Fairy Fencer FOverview -
In recent years, many niche Japanese RPGs have made it to our shores, thanks to the efforts of smaller publishers looking to please the tastes of their Eastward looking audiences. From cult hits to games that really should have just stayed in Japan, there are plenty of games available for those left unsatisfied with triple-A offerings.
Publisher Nippon Ichi in particular has been bringing a lot of Japanese games Westward this year. Their latest offering is 'Fairy Fencer F', an RPG from developer Compile Heart. Compile Heart is best known for their work on the humorous and surprisingly deep 'Hyperdimension Neptunia' games, and looks to take a few aspects of that series into its new IP, 'Fairy Fencer F'.
In terms of cutscenes, the character portraits are very detailed and nicely drawn. Characters blink and sway slightly during scenes, making them feel a bit more realistic despite the anime art style. However, the reliance on only the cutscenes makes visualizing what is going on beyond the characters themselves difficult. While Fang is supposedly looking for 100 Furies which are contained within varying weapons, all but the playable characters' armaments are displayed as simple swords, making for the actual discovery of these Furies a bit anticlimactic. This example, among a few others not mentioned, brings the caliber of the game's visual presentation down a bit during these scenes.
Outside of these cutscenes, the dungeons consist of basic 3D environments. 'Fairy Fencer F' has a decent amount of varying dungeons, many of which have colorful and pleasing backdrops, though the forefront of the area is a bit blander. After a while, though, the dungeon layouts begin to repeat themselves, and the novelty of the areas become stale.
Furthermore, within the dungeons there can be framerate issues. This is somewhat understandable when monsters are first spawning on the map, but the frame rate also drops at times moving the camera around, or when a character strikes their victory pose at the end of battle. Given that it's an RPG, these frame rate issues aren't detrimental to the experience, but they can detract overall from the experience.
The audio front fares a bit better than the visual front. Nippon Ichi brought together a very solid team of voice actors for the English track. All of the voice actors fit their characters' roles well, and when cutscenes are in motion hearing the dialogue is a real treat. For purists, however, there is also the Japanese track that you can choose in the Options menu at any time… but unless you dislike all English voice acting in Japanese games with a passion, the English acting is preferable. The interactions between the characters and how well voiced they are, I feel, is probably one of the best aspects of 'Fairy Fencer F'.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is not as memorable as the voice acting. While none of the tracks are actually bad, there are few standout tracks either. Most of the battle themes are quite good, but when out on the field or in a cutscene most of the tracks are quite average, working well enough with the atmosphere but doing nothing to be unique or different.
A special mention muse be made to some sound effects. Most of them sound fine, but there are some (such as the jingles that play when you complete a quest or when a tutorial pops up) that clash with any music track that's playing and can be very grating on the nerves. The problem is that the jingles go on for longer than they should and consist of instruments that make higher-pitched noises, and generally are at odds with the deeper sounds of most of the soundtrack.
'Fairy Fencer F', as a series, has potential. While it fails or is merely average on most of its fronts, it also gives a nice look into a world and setting that deserve some more fleshing out. … and thankfully, with the PlayStation 4 sequel recently announced, the series will get a second chance to bring RPG fans a tighter and more enjoyable package.
As it stands, though, 'Fairy Fencer F' is not going to appeal to everyone. For existing fans of Compile Heart games, this is a new story draped over the same gameplay mechanics you know and love. For others, though, it's a difficult game to recommend, unless you have a tolerance for a plot that takes a little too much inspiration from formulaic action anime and gameplay with a lot of fluff attached. There is fun to be had here for those willing to put up with its many quirks, but for everyone else, this likely isn't the RPG for you.
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