The first thing you'll notice about this game are the graphics, which are adorably rendered in a style best described as "classic Gameboy Color." Love it or hate it, the retro art style makes up a big part of the aesthetic of the game. Everything from the monsters, to the items, to the sound effects and music, bring back memories of curling up on the couch playing my Gameboy. Personally I love games like this, but I know some of you won't be able to look past it.
Fairune throws you into the action very quickly. All you have to do to begin the game is find your sword, and you'll be be on your way, usually in a minute or less. The combat is a very simple affair. Bump into a monster, and it dies, you take a bit of damage, and gain a bit of XP. If you bump into a monster that's too weak, you don't take any damage and don't gain any XP. If you hit one that's too strong, you won't hurt it at all, and you'll take a lot of damage. This mechanic is what turns the combat into a part of exploring the world, as some areas will simply be inaccessible due to impassable monsters until your level is high enough. It's a simple way to keep the player on track without being overtly intrusive, and I appreciated it.
Throughout the game, you'll be searching for various items to unlock new areas and lead you to your ultimate goal of defeating your nemesis known as The Scourge. The game gives very little direction on what to do or where to go, instead leaving it to the player to figure everything out. In this case it works very well. The world of Fairune is small and simple, and there are usually only one or two places the player can go at any given time, which makes searching the world for new areas to access or items to use a rewarding activity for the most part, rather than a frustrating one. There were, however, a couple items that were hidden rather unintuitively, and I ended up having to use a guide to find them.
With all your items ready to go and all areas ready to explore, you're ready to open the final dungeon and face the Scourge. The boss fight is worth mentioning in this review, as the gameplay is very different from anything else in the game. SEMI-SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE FINAL BOSS BATTLE STOP READING HERE You'll be dodging the Scourge's attacks while firing off your own in a top-down vertical 2D shooter level. Whether or not you enjoy this is going to depend purely on how much you like this style of level, but it's quite a transition from everything you've done before, and it may be frustrating for you. END SPOILER ALERT.
So is this game worth buying? Well, beating the game takes only a couple hours, and it is a bit repetitive. If you don't find exploring and leveling fun in and of itself, this game probably isn't for you. Also, like I mentioned earlier, there are a couple places you may get stuck due to unintuitive level design. On the flip side there are some completion challenges and hidden items to find after completing the game, and the gameplay, while simple, is fun and engaging. At $2.99, I think Fairune is just the right amount of game for the price. I recommend this game to anyone looking for a quick RPG nostalgia fix that isn't too demanding or complicated. It's perfect for gaming on the go.
u/BananaProne and u/Kingfang on Reddit have pointed out that you can download this game on iOS and Android for free if you're interested in trying before buying. I went ahead and downloaded it on my Nexus 5 just to check out if there's any differences. The game is largely similar, although the mobile versions seem to lack any background music, and using the touchscreen d-pad is quite frustrating. For me, that's reason enough to pay for the 3DS version, but I also forgot to mention in the review that the final dungeon of the game is actually a 3DS exclusive. Go ahead and check the game out on mobile, but if you like it, I recommend getting it on 3DS. It's a better experience, and if I had only played this game on mobile, I probably wouldn't have liked it much.