I’ve grown up with an average fascination for beat-’em-ups. My fascination only went as far the amount of games I’ve played, and unfortunately it never hit double-digits. But my knowledge of the genre is certainly larger than my actual playing of it. Edelweiss, the guys who made Ether Vapor, would dip their toes into this brawler genre, and with it take some inspiration from games like Smash Bros., Tales of, and Odin Sphere. The game: Fairy Bloom Freesia. Does fighting as a fairy sound like an awesome idea? Or is she better off hiding in a tree? Hit the jump to see how this game fares.
The story follows a fairy named Freesia as she is tasked to protect Lita forest and its elder tree, the Jomon Tree. She does her thing and protects the forest from a small invasion of monsters for some days, and then comes in contact with a couple of humans named Listine and Shynie. Listine is the laid-back goofball that nosebleeds over anything cute, and Shynie is the more serious one and keeps Listine in his place. The interaction between these two is pretty humorous on an anime level and helps keep the mood of the game from getting to brooding. The story does take a rather predictable turn when another fairy, Plum, enters the picture. While I won’t spoil the later part of the game, I was a little bit disappointed at how predictable and unsatisfying the story became. I was hoping for a sort of uprising between the forest denizens and the kingdom, considering how much of an ass The Count is. Instead the twist (that I still won’t spoil) just led me into fighting the same boss I fought a couple of chapters ago with two forms and two life bars on the latter. Given the battle was tough and fast paced, I just wish I fought something else. Overall, character interaction is commendable, but the overarching story just lacks some substance and feels rushed near the end. Grade: 78/100
Graphics and Presentation
The environments are remarkably clean and nice looking. It evokes the same level of clarity seen in Edelweiss’ other game Ether Vapor Remaster. Just as good are the scenery artwork during dialogue cutscenes, beautiful even. It might seem unfitting since this is a game about a fighting fairy, but hell it made me care about defending the forest. What is especially jarring though is the major disparaging between character portraits. Freesia’s and (sort of) Plum’s portraits look okay and smooth. But everyone else has the shading of a first-year deviantART user, as if they just used a smooth filter on Photoshop instead of the smoothing brush and doing it themselves (which does yield much better results). Also, everyone but Freesia only has one portrait stance with changing faces while Freesia herself actually has a battle-ready stance. It’s pretty obvious who got the most attention in this part of the game. But still, this is just a small blemish on an otherwise clean and pretty looking game. Grade: 84/100
Sound and Music
I’ll admit that the music might not fit the frenetic mood of the fights, but more the environment it’s in. Listening to it on its own (without all the frantic action), the music is pretty damn relaxing. Since the music still plays during intermissions, it could even help you think out a plan on what to equip for the next fight. The music for Act C is probably my favortie of the bunch (you can play it up there). It’s very jazzy-like, almost like something you’d hear in a Nintendo game like Mario Kart. On the sound effects side, the magical sounds are what you’d expect. The impact sounds never really change much, but can be very satisfying to hear when knocking multiple enemies into each other. The small amount of voice work there is Japanese and not translated via subtitles. But since it’s only for stage and boss intros, you can immediately get the gist of what’s going on. Grade: 80/100
Gameplay and And Ease of Control
From watching the trailers to playing the game, I couldn’t help but compare this to games like Odin Sphere, the Tales of games, and Smash Bros. Fighting is done on a 2D plane and you’re tasked to defeat a certain amount of enemies. The controls are fairly simple if you played the games I just mentioned. You have your main attack button which has different attacks depending on which direction you press. You also have a special attack button that functions similarly to the regular attack with the directional inputs. Customization is the name of the game when it comes to controls. Your attack and special can be mapped to any button thankfully, and you can choose which special attacks to equip during an intermission. Since I used a USB SNES controller and this game has controls like this, I mapped the buttons similarly to how I mapped them in Super Smash Bros. Brawl when using a Classic Controller: Y=Attack, B=Special, X=Jump, R=Block (Trust me, this setup works for me).
You gain special attacks by spending Mana which is earned through fighting. Mana can be used to learn new regular attacks, special attacks, and optional skills. 4 Special Attacks and 2 Optional Skills can be equipped. According to your playstyle, some specials will be more useful than others. I usually stuck to the attacks that kept me far from enemies (which there are plenty of). Outside of boss battles I usually just stuck to the regular attacks. Optional Skills are things like extra attack power, regeneration, defense boost, more HP, etc. For reasons I’ll explain in a bit, I never switched beyond any combination of HP Boost, DEF Boost, and Regeneration.
Moving to the fighting, it’s you vs. several waves of enemies. From the beginning things are rather brisk. The great thing about the fighting system is that you can knock an enemy into other enemies who will knock into even more enemies. If there’s enough in play you can rack up a huge combo doing this. At first things play out pretty well and it can get pretty addictive to maintain your combo for the whole stage (called Days in-game). But around the halfway point in the game, things just get really cheap. Pretty much every enemy has a projectile and they will use them if you’re far away. Many times I would wreck havoc on an enemy in front of me and get ready to knock his ass into the rest of the crew, only to be stopped dead in my tracks by a projectile from an off-screen bird and have the enemy in front of me decide it’s my turn to become the punching bag.
The physics and mechanics near the end seem to find ways to just work against you when you really need them. There’s never an easy way to continue an air combo a la Marvel Vs Capcom as some attacks don’t connect when you know full well that your fairy fist met blob face, and most damning of all is Freesia hitbox and lack of blink time (aka Invincibility Frames). Too often would I think grazing a projectile be enough to pass by, only to count as a hit and stop me where I stand. Her lack of blink time can turn one enemy’s slap in the face to and outright curbstomp from the whole wave. You could be doing great in the beginning with no hits on you, only to be decimated in just seconds. While it does keep you on your toes and remain alert to your surrounding, “death” and “bullshit” tend to go hand and hand here. And those bird enemies… the less I talk about them the better. Now you see why I would always equip either HP Boost, DEF Boost, and Regeneration and nothing else.
The good side to the fighting is that, again, enemies can knock into other enemies. I would love to see this more often in games like this. The framerate dropping when things get hectic can actually work to your advantage to assess the situation. The Vortex stages can be pretty fun to play through since you can heal in the Vortexes and will rarely die. And the bosses, while pretty damn cheap in their own right, can get really fast paced and rather enjoyable. And while I do have some beef with the physics of this game, I still found myself coming back to the game’s sort of Survival Mode (which is unlocked when beating the game) where you’re tasked with defending the forest with only a set number of Intermissions. It’s here where equipping the right skills really mattered. Grade: 80/100
Edelweiss made a game with ambition that could used just a bit more time baking in the oven. The characters are likable but the story is somewhat flawed. While the character portraits leave little to be desired, the graphics look great and the environment art is beautiful. The music is passable and the sounds are just average. The fighting is fun when things click and work, but the physics and mechanics make deaths feel cheap instead a result of human error. If you’re looking for something akin to brawlers like Odin Sphere or Muramasa and are willing to forgive some of the shortcomings with the gameplay, you might find some enjoyment from this cute bruiser.