Märchen Forest Review: An Arduous Path to Fun (Switch)

Welcome to a story spanning several planes of existence. Mylne is a young girl living in a secluded forest, with the mysteries of her past about to come to light. Journey through her cheery small community, dangerous dungeons, and the grotesque deeper recesses of a dark underworld to discover the horrors of human—and inhuman—experimentation.

Märchen Forest Review: An Arduous Path to Fun (Switch) Cover

Every so often, the opportunity comes when you’re able to revisit a familiar game. But not all is quite as you left it. This is the case for Märchen Forest, which received a massive graphical and auditory overhaul since its initial release in 2018. With a brand new look and the addition of the previously separate Requiem of the Astral World DLC, this aims to be the definitive version of the game, suited to meet the expectations of players from 2021 onwards.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, I should note that I’ve reviewed Märchen Forest before. One of the things I was looking forward to seeing was what exactly had changed during the transition and what more the developers could do to improve the game from before. There was immense potential with the original, so more detail comes the possibility of more captivating gameplay/writing. It’s a new game that’s also the old game, recaptured with all the resources available to fully realize the developers’ vision of the project. With all this in mind, does my previous experience end up aiding or hurting this enhanced package?

Märchen Forest is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PS4/PS5 for your regional pricing.

Story – Innocent, Until It’s Insane

In my original review, I split the Story and Gameplay sections up into two parts, representing each facets of the game. Märchen Forest is a story told in three parts (previously two), and the manner of gameplay and plotline changes drastically because of it. For this review, I will not do that, as not only will it completely bloat the word count, but it’s also not necessary to explain every minute detail. Some things are better left unsaid.

Told in Multiple Sections

Since this is split up into three parts, each “episode” features a different story for the player to interact with. One is pretty cozy and childlike, though adds very little to what some may deem the “true” story outside of introducing Mylne as a character and her neighboring inhabitants. From Episode 2 onwards, it becomes far more cryptic and fantasy-epic-like. Think of the first 60-90 minutes as an appetizer, while the trigger for a certain event puts the narrative significance into overdrive. Making up for lost time, perhaps.

To sum up the intro, Mylne (pronounced “Meh-lynn”) is a young girl in a secluded forest full of fantasy creatures. Omniscient birds, snakes, mushroom figures, and even a big rock are just a few things one will see starting off. Where she came from or who she really is serves as the basis for the backdrop, and only diverges into other sectors of world-building from there. Such diverges don’t always necessarily involve her directly, however.

You will see this kind of content in Episode 1!

You will see this kind of content in Episode 1!

Truth be told, trying to balance this review with the context of all three parts is proving pretty difficult. There’s much I could say about the narrative itself, as well as how it progresses through each episode. Only issue is that with the mindset of the “Episode” system, there’s the drawback of potentially isolating the significance of the events from prior episodes into mere memories. Spoken in plain English, the problem is that the events in Episode 1 barely matter in Episode 2, and similar can be said for Episode 3. There’s very little holdover, outside of characters and maybe a reference here and there. This conundrum equates to the feeling of playing a new game with each subsequent episode—perhaps not a problem for some, though it may bring the potential for lacking motivation.

A Progressively Darkened Fairy Tale

As for analyzing the story itself, I can confirm that it gets “better” with each episode. Hard to say whether or not it becomes a worthwhile story given how drastically it jumps from episode to episode. The first part is essentially filler—very little if anything of plot value occurs. Once Mylne ventures off on her own, Märchen Forest quickly loses all sense of wholesomeness and hurls itself into a decrepit pit of fantasy-adventure. Important, recurring characters are established and Mylne becomes the focal point of the mystery behind the journey. And once Episode 3 begins… well, it becomes a lot more “interesting” (nonsensical) from there. Generalizing it, think of it like going from Animal Crossing to The Legend of Zelda to Kingdom Hearts. Take that as you will.

Will this hold you over for the entire game? Not likely, unless you’re inexperienced with narrative-heavy adventures. Most of the more charming executions of the plot come in—and this will be a recurring theme—Episode 3. Getting to this point, though, may be a drag for players, particularly those not very patient.

Getting to that point involves this bizarre confession scene.

Getting to that point involves this bizarre confession scene.

Gameplay – This Is the Real Game… No, This Is the Real Game…

This is probably the biggest fault present in Märchen Forest, but perhaps not for the reasons originally expected. Like with the story, the gameplay priorities split dramatically with each part, though Episodes 2 and 3 are more similar than either of them are to Episode 1.

Gameplay Styles

One will begin their playtime by controlling Mylne as they walk around and perform fetch quests and interact with the forest denizens. Finding ingredients to put into ol’ grandpappy’s alchemy cauldron is the name of the game, and such is done by carefully following dialogue cues and going around talking to people multiple times. Not particularly innovating, and, for whatever reason more charming in the original build of the game, in the face of what’s to come this feels almost pointless. There’s some cute dialogue here and there, along with some quirky side activities that are charming individually. Only thing is that, again, it doesn’t really amount to much, especially when it’s by far the shortest episode and it provides next to nothing to prepare for the next section of the game.

Shown: Next section of the game.

Shown: Next section of the game.

Episode 2 is what I would refer to as “The real game.” An RPG dungeon-crawler with far more work placed on it than before, it really does seem like a completely different game. Mylne is now an adventurer, complete with basic RPG statistics a la HP, Attack, Defense, etc. She can buy things from Rosetta, a new and very important character that Märchen Forest will ensure you know about. A basic combat system consisting of attacking, defending, dodging, and parrying becomes the meat of the game, so practice is key. Such a tonal shift will likely throw new players through a loop, so this is your forewarning.

