Reviewed by Thomas
- Developer: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
- Publisher: Idea Factory
- Release Date: 17/01/2019
- Price: $39.99 / £29.99
There’s no shortage of JRPGs in the world and they’re growing in number on Nintendo’s hybrid platform. Fairy Fencer F was first released in 2013 with a few iterations subsequently following. Here we have the complete package with additional story arcs and added content in Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force. With a title nearly as long as the game, I’ll refer to it simply as Fairy Fencer for this review. Since I never played the original version I won’t do a comparison. Instead I’ll dive into how well this port fits on Nintendo Switch and if it’s worth your time, money, and memory.
The Vile God versus The Goddess
When I started Fairy Fencer I was half expecting a convoluted or shallow story. Similar games focus more on the art and how to creatively show cleavage, sprinkled with overt and subtle sexual innuendos. Yes, Fairy Fencer included those things but only secondary to the main experience. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the story and the clever writing. Not only in the dialogue but the overall narrative. The characters are memorable and charming. Though they do fill the quota for a JRPG stereotype, I actually cared about each of them. Even the annoying comedy relief add ins. With witty humor and occasionally breaking the fourth wall, the cast interacts well with each other.
Our team of protagonists are known as Fencers. These special warriors hunt down furies which are ancient and powerful weapons in the form of a Fairy. Each one is depicted as a card, almost like what you would see in a collectible card game. You can use these furies to remove many swords from two dormant Gods. The Vile God or the Goddess. Depending on which God you focus on reviving will determine the story branch you’ll follow. There are twists and surprises in store for the team. It is rumored that whoever revives the God will be granted a wish. This brings all manner of folk searching to be the ones to claim the power of the Gods. Among your allies and acquaintances is also a corporation seeking omnipotence.
The tale unfolds mostly with voiced dialogue. There are some still cut-scenes and interactions with the townsfolk to learn more about the surrounding occurrences. In between quests, you can socialize with your party members at the local Inn or with people on the street. These events give you a glimpse at the world around you and backstory for each companion. The amount of characters who join your team were unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. It made these interactions more interesting and enjoyable.
There are several facets of game-play I’d like to cover. Combat is the core of Fairy Fencer. I loved the free roam turn based battle-system they implemented. Enemies are visible in the world and you have the opportunity to initiate combat with a surprise attack on the field. When the battle starts, you control one character at a time in traditional turn based combat. Instead of being confined to a grid or row, you can move about freely. To gain the upper hand, you want to flank your enemy. In addition to doing more damage this way, your accuracy is improved. You can use a standard attack and eventually chain together combos. Your Fury, or weapon, changes based on how you level up so you can exploit your opponents weakness. The first part of your combo could deal out massive damage as a sword and then finish with devastating axe blows. Positioning became a more important strategy on boss battles. If you place your whole team bunched up together behind the boss for higher damage output, you become exposed to a powerful area-of-attack counter. A safer approach is to spread away from each other and slowly dole out damage over time.
Aside from standard attacks you have a plethora of skills and magic attacks at your disposal. Finally you can choose to Fairize, merge with your Fairy partner/weapon to don protective armor and gain access to a powerful attack. Planning ahead is essential since using your powerful Fairize attack takes a large amount of MP and 30% of you health. If you go all out with everyone too soon, the boss will have an easy time picking you off. Since most of the bosses you face are also Fencers, they often begin battles powered up in the Fairize state.
When not in combat, you’re exploring a vast world with a variety of dungeons. The dungeons for the most part are small and easy to get through. The pacing was largely well balanced where you could easily complete side quests and seek out a new Fury. Only a few times did I find myself hoping for a dungeon to end or try to avoid battles to progress the story. If you tackle the main game and most of the side quests, you’ll have little reason to grind.
Back to the Grindstone
The other part I wanted to focus on was the leveling system. Fairy Fencer offers a unique blend to power up your team. You of course gain experience from each battle which directly levels up the characters. The results are automated and typical for a role-playing experience. You also earn WP, or weapon points. These points grant you the freedom to customize your team. You can put them to use in an array of options. Improving physical attacks or magical defense are basic choices. Improving combos and learning magics or skills add to your arsenal when fighting. The smart allocation of WP, I would suggest, was more critical to success than leveling your characters.
Another feature is the ability to use your Furies which have been fused with God swords to alter the map. Though the world map doesn’t physically change, you can stab a powered sword into the ground outside a dungeon for a special bonus. You can increase the amount of XP earned or boost your physical defense. