It’s often the case with mobile stores that great indies get swept under the rug in the wave of freemium efforts from AAA developers trying to break the market or the latest release from the big-boys of the mobile space. Fairy Knights is one of those games that’s managed to fall through the cracks for many, but manages to be a creative entry into the Puzzle-based RPG scene.
Developed and distributed by WID Studio this first game in their catalogue is to date their only title, but was recently also been made available on Steam and has a Switch version pending, meaning that the studio is still open and actively working. As a first attempt it’s a surprisingly solid effort that shows some great, imaginative touches. Hopefully we will see more from them in the near future.
Graphically this title uses a hand drawn style that’s both cute and charming (though not representative of the art style used on the games title screen, which is both a different manga form and substantially less pretty to look at), with large chibi-style sprites dominating the screen. Based on flat plane, the game employs a side-on view that allows for some fun parallax scrolling effects and keeps most elements of the games UI invisible to better let the player be engrossed in the game. It’s a fun and easy to appreciate hand drawn look that remains upbeat and easy on the eyes throughout the games’ duration.
The sound effects presented are solid and have a slightly cartoony feel to match the aesthetic of the game well. Though there are not truly stand-out tracks presented in the games’ music, there are some very pleasing arrangements here that you will find yourself humming along to when playing unmuted and these loop nicely.
The narrative of Fairy Knights is surprisingly strong, though suffers from an amateur translation that leaves some rather dramatic scenes short of emotional impact. At times this is played for comedy, in keeping with the games’ chibi aesthetic, but on other occasions the need to squash more information into a single text box than the game will allow can be felt. It’s a shame too as the story told here is a lot of fun and contains several solid twists. You play the role of Kai, who is tasked by his grandfather to leave his small village and join the royal army as part of a century-old tradition to quell monster attacks around the world. Diligently setting out to rendezvous with them, it’s made apparent very quickly that the royal family do not want your involvement in this battle, and will instead be putting the full weight of their armed forces behind a push to finally break the repeating loop for good. Wanting to help, but not accepted by the Prince, you team up with a trainee witch to help out wherever you can. The game manages to invert expectations a few times with the tropes presented, which works in its favour, and does present itself well even though it is clearly cramming a lot of original language dialogue into a few brief English language sentences due to text-box and translation limitations.
Gameplay sees you explore the world from a side-on view reminiscent of a platformer but without the jumping element at play. You and your allies will travel left to right across locations selected from a map and speak to the locals, loot chests and battle monsters. It’s a charming visual and does lead to a more successfully strung together world when compared to many other mobile RPGs that toss away the exploration aspect entirely, especially when conversations appear mid journey and battles are seamlessly integrated. Combat is of course the meat of the game and this takes on a fairly original flavour that sees you playing a game of ‘pipes’ on a grid that generates each time a character has an action. Battles can be set to ‘auto’ and the grid won’t appear, making things feel more traditionally turn based, but using the grid enables multiple attacks and bonuses that would otherwise be missed. Rotating pieces to allow for a seamless flow from side to side of the grid is fun and tactical, with longer or multiple chains giving bigger rewards. Later in the game characters will learn magic that adds jewels to certain parts of the grid that when linked into the chain will trigger attacks based on the number of each icon equivalent to the spell of that element’s level. Usually with a party of 2/3 characters at any given time, the player can also buy/sell equipment to buff stats and make use of an item fusion option to increase his/her damage and defence exponentially whilst carrying a few handy healing potions as well. These weapons do degrade with use, so fixing them up is always a good idea to get the very best out of them. Alongside this gameplay is a handy arena where you can test your skills and a couple of optional dungeons to explore, but for the most part this in a linear game that allows you to start over with a new game plus style option at its conclusion for replay value.
Overall, Fairy Knights is a game that oozes charm and plays rather well for an Indie title with an un-proved Puzzle mechanic and a small team. If you can stomach a less than stellar translation that leads to some quite snippy dialogue then there’s a lot to love in this little game, which normally retains at around £5 but is regularly on sale for £2 on the Google Play Store.
Since the writing of this review the Switch version of Fairy Knights has been released, bringing a re-written draft of the script with a better translation, improved graphics and some small gameplay fixes. To coincide with this the Steam edition has been updated to the same standard, though the Mobile edition has seen no alterations. Reaching out to the dev team it would appear that updating the original edition is impossible, meaning that the Steam edition is currently the best version of the game available at this time.