, add some sweetness that contrasts well with the story's darker tone. Lighting and shadow are used to great effect, with large neon signs and dark corners, as well as background details like posters and signs, all adding atmosphere while helping with the world-building too. Although they've basically nailed the look, there were a few niggles that I didn't enjoy as much. When moving around you don't have control of the camera: instead, all camera angles are fixed and can create blind spots. They sometimes have unusual angles and quick transitions that can be an annoyance when first exploring. Combine these fixed camera angles with a load of invisible walls and it does make certain areas less fun to explore. This wasn't a major problem however; it only happens in a few areas and apart from a moment’s disorientation, it doesn't have many consequences.
All in all, I rather liked this look at Light Fairytale. The characters, though extremely familiar, are still charming and it really brings to mind the love I had for 90s RPGs. The cyberpunk dystopian world, though a staple game setting, was one I wanted to explore, and the story provided plenty of interest. While combat is a straight copy of FF7, it's a well-done copy and you might as well take from the best. This is probably the weakest part of Light Fairytale but with only a few fights being mandatory, they won't outstay their welcome. Outside of combat, with only some minor problems involving camera angles and invisible walls, there's nothing major to discredit it, and it's certainly one for classic JRPG fans. What I would bear in mind is the episodic way the game is being sold. This is just a first episode and ultimately feels like a first disc or a demo of a much larger title. Hopefully the further episodes will show up and complete the story because this first episode shows promise. People expecting a whole adventure might be disappointed, go in knowing what to expect though and you may just find something to enjoy.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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