I recently received a Steam key for a game that claimed a similarly funny, sarcastic tone to some of my favorite games, including Undertale. The developer of this game mentioned a back-talking princess, a villain's child turned good guy, and a plot revolving around a video game that knows it's a video game and wants to save itself from players.
I was immediately sold. From the get-go, Momiji Studios' Video Game Fables is a fun, silly, friendly adventure full of situational humor, talking objects, and a princess who can save herself, thank you very much.
What if the "damsel in distress" got bored and became the hero?
This game's story immediately caught my attention and made me laugh, which is a good sign for things to come.
We play as Aru, a disgruntled princess in an RPG world. She's sick and tired of being kidnapped - again - and decides to escape on her own this time (hilariously, by simply walking sideways through the bars - she's a flat pixel character, after all).
Helped back to her home in Castleton by a kindly NPC named Nate - who, by the way, is obsessed with the Heroes who play through the game and has been to Herocon multiple times - she arrives in time to witness her father and the game's villain, Lord Gator, get abducted by someone called the Forsaken Princess.
Now it's up to Aru, Nate, and the nervous son of the villain, Tator, to rescue their leaders and re-establish the script before the game is reset.
The whole setup of the game is goofy, with lots of fun jabs at traditional RPG setups. The townsfolk help you, but they're reluctant to do so (monsters are scary, no way we're going out there!), and your powerups in battle are sarcastic quips that fit the characters to a T.
The only real complaint I have about the game is that the opening is quite a long lore dump. You don't actually get into the gameplay for about twenty minutes between all the cutscenes and tutorials. While they are definitely entertaining, they do drag on for quite some time.
Still, I can't whine too much about a setting this fun. Even grinding through the world for XP isn't too bad when all the enemies are funny little bugs, literal stalks of celery, and straight-up balloon people.
Familiar, if Clunky, Controls
The mechanics of this game are very simple, at least for keyboard users (I didn't have a controller available to test with). You move with the arrow keys and interact with C, X, Z, and occasionally V or F. The controls are displayed in a menu on the right side of the screen, which can be toggled on and off for your convenience, which I thought was a nice touch. It's a scheme that's familiar to anyone who's played Undertale and lends itself well to the gameplay in most scenarios.
Now, I say most. There are a few issues with the controls of this game because they aren't the most responsive thing in the world. This is fine when you're in the overworld or doing regular battles, but there are a couple of fairly finesse-based puzzles which are incredibly frustrating because of the latency in button-press reactions.
Otherwise, though, it was nice to get back into this setup, especially after having played Undertale so many times. After just a few minutes of play, I was already back in my groove and moving around like a pro.
A Fun and Funny Battling System
The battle mechanics are fun as well! VGF has a turn-based battle system where turn order is decided at random, but is consistent within a fight. You choose the actions of your three partymates - on their turn, they can attack, use their special abilities (if they have a crit available), or choose to flee the battle (unless it's a boss). Crits are earned after doing a certain level of damage to enemies, and the faster you take your turn, the more damage you do.
I really love the rotating critical abilities. They're incredibly useful - with both short- and long-term healing, long-term damage effects, status effects, and massively damaging moves, among others - and hilariously described. For instance, Aru has a "Crit Tax" ability - as the princess, she can steal her enemy's critical attacks as tax payments. Nate, on the other hand, just pulls out a massive frying pan and smacks things with it for major damage. This is the kind of ridiculous nonsense I'm here for.
I really have no complaints about the battle system. It's fairly easy to run from fights you know you won't win, leveling up is easy (with the added interesting mechanic of being able to shuffle XP by "buying" and "selling" ability slots and items within your party menu), and even grinding feels fun with such goofy, personality-filled enemies and attacks.
Meta Stories and Goofy Characters For the Win
Overall, Video Game Fables is a precious, funny, and all-around cute game. Despite being a bit clunky to control with a keyboard - maybe a controller is better(?), I'll have to try it - it's still ridiculously fun to galavant around this little self-aware RPG world. I fell in love with the characters from the moment I met them, and every new turn in the story is making me laugh!
I have to agree with the developer. If you're a fan of other cheeky fourth-wall-breaking games and RPG games in general, you'll like playing through this weird and wonderful world and discovering its secrets and idiosyncrasies.
Video Game Fables is available on Steam for $19.99. There is a free demo you can download to try it out for yourself.
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