Then Episode 3 takes everything Episode 2 taught you about the game and adds tons of new rules to follow and a much larger sense of danger. It effectively goes from Easy Mode to Brutal Mode, and it will be very easy to feel overwhelmed. The game does try and assure the player that they should take their time to ease into it and be prepared to fail at first—they are not kidding. If the previous episode was “The real game,” this one is “The real challenge.”

After some time with it (A.K.A. I acquired an additional party member), “time began to slow down,” as they say, and I found myself in-tune with what it wanted me to do. As overwhelming as it seems at first, the additional things to watch for, extra content, and ramped up difficulty actually had the experience feel more rewarding. This was the moment I realized that this game was a lot more fun than I remembered it being. Therein lies the problem.

She's a sight for sore muscles.

She’s a sight for sore muscles.

Harmful Hindsight

Let me reiterate a crucial point—I have played this game before. One of the biggest expectations I had for this new Märchen Forest was seeing just what could be improved from one rendition to another. The result? Very little. Indeed, a revitalized graphical overhaul and fully voiced lines are great for immersion, but what about the gameplay? 95% of it is the same—per my memory/research, the forest’s layout is different, some cutscenes are added to Episode 2, and Rosetta’s name was changed. That’s the gist of it. Outside of Episode 3, which was previously separate DLC (which I did not play), I played the same game only with nicer graphics and more talkative characters.

Having played through a large majority of this game, with 20 hours to my name, my final conclusion was that Episode 3 was great fun, yet at a price. It’s very easy for a player to go through Episode 1 and into Episode 2, only to realize that Episode 2 is way better. “Wow, in hindsight, Episode 1 was pretty bare-boned content-wise.” The same player then goes into Episode 3 and gets adjusted to that, just to again realize that Episode 3 is way better. “Wow, in hindsight, Episode 2 was pretty bare-boned content-wise.” It’s a constant climb typically reserved for separate games. Märchen Forest decides to stick it all in one.

This was a nice addition.

This was a nice addition.

If the game stuck to the playstyle only showcased in Episode 3, this would be an easy recommendation. A lot more versatile in its gameplay mechanics and the story is, well, paced well enough outside of being bizarre. Some of the bigger moments feel appropriately bigger, and the challenges truly left an impression on me. But since this is just a sizeable chunk of the adventure and not the whole thing, there will always be some caveat to sharing this game with others. “Yeah, it’s… eventually a fun game… but…”

Graphics & Audio – Fully Realized Splendor

Some could argue that the graphical style of the original Märchen Forest has charm in its simplicity. I certainly thought so—like playing a retro PS1 game in modern times. However, there’s not much to dislike about the look here, fully formed to meet the expectations of indie games in 2021. A small complaint I could make comes in the form of the lighting, which can be way too bright in a number of areas, making everything seem plastic. Otherwise, knowing what this used to look like, it’s a very, very pleasant improvement that speaks to modern times.

Though something to note is that not everything received equal treatment. Mylne, Rosetta, and other human-like characters certainly received the celebrity treatment, but others things such as enemies and minor characters retained their almost chibi-like designs. Whether this was due to time constraints or to still embody some sense of whimsy is hard to say; it just felt jarring to see this fully upgraded Mylne model next to a bunny with a giant head and dot eyes. Environments also remained fairly simple in design, with areas in Episode 3 being my favorite in terms of variety (go figure). Really, Episode 3 just provides all the fulfilled potential this game could be.

Something that may not be totally apparent with all the graphical updates is the inclusion of fully voiced characters. They went all out, too—pretty much any character with lines in this game has a voice. The stars are clearly Mylne (Ayana Taketatsu) and Rosetta (Kanon Takao), both of whom are basically opposite vocalists. Taketatsu is high-pitched, energetic; almost inquisitive in nature, while Takao fits the bill of quiet calmness hiding away deeper feelings. They brought these characters to life in a great way, and I’m almost more impressed with them than the graphical uplift.

Soundtrack, on the other hand, is pretty standard. The usual beats and bops you’d associate with an adventure title featuring cheery highs and world-ending battles. Admittedly, a few tracks didn’t really hit until—say it with me—Episode 3. A soundtrack that definitely embeds itself deeper into the recesses of the player’s ear canals the further immersed they are. On its own, it’s spirited, just not spectacular.

Märchen Forest was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. A review key was provided by Clouded Leopard Entertainment.

Summary
The benefits of putting all in one is that nothing is left out. An obvious assessment to many, but it creates an unforeseen consequence of having the clearly better portions be a reward for braving a lesser product. If Märchen Forest were simply Episode 3 with an additional introduction period, this would be a more consistently good game. Though to some extent my own expectations with it, given my experience with the previous iteration, also likely affected the outcome. As it stands, it's 13-15 hours of a good game just after 7-10 hours of a mediocre game. If you can wait, there's definitely some fun to be had. Just take your time; no rush.
Good
  • Episode 3 is a lot of fun.
  • Graphical + Auditory boosts are effectively immersive.
  • Definite charm to its ambition.
Bad
  • Episodes 1 and 2 are (much) weaker compared to Episode 3
  • Story can be pretty absurd/nonsensical.
  • A substantial wait before "the good parts."
6.5
Fair

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