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CONSOLE: Game Gear DEVELOPER: Micro Cabin PUBLISHER: Micro Cabin
RELEASE DATE (JP): December 27, 1991 GENRE: Vertical Shooter
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend...

Fray: Shugyouhen (literally Fray in Magical Adventure) is an action RPG that plays from a top-down perspective like a shoot-'em-up. It was developed by the folks at Micro Cabin, "famous" for their Xak series of games. I placed that in several quotes because I still have no idea who the Xak these people are. You can't fit that many developers in a micro cabin anyway, they should have at least settled on a small house.

For some context, Xak is a high-fantasy RPG where you play as a hero named Latok and must slay the demon Badu. At some point, you might even run into Latok's father, who left to buy cigarettes one night and never returned. The disappearing dad is named Dork, by the way; just thought I'd slip that in here. During the events of Xak, Latok rescues a girl named Freya, who proceeds to fall in love with Latok though her feelings are unrequited.

The Game Gear title, Fray, focuses on the character of Freya and her desire to get into Latok's underwear. I'm not kidding. Freya wants to be useful to Latok so that he may reciprocate her feelings, so she goes to magic school for three years to become a magician hoping her newly developed magical skills might loosen the hero's boxers. Once Freya gets back from her enchantment erudition, Latok has already left for a new adventure. Freya has no choice but to follow after him.

I don't see it working out for Freya. From past experience, I can tell you that spending years becoming something you're not just to please someone you love is never sensible regardless of how hot they are. And assuming tuition fees are involved, it's better to be rich and lovelorn than poor and torn. Take my advice Freya, you deserve better.

Fray plays like a combination shmup n' RPG. There's a leveling system and upgrades to earn, but just being a half-decent player will get you through the game's challenges. The game is split into areas, each with an armada's worth of enemies to defeat and a boss to lay waste to. Depending on your percentage of enemies defeated, you're awarded coins to spend in the shop between areas. These include weapon upgrades, speed and defense upgrades or even extra lives. If you're at all serviceable at shooters, you won't have any trouble affording all of the upgrades during the game.

Most of the levels take place on foot, forcing you to factor in some platforming as well. One of the later stages features flying magic which adds some variety, though only the once.

Twinbee without the twins or the bees.

As you beat an area, you'll also unlock a new magic spell. You can select one of these by pausing the game and cycling through them. Once equipped, using them is as simple as holding down the attack button. These deplete your blue orb count, but enemies drop these fairly often so you'll never be in too bad a pickle even if you're low on magic. Due to I assume technical limitations, you are unable to use magic during the boss battles. Provided you've upgraded your attack whenever you've gotten the chance, this won't be a problem.

Coins don't come all that easily over the last few stages, so provided you've been earning enough and spending wisely, you'll be able to scrape an extra life out of the shop when the going gets particularly tough.

Fray is a rather slow game, with most of the time spent waiting for the screen to scroll a little more so you can shoot at something else. Despite the fact a lot of the game is slow, the game isn't much longer than say, an hour or so. To spend most of that waiting for the screen to scroll can be pretty boring. The game did come to other more powerful systems such as the PC Engine-CD and the FM Towns Marty, so those versions are presumably a lot more playable.

This cute little shooter is a halfway decent game but there's little reason to play it on this crummy handheld. Even though it is one of the better games available for the system.

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