Fujii is a short, meaty adventure centered around gardening, foraging, and light puzzles. The campaign itself is small for a traditional video game but significantly longer than the average VR puzzler. It starts you off in a pitch-black space, giving you sparse instructions: teaching you how to move around, how to use your inventory, and grow plants, which open up the map. The rest of the game is essentially text-free, and the cel-shading is crisp and beautiful on the Quest screen, even when viewing objects at a distance.
The main mechanic of this game is touching and watering plants. To make progress, you need to spend currency to buy items and finish the critical path. Currency is a by-product of plant growth; it’s a rainbow orb that can open doors or be exchanged for seeds and furniture. All plants make currency, but at different rates, and at different ages. Every item takes up a slot, including currency, so you have to make tough decisions; especially before you learn the differences between seeds. You’ll need to prioritize the money you save vs. the cosmetic items you want to bring home vs. the seeds, which sometimes produce currency immediately after planting. There’s a lot of strategic depth in optimizing the limited inventory space, but it ultimately doesn’t matter much.
The game is leisurely, and its teleport locomotion assuages common complaints of VR sickness. The game clearly wants you to make this game into a habit, considering how each level replenishes their collectibles daily. I believe that the intended play-style is to explore the world in short bursts, over a few days, and empty their inventories/water their plants with every pass through the hub world. After the player finishes the campaign (by unlocking the final area and solving a few moderately tricky action-puzzles,) the game essentially congratulates you for winning and sends you back to the hub, with your pockets now full of valuable seeds.
At this point, it’s unclear what you’re supposed to do. In Animal Crossing, you try to pay off an ever-increasing debt; in Breath of the Wild, you boost your health and stamina— In Fujii, your character doesn’t grow, and besides making a perpetual loop of making cash crops to buy more cash crops, any sort of post-game goal is unclear. This fits Fujii’s aesthetic, so it certainly reads as a strong artistic choice. It begs the question of what’s truly valuable in a video game; in Fujii, you restore barren ecosystems, and nurture them to become increasingly interactive; this is a far cry from the conventional game design paradigm of eliminating targets and navigating hectic stages.
Fujii has plenty of exploration and target-shooting in the campaign, but Fujii’s main hooks are about beautification, the joy of the harvest, and fulfilling a commitment. Almost every plant you find can be grown in your hub garden, so if you like the theremin-like flower, you can fill a room with them, if you so choose. It’s hard to say if this gameplay alone justifies playing Fujii regularly, but it’s by far the most soothing game I’ve played in VR.
Even games that are advertised as relaxing, like the fishing sim, Bait!, tend to have twitch-based mechanics, and other elements that get your heartbeat racing; apps that are advertised to manage your mood or enhance meditation are typically less relaxing than just closing your eyes and listening to a soothing soundscape. Lightly-interactive VR games aren’t well-understood as a medium, but Funktronic Labs, the developers of Fujii, seem to have figured it out: the key is coupling a sense of slow progression with non-linear objectives and the presence of friendly entities. You genuinely feel like you impart kindness in this world, and I think it has real potential to spill out into the lives of its audience. Maybe it’ll motivate me to start an herb garden, or take more walks in the park. What I know for certain is that I want a sequel.
Fuji is a fulfilling game that plays to the Quest’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s accessible, it’s relaxing, it’s fun, and it leaves you with a smile on your face. Every design decision makes sense. Everyone should play this game.