Final Fantasy VII Remake is an episode, and we have yet to see any signs of an episode 2 on the horizon. In the meantime, there is Light Fairytale, and it wasn’t long ago when the first episode landed on Xbox; now it’s beaten Final Fantasy to the punch by launching its second episode.
Light Fairytale Episode 2 is a welcome continuation of a quirky yet experimental JRPG tribute, and while it’s far from being a genre exemplar, it does get some things right by being a genuine improvement over its own predecessor.
Things have changed a bit since Episode 1, as the first thing which jumps out at you within the opening moments of the follow up is the substantially improved graphical style. This is a nice-looking game, with almost Claymation style character models and consistent use of texture mapping throughout. The music is nice too, although the sound design feels a bit off. In the opening moments there is this excruciating sound which sounds like a kettle boiling over, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s hard to tell if it is a glitch or just a really loud kettle.
Some improvements are welcome, but some of the cumbersome design choices of the original remain intact. The environments look nice, but fixed camera angles and sluggish movement can make them a chore to explore. Thankfully AR vision can be used to pinpoint the exact areas of interest, and those you can interact with. This is handy as Light Fairytale follows tried and tested JRPG tropes of having to talk to various NPCs, sometimes multiple times over, for something to trigger.
The experience as a whole is a direct continuation of Episode 1, and even though it’s cool to see the follow-up emerge a little over two years after the launch of the original, things haven’t quite evolved as much, although the notable improvements to the graphics and even gameplay are evident. While the combat is still the typical turn-based affair complete with irksome random battles, some notable additions have been made, most significant being the inclusion of summon creatures.
Still, much like the previous episode, this one is over before you know it. The average playtime will be 3-4 hours, and it lets you carry forward a completed save file from the previous episode too. This sort of continuity is a neat idea and is executed smoothly, but the real vague area comes down to the storyline. In Episode 2 protagonist Haru finds himself in a winter wonderland of sorts as he tries to rebuild himself and his party, most of them involving new characters, and not surprisingly these new faces are based heavily on Final Fantasy VII archetypes. Just right out of the gate a fallen Haru finds himself rescued by a mysterious maiden named Ayaka, who just so happens to look after endangered flowers. It’s pretty clear this is an homage to Aerith from Final Fantasy VII, but here’s hoping she doesn’t suffer the same tragic fate down the track!
Still, the biggest problem here is that the main storyline has barely gained any traction even two episodes in. These are short experiences, and even if the hours add up collectively, the story pacing leaves a lot of uncharted plot areas; it’s hard to tell whether subsequent episodes will move the storyline along at a more drastic pace, and whether the development pipeline has planned things out enough to avoid a Shenmue cliff hanger situation.
Still, you can see a genuine heartfelt effort here. Although a lot of things are derivative of Final Fantasy VII and other JRPGs, the presentation is charming and one of things you wish you could have more of. The game makes use of animated sequences too, and features perhaps the prettiest Game Over screen ever.
Light Fairytale Episode 2 is a no-brainer pickup for anyone who has played and completed the prequel, as they look to pick up where things left off. Still, the short playtime means they won’t get to experience too much story development, nor will they get to fully dive into the new gameplay systems such as the summons. For newcomers, these two episodes together can provide a charming JRPG experience, one where they can experience some measure of organic growth and improvement as they go from episode to episode, even when the likelihood of a third episode is not set in stone.
Light Fairytale Episode 2 is available from the Xbox Store