Fragrant History Review (3DS) | Nintendo Life
Thought the 3DS was over, right? Well, despite Nintendo’s best efforts to announce the closure of the 3DS online store in 2023, the company’s popular handheld Still alive and well and recently saw a brand new release with Fragrant Story. Created by indie developer William Cage, this weird micro-SRPG is honored to be the very last 3DS game to be released both digitally and physically in North America (and North America only).
So, is this a fitting tribute to the 3DS’s 10+ year run? Well… no, not even close. But! It’s a deliciously weird release that’s still worth your time, if only to see what the latest 3DS game is like.
The story takes place in the kingdom of Flowerguard, a society where everyone is named after a plant and speaks in endless, groaning botanical puns. You start as a rookie protector of the kingdom and rise to ward off its greatest enemy, though the path you follow is unlikely to be legendary. It’s pretty obvious that storytelling isn’t the focus of The Fragrant Story, but what’s there is silly enough to be interesting.
The gameplay plays out in a typical isometric tactical RPG format, where you individually move your characters around a grid and fight enemies in simple turn-based combat until your group is victorious. Some characters are melee-only while others are ranged, and each has one unique skill that gives them a bit more utility, like the ability to summon a bee or hit enemies with a lifesteal attack.
Killing enemy nets gives you points that increase stats like health and critical strike chance, while any of your own units that fall in combat are permanently dead for the rest of the run. Don’t worry though, this perma-death mechanic isn’t as devastating as its Fire Emblem equivalent. Why do you ask? Because Fragrant Story only takes about 15 minutes to complete.
In the main story mode, there are only three levels to complete, each of which has a couple of waves of enemies. Once you do this, you will unlock several challenging missions that mix up the enemies that appear on the maps, although each of these missions only last a few minutes. Each time you complete a Story Mode or a Challenge Mission on a new difficulty level (of which there are three in total), you’ll earn a Mango Ticket, which you can then spend in the shop on small, permanent stat upgrades for various units. So collecting all of Mango’s tickets is his own overarching goal, although even that won’t take long. Fragrant story will last you a long time may be five hours at the absolute maximum, but it’s more likely to run out of gas in about three hours. Considering the digital version will cost you just four dollars, this short run time is much easier to swallow. Just keep in mind that Fragrant Story is a blink and skip game.
Even though it seems like it’s all over before it even starts, Fragrant Story at least manages to implement most of its gameplay mechanics. For example, each combat encounter will display a spinning wheel that determines the outcome of an impending attack. If you’re good with timing, you can stop the wheel at the “critical” section of the wheel and deal extra damage. This also applies to enemy attacks that you can influence to completely miss your character. Having this extra skill that is used in every conflict makes them a little more interesting than simple stat checks, and it can make a big difference in whether you succeed or fail a mission.
In addition, all the main features of the SRPG are here, although none of them have received 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 blunted by the fact that the character’s progress will be erased as soon as you complete that mission or campaign. Meanwhile, there are some interesting combinations of skills among the various classes, but the short length and simplistic map design ensure you don’t get too many opportunities to experiment with the possibilities. If it were ported to a more fully featured game, we could easily see that Fragrant Story has some real quality to it, but here it comes down to the superficiality of the overall experience. What’s here is good, but he doesn’t have time to even try to be great.
In terms of presentation, Fragrant Story strictly adheres to an authentic 16-bit art style that looks good, if a bit simple. The lack of stereoscopic 3D is rather disappointing, and the sprites are rather plain and boring. The cards have no real sense of presence – they’re just big flat squares floating in a shapeless void – while the variety of environments isn’t enough to easily tell them apart. None of this looks bad, but this art style is quite forgettable and clearly doesn’t try to surprise the player. Similarly, the discreet chiptune soundtrack from Hitoshi Sakimoto (composer of Final Fantasy Tactics and many others) and his company Basiscape is just sort of there; it doesn’t spoil the overall impression, but it doesn’t add much either.
Should I take Fragrant Story? Of course, as a curiosity and a subject for conversation, perhaps. Four dollars isn’t that much of an asking price, and the content on offer here is nice and compelling for what it is. In the afternoon you’ll play Fragrant Story, you’ll probably be satisfied with it – then you’ll see everything it has to offer, switch to something else and never run it again. If you choose to give it up, you really don’t have much to lose. However, given its low price and wacky nature, it might be worth buying so you can say you bought the last game from the North American eShop before Nintendo locked the doors for good.