Zanzarah: Catching ’em All

The plot of Zanzarah is pretty standard fantasy-game fare: a shadow has fallen upon the land, a prophesied hero must set it right. No one knows quite what the source of the evil is, but it’s harassing the cities with posses of fairy-wielding Dark Elves (portrayed here as light-skinned but wearing dark outfits), and apparently is also responsible for getting the wild fairies so agitated. Normally they’d be peacefully flitting about and laughing and sipping nectar from flowers and replacing human children with changelings and so forth, not attacking people on the road. (Although I have to wonder if my captive fairies have something to do with that. You’re not allowed out into the wild until you have a fairy of your own, so it’s impossible to tell how they’d behave towards someone who wasn’t enslaving their people.) So your goal is to fulfill the prophecy and stop all that.

But there is of course a second goal, an implicit one: catching ’em all. One of the basic UI overlays, along with the inventory and the map, is the Pokédex-like “Fairy Book”. Since this is a PC game instead of a Gameboy game, it can fit every type of fairy on the screen at once as a nice grid of icons, with empty boxes for the ones you don’t have. Those boxes just beg to be filled in. Best of all, since this is a single-player game, it should be feasible! None of this nonsense of trying to find trading partners and failing because the game is nearly a decade old. Every species that exists can be found and caught, or evolved from something that can be found and caught.

So it’s a bit of a shame that they messed it up. Unlike Pokémon, where every pokémon species you’ve handled goes into your Pokédex permanently, the Fairy Book only lists those species you have currently. If you evolve one of your fairies into a more powerful form, it leaves a hole in the grid where its old form was. Well, okay, you caught it once, you can catch it again if it really matters to you. Except that in some cases you can’t. There exist unique fairies. I have an “energy”-type (electric) fairy that supposedly there are only two of in the world. It evolves through at least three forms. There’s an NPC that offers a unique fairy in trade for something I haven’t got yet. Once you get it, you’re apparently expected to trade it away to another NPC. And yeah, once you’ve had and lost these things, you know that you’ve had them. But that’s not as satisfying as watching the grid in the Fairy Book fill up.

Game designers don’t always correctly anticipate how people will react to or use their designs. For elements they consider minor, even playtesting doesn’t necessarily help. I’m assuming that there are other players who shared my reaction to the fairy grid, but the designers were probably thinking of it as a reference guide to your current options, rather than as a score card. This is the sort of problem I’d expect to see addressed in a sequel, if there were any chance of one.

3 Comments so far

  1. required on 3 Jul 2009

    The unique fairies are not exactly unique. The Fairy Book can be filled up no problem, I did this on my first playthrough (took me aboot 60 hours, but I’m sure that’s not a world record).

  2. Roy on 8 Sep 2011

    i just have one problem and it’s in darbue , i can’t find one
    1. i baught it from a dwarf and i turned it into lighbue
    2. i found bue in the ruine of the forest
    but where can i find darbue
    P.S. : in monagham there is the wife of lass she owns darbue i think how can i get it from her??

  3. Roy on 8 Sep 2011

    hi i have them all but i can’t find darbue
    i baught it from a dwarf and i turned it into lightbue
    then i found bue in the ruins of the forest
    but where can i find darbue?
    P.S. : in monagham the wife of lasse have darbue i think how can i get it from her ???

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