Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Fairy Fencer F (Ps3)

Last year Compile Heart announced a new endeavour, Galpagos, which would be form new Jrpgs that were aimed exclusively at Japanese gamers. Fairy Fencer F was the first to see a release under this new moniker, with notable developers that have worked on Final Fantasy in the past and the character designer of Hyperdimension Neptunia lending their hand to this production.With NISAmerica picking up publishing duties, the RPG has finally arrived in the west. Lets take a look...

The story for Fairy Fencer is one of evil gods and benevolent goddesses imprisoned, with heroes and fairies having the power to choose who to awaken. Our journey opens up with our hapless hero, named Fang, as he decides to give a try to pulling out the 'fury' from a nearby rock (think Excalibur) in the hope that the fairy which will emerge will grant him the wish of food. When Eryn emerges, she eventually manages to sway Fang to take up her quest of freeing the goddess as a fairy can only ever be partnered with a single fencer, and off they go to start collecting Fury's. It's not long till they come across Tiara, another Fencer, that your party starts to form as she holds the same goal as Eryn and it would obviously be easier collecting the fury's as a team. Whilst the story does try to keep things a little more serious than usual, The games numerous amusing characters will keep you entertained during the dialogue (as you'd expect of a Compile Heart title of course) and gives the game a decent foundation to build on. The typical structure of a dungeon system is in effect with a central hub town acting as your home base. The town features the Inn (where you'll go to do God Revivals & talk with your party) a Pub (houses the games quests as well as a place to talk with other adventurers) a Shop (Buy/Sell goods as well as synthesise your own) and of course being able to talk to other townsfolk. Here is the key place, as you''ll find yourself constantly looking for Lola. The adorable Lola loves money, and she just so happens to oddly know the locations of different fury's which means she'll be getting a lot of your money. Not only does she offer the main fury's to advance the story, but also sub-bosses to allow you to gather more fairies.
Collecting the fairies, which come in ranks of A/B/C, will also allow you to partner up with one to boost stats and level them up as well as receiving gifts to expand your item inventory. Its these fairies you collect that you use during the Goldy Revival to remove the fury's and slowly free either the vile god or goddess. The boss encounters that house the fury's do tend to come with a difficulty spike. Thankfully they aren't as bad as we've seen recently (Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth anyone?) so you won't find yourself having to grind endlessly. Capturing the fairy's fury's from sub-bosses becomes a must going forward, as not only does it expand the games content, but you never know what fairy you'll receive & it could be one that will benefit you in the next story event. Another aspect you'll want to focus on is levelling up. The challenge system from other Compile Heart games makes an appearance here which helps boost stats depending on who is your leader and what milestone you've achieved. As well as the usual gold and XP given out at the end of a skirmish, you'll also receive WP with which you can spend on your weapon. As a Fencer is bound to the fairy, the only weapon available is your fury. Yes, there aren't other weapons to collect. Instead you can use the WP to customise your weapon & stats. Levelling up grants the usual Jrpg stat boosts for you and you partnered fairy, but it ends up being the WP that's keep to progression. Not only can you upgrade your stats (Physical attack/defence, magic, combo, fury power etc) but also new abilities and techniques for you character. Extra combo moves are also available to purchase allowing you to fully customise your combo to suit your needs. Customisation also extends to character appearance as you are able to change some parts of their attire. Although the main story will only last about 20+ hours, the added fury's to seek and depth to the games levelling system will expand that time by a lot depending on how thorough you want to be with collecting the fairy's. Luckily the refreshed mechanics don't just end there and also make there way into the gameplay.
Anyone that has played Compile Hearts turn-based RPG's from the past few years will be able to slot right in without having to worry about being flooded with too many new techniques to master. As always, the first hour does have the usual slides of information (entitled Eryn's fairy lecture) to notify you of new techniques that have opened up for use. Whilst some mechanics have come over from other titles by Compile Heart, they've usually been expanded upon here. The combo system, for example, now has a new 'Avalanche Break' stage whereby scoring a decent hit that's a weakness to the enemy will allow the rest of your party to also score a hit from their combo roster. The Tension Gauge is a key aspect of the battle system which you'll learn early on. Attacking enemies & taking damage will build it up and once its hit a certain point, you'll be able to fairize. Fairize basically has the character fuse with their Fairy & Fencer, which transforms them, giving you more powerful attacks & boosted stats to make those tough battles a little easier. Taking damage and healing reduces the gauge though, and once its lowered too much - the Fairize will end. Balancing your gauge and Choosing the right combo techniques is a sure fire way to win most battles. If things still go a little pear shaped, theres more that could help sway it your way. Each character also has a unique ability. Fang, for example, can literally get his 'Serious Face' on which boost his attack power by using up SP. All the characters have a similar ability which will differ in what it offers and at what cost to the player with differing abilities meaning you'll want to regularly switch up to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. The depth afforded by these refreshed mechanics makes the skirmishes you get involved in interesting and helps alleviate the games typical dungeons structure
One of the surprising aspects of the game is just how well balanced its overall presentation is. Usually with Compile Heart we would be talking about how the framerate tanks or how weak texturing or shadows are, but here that's not the case. Firstly the framerate actually stays at a decent level, sure its not a locked 30fps, but the drops that do occur are minor and won't effect your enjoyment of the game at all. Other aspects that are usually hit & miss are done well here, texturing is good without being pin-sharp and other areas like shadowing is more defined. Some of the special effects used during special attacks are also well implemented. Its also clear to see Tsunaka's hand in the character art, as anyone like myself that has enjoyed the character designs of Hyperdimension Neptunia will find much to like here too. Crisp, Colourful moe is the order of the day and this title doesn't disappoint. It is a shame that, whilst it does have a lot of the foes to tackle, there's still the odd enemy you'll find that's appeared in other Compile Heart games. Cutscenes in the game are just as well done as other titles, pin-sharp & animated to hold interest during dialogue scenes (which don't usually last too long) Theres the odd time that a 3D cutscene will play out that uses the in-game engine, but the game doesn't use this as often as you'd like even though they can look quite good. Full voice acting is offered for both English & Japanese, something the purists out there will appreciate having the choice of. Its been noted Nobuo Uematsu has worked on the games soundtrack, and aside from a few tracks that sound eerily similar, the diversity in the soundtrack is apparent fairly quickly. The rock music that kicks in during transformations will catch Compile Heart regulars off guard a little as its not something we usually see from them. The improved technical aspects of the game and diverse soundtrack seem to take take this game up a notch, which bodes well for future titles from the Galpagos brand hopefully.
With a story that isn't too far fetched with an interesting cast, this is probably the first Compile Heart RPG to have a real chance of getting its foot in the door with those more fond of mainstream Jrpg franchises. There's also obvious improvements to the games technical aspects, with veteran developers in the genre helping diversify the titles numerous aspects. Whilst the main story is a little short at 20+ hours (tho there is added side stuff to do) and the odd recycled asset can be found from other releases, this is still possibly the most slick Jrpg that Compile Heart has put out.


Who Should Buy This?
  • Compile Heart Jrpg Fans
  • Looking for a solid story with an interesting cast
  • You want turn based combat with a little depth
  • A niche Jrpg that feels as though its had some kind of budget
Who Should Avoid?
  • 20+hours for a main story is too short
  • Prefer an open world RPG
  • Not a fan of moe
  • dislike Compile Heart
Review Copy Provided by NISAmerica

1 comment:

  1. Been playing this for a few hours now, think I have clocked 7 actual game hours but I have been doing it around work and kids, and I am really enjoying it. I was skeptical at first been a Compile Heart game. While I like their general art and story styles I do find that the games generally suffer in some way. With this I found the overall experience felt nice and ballanced.
    Characters I love. They are well fleshed out and don't feel too much like your run of the mill JRPG characters.