Fragrant Story Review (3DS) | Nintendo life
You thought the 3DS was done, right? Well, despite Nintendo’s best efforts by announcing the closure of the 3DS eShop in 2023, it’s the company’s popular handheld quiet Alive and alive and recently released a brand new release, Fragrant Story. This strange micro SRPG comes from an indie developer William Kage and gets the honor of being the very last 3DS game to be released in both digital and physical form in North America (and North America only).
So is it a fitting tribute to the 3DS’ 10+ year life? Well… no, not even close. But! It’s a delightfully odd release that’s still worth your time, even if you just want to see what the final 3DS game is like.
The tale takes place in the kingdom of Flowergard, a society where everyone is named after some plant and speaks in endless, moaning botanical puns. Beginning as an inexperienced defender of the kingdom, you rise to the brink of repelling its greatest enemy yet, though the path you embark on is hardly the stuff of legend. It’s perfectly clear that narrative isn’t the focus of Fragrant Story, but what’s here is just silly enough to be entertaining.
Gameplay unfolds in a typical isometric tactical RPG format, where you move your party characters individually through a grid and fight enemies in simple turn-based battles until your party achieves a victory. Some characters are melee only, while others are ranged, and each has a unique ability that gives them a bit more utility, like the ability to summon a bee or hit enemies with a lifesteal attack.
Killing enemies gives you points that increase parameters such as health and critical hit chance, while all your own units that fall in battle are finally dead by the end of the run. But don’t worry, this permadeath mechanic isn’t as devastating as its equivalent in Fire Emblem. Why do you ask? Because Fragrant Story only takes about 15 minutes to play through.
In the main story mode, there are only three levels to overcome, each with a few waves of enemies. Once you’ve done this, you’ll unlock some challenge missions that confuse the enemies that appear on maps, although each of these missions themselves only lasts a few minutes. Every time you complete Story Mode or a Challenge Mission on a new difficulty – of which there are three – you’ll get a Mango Ticket, which you can then spend in a shop to get light permanent stat buffs output different units. So collecting all of the Mango Tickets is its own overarching goal, although even that doesn’t take all that long to complete. Fragrant Story will accompany you may be five hours at its absolute maximum, but is more likely to run out of gas around the three-hour mark. Considering the digital version only costs you four bucks, this short duration is a much easier pill to swallow. Just keep in mind that Fragrant Story is a miss-miss type of game.
While it feels like it’s over before it even begins, Fragrant Story at least manages to land most of its gameplay mechanics. For example, each combat encounter features a spinning wheel that determines the outcome of the upcoming attack. If you’re good at timing, you can stop the wheel at a “critical” part of the wheel and deal extra damage. This also applies to enemy attacks, which you can influence to completely miss your character. The extra skill that goes into each conflict makes them a bit more interesting than just raw stat checks, and it can have a big impact on whether or not you complete a mission successfully.
Other than that, all the basic features of an SRPG are there, although none of them get enough time to develop properly. For example, one or two battles is usually enough to level up a character, but the effect of this is mitigated by the fact that the character’s progress is erased once you complete that mission or campaign run. There are now some interesting mixes of abilities among the different classes, but the short length and simple card design means there isn’t much opportunity to experiment with the possibilities. If it were expanded into a more feature-rich game, we could easily see that Fragrant Story has a real quality appeal, but here it’s knee-deep by the superficiality of the overall experience. What’s here is good, but it doesn’t have the time to even try to be great.
In terms of its presentation, Fragrant Story sticks closely to an authentic 16-bit art style that looks good, if a little basic. The lack of stereoscopic 3D is rather disappointing, while the spritework is rather plain and uninspired. Maps have no real sense of presence – they’re just big, flat squares floating in a shapeless void – while lacking environmental diversity to easily tell them apart. None of that looks Poorly, but this art style is pretty much forgotten and clearly not trying to impress the player. Similarly, the understated chiptune soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto (composer of Final Fantasy Tactics and many others) and his company Basiscape is just sort of there; It doesn’t do anything to detract from the overall experience, but it doesn’t add much either.
Is Fragrant Story worth buying? Sure, maybe as a curiosity and a topic of conversation. Four bucks isn’t a huge asking price, and the content on offer here is enjoyable and engaging for what it is. You’ll need to spend the afternoon playing Fragrant Story, you’ll probably be happy with that – then you’ve seen everything it has to offer, move on to something else and never start it again. If you decide to pass these on, there really isn’t much you’re missing out on. However, given the low price and goofy nature, it may be worth picking up just so you can say you snagged the last game on the North American eShop before Nintendo finally locked the doors.
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/3ds/fragrant-story Fragrant Story Review (3DS) | Nintendo life