Fairy Fencer F
- Street Date:
- September 16th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Elizabeth Henges
- Review Date:1
- September 18th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- NIS America
- Compile Heart
Digital version of the game reviewed.
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'.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Fairy Fencer F' begins as a lazy adventurer named Fang pulls a sword out of a stone in hopes of the Fairy trapped inside granting his wish of an abundance of food. However, instead of instant gratification, the Fairy Eryn proclaims that Fang must collect all one hundred Furies (which are weapons with fairies within them) in order to revive the Goddess and have his wish granted. Fang is rather miffed at this turn of events, but eventually, upon learning that Eryn has lost her memories and finding the furies might help her regain them, Fang agrees to help Eryn search for the Furies.
The setting and story of 'Fairy Fencer F' creates a somewhat unique story, as the player learns more about the bonds between Fencers and Fairies and of evil undercurrents working to use the Furies for nefarious purposes. While the tale begins humorously enough, as typical of a Compile Heart title, the game eventually starts introducing more serious aspects to the plot, while still trying to keep its overall light-hearted nature. For the most part 'Fairy Fencer F' succeeds at this, although in the end it's not the most compelling tale. I enjoyed the story enough to give me motivation to keep playing through the game, but overall it ends up being an average storyline with predictable plot twists and an event at the midpoint that, without spoiling it, requires some retreading of old ground.
When not watching the story unfold, there are dungeons to explore in 'Fairy Fencer F', dungeons which contain Furies and thereby help to advance the plot. Dungeon exploration is pretty typical of the genre: Maps are for looking for treasure and events, while enemies encountered in the field can either be dodged or attack, which allows for nice degree of control over the number of battles. Unfortunately, the dungeon layouts and styles will start to repeat upon themselves after a while, so dungeon crawling will begin to become a bit tedious.
When in battle, the characters are controlled directly, each with a specific turn. Party members can be moved around, and each attack has its own range. This makes battles a bit more interactive than the RPG norm, requiring engagement and attention in every fight in order to win efficiently.
If battles go on for a while, party members can Fairize; essentially combining the powers of a Fencer and his or her Fairy to transform into a more powerful form. Fencers who have Fairized have vastly increased stats, and access to their most powerful skills, giving a huge edge in battle. The ability to Fairize depends on the character's Tension Gauge, which will increase while giving or taking damage, and decrease while being healed.
The battle system of 'Fairy Fencer F' alludes to the game having deep, strategic gameplay, but the related problem is that the game in itself is not difficult. Many boss battles boil down to 'attack the enemy for a while, Fairize when it's available, and heal when needed', with little to no need to use specific moves or worry about positioning. Throughout most of my time with the game, I ended up being underleveled (if the levels of new party members joining up were any indication), but was still able to easily defeat bosses without worrying about any real strategy. Because of that, 'Fairy Fencer F' turns what could have been a well-thought-out system into something tedious and can devolve into just a mashing the attack button strategy.
It's important to mention that there are quite a few more mechanics other than just in-battle skills and moves. Collected Furies can be used with the Fairies to help revive the Goddess, add effects to dungeons, or to equip characters to give them a stat boost. Also, since Fencers cannot equip new weapons, they instead level up their weapons via Weapon Points, which are used to upgrade the weapon's stats, skills, and spells.
There are even more mechanics within 'Fairy Fencer F', but in the end many of them don't seem to add much to the experience. Since the game feels as though it lacks an overall challenge, there's no need to learn the ins and outs of these various systems to succeed. It is certainly true that taking the time to work through everything the game has to offer will make it more enjoyable, but without a motivation many players, myself included, will find little reason to really dig into all 'Fairy Fencer F' has to offer.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
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: Rating the Sound
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.
There are three endings that can be obtained in 'Fairy Fencer F'. While it appears as though these endings would depend on a few different factors, the main factor involves which scene is viewed at a certain period of time, so additional playthroughs can be bypassed with an extra save file and foresight as to the correct scenes.
Then again, with New Game+ available, which transfers over character levels and a variety of other stats, gamers may want to replay 'Fairy Fencer F' again. Of course, other than keeping character stats and other items, there aren't any new story cutscenes or extra Fairies to get (though it can be very easy to miss some Furies on the first playthrough), so the replay value is going to depend solely on the player's enjoyment of the game's mechanics. Only the most dedicated completionists are likely to replay the game again after the story is finished, for the most part.
'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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