Fairy Fencer F has you assuming the role of Fang, a “Fencer” chosen by the fairy Eryn to collect the Furies and release either the God of Darkness or the Goddess of Light from their slumber after a battle long ago. Fang as is typical of such roles is a somewhat unwilling participant in this grand journey and would rather spend his time fulfilling his dreams of eating and sleeping all the time.
Along their journey they will meet up with other rival Fencers also pushing towards the same goal, because whoever manages to collect all the Furies (fairy enhanced magical weapons) will have their wish granted to them. As far as the story itself goes it is mostly stuff we have seen before but that is nothing unusual for the genre, however getting to choose which side you release gives it a slight twist that makes it more interesting.
It becomes very clear almost immediately that in Fairy Fencer F Compile Heart is trying to replicate the success of the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise. Even going so far as to copy the combat mechanics, character outfits and level design, sadly though where it needs to succeed the most it flops spectacularly. Neptunia’s witty characters, story and references are replaced with incredibly one dimensional characters who manage to grate almost immediately. Fang in the space of 10 minutes play time goes from being an incredibly unwilling participant who’s only thought is of food to a very willing hero who’s only thought is of food, there is zero character progression in this stark contrast. Eryn starts off as a ditsy amnesiac fairy who has a couple of funny moments, but as soon as another female character is introduced she turns into bunny boiling fairy girlfriend. Because of this it takes a fair amount of play to actually meet an interesting character, by which point most people would be harbouring the will to murder everyone met up to that point. If Neptunia’s trademark humour had been managed to translate to this somewhat more serious story then the whole affair may have been much more bearable.
Ignoring the story side of things the gameplay itself is really quite good. You are situated at a central hub which gives you access to what you need for buying and selling, creating items and picking up new quests as well as the God Revival. You take on these quests and then move onto a semi-linear battleground where you battle monsters to complete your aim in the quest. In some of these battlegrounds you will also find main and sub-bosses which allow you to gather more furies. Each Fury comes with a fairy ranked with A/B/C, these fairies can be used in-conjunction with Eryn in order to bestow stat changes and special attacks or defences. These fairies power is borrowed in order to release a sword which matches their rank during God Revival, doing this will also strengthen the fairy used and sometimes give new abilities or items. Bosses do come with an expected difficulty spike but fortunately not enough to mean you spend lost of time grinding in order to complete.
You only get one sword throughout the game because that is the one linked to Eryn but using WP gained from battles you can access a pretty wide ranging customisation allowing you to increase stats, learn and strengthen abilities.
Combat is a simple but familiar system with Attacks, Wait and Special command on a wheel. Special Command is for items, fairy link attacks as well as the Fairize command where Fang and Eryn link together (by stabbing Fang in the stomach) to transform and give a huge stat bonus for a short amount of time. You have the chance when moving towards the enemy to strike first and give yourself the advantage, then after your time is spent moving around in a circular area choosing your position and attacks while you try to defeat all enemies before you. This style of turn based combat is fun and is very much helped by the anime styled graphics.
Graphically compared to the PS3 version there have been some improvements to make it sharper, but given the limitations of the anime style and the 2D VN storytelling there is only so much better looking that it can be. On PC it runs with no issue at all on both my PC and Laptop at a surprising 60fps while easily outperforming the PS3 version.
With a diverse soundtrack featuring a wide range of genres and a solidly well voice acted story in both Japanese and English the sound is one of high points and is will be somewhat surprising for fans of older Compile Hearts titles.
Although it’s story is somewhat closer to it’s mainstream counterparts in the genre, it’s strengths were for me personally overshadowed by it’s mostly annoying characters who quickly caused the push to uncover the story a bit of a slog. However with it’s pretty strong combat, customisation and mission based gameplay and great soundscape Fairy Fencer F is certainly not one to be overlooked by fans of the genre and titles somewhat similar to it. The main story spans only about 20 hours or so but with many more furies to collect and side stories to explore it will give completionists a decent length of gameplay to justify the purchase with.
Who should buy:
- Players looking for a good starter JRPG
- Fans who want a serious story with a bit of humour.
- Players with a low tolerance for annoying characters
- Anyone expecting a long and drawn out story