Fairy Bloom Freesia is an indie game created by a tiny Japanese developer named Edelweiss, whose only other game of note is the PC shoot-em-up Ether Vapor. Belying its cutesy art style, Fairy Bloom Freesia is in fact a violent brawler. Players take control of the titular Freesia, a green haired sprite, who has to protect the forest she resides in from the threat of human encroachment. A power-crazed monarch, from a nearby kingdom, has decreed that his underlings should venture forth into Freesia’s woodland and nab the magical crystal responsible for giving life to the ancient Jomon tree. Before they can yell out “Timber” the invaders will however have to contend with Freesia’s offensive magic and martial arts prowess. Shame that Brazil doesn’t have any kung-fu pixies… that would certainly help save the rainforest from deforestation.
Combat wise, Freesia feels a lot like the Nintendo Smash Bros games. Players are plunked down on a small arena comprised of a few platforms and a picturesque background. The goal of the game is to clear each stage by defeating waves of enemy golems that have been constructed by the above-mentioned human aggressors. The action is fast and frantic, benefitting from tight controls along with rock solid hit detection. The combo system permits players to juggle foes in the air as well as launch nasties back at their brethren to inflict additional damage on anyone they bump into. Ideally the game should be played with a controller, but as I was too lazy to plug a pad into my laptop I settled for using the keyboard, which surprisingly works well. The cursor keys handle movement whilst z to v permit you to attack, block, jump and unleash special moves.
The game has some RPG elements to it, in the form of experience points earned by smashing golems into dust. Once Freesia acquires enough exp she levels up, supposedly making her stronger. I didn’t notice any substantial improvement in Freesia’s performance, upon leveling up, but this may be due to the fact that enemies get stronger from level to level, effectively negating the increased damage you are dishing out. One thing that makes a difference however are the mana orbs that vanquished foes drop. These act as in game currency that can be spent to purchase/upgrade new moves/passive bonuses. For most of the game I focused on beefing up Freesia’s physical attacks, but I had to alter my tactics for the final boss. As fists were proving to be ineffective I switched to an increased health pool and bought a ranged projectile spell. The improved survivability coupled with the ability to safely attack from a distance made things easier, illustrating that the customization offered by the mana system gives the gameplay an added layer of strategy.
Although the boss fights can be challenging, should you fail to adapt to their attack patterns, the regular levels are less stimulating due to the weak enemy A.I. The lack of enemy variation doesn’t help matters either with there only being four types of golem to pit your might against. You get the regular enemies that attack with magic, two bigger kinds that focus on melee attacks and the annoying flying golems who can be hard to hit, depending on where they are hovering. Even though little changes between levels, aside from the stage’s background, the combat never feels repetitive as the levels can be completed fairly quickly. The developers have also made an effort to inject some variation to proceedings, on some levels, via the addition of health regenerating portals you have to protect and enemy summoning warp points that you have to destroy.
For an indie game I have to say that I was impressed by Freesia’s presentation. Despite being a budget title the visuals are of a very high standard with the level backgrounds, showcasing gorgeous flora, stealing the show. Freesia’s character models also look very good having a three dimensional anime feel to them. Less impressive however are the rough looking character portraits that feature during the story segments. They have the appearance of artwork crudely drawn with colored pencils, lacking the graphical polish found in the rest of the game. In the sonics department, the cheery background music compliments the colorful aesthetics and the sound effects, although nothing spectacular, get the job done.
Overall I found Fairy Bloom Freesia to be a very enjoyable gaming experience. The limited number of enemies and potentially repetitive combat didn’t become an issue as the story doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I managed to complete it all in just under two hours, which may sound weak content wise, but its not something I would criticize the game for given that it only costs a fiver to download from Steam or Rice Digital. Besides, I am likely to revisit the game to challenge the higher difficulties, unlock all the purchasable moves and take on guardian mode were you face endless waves of golems. So to sum up, just like a fairy, Freesia’s video game proves to be short and sweet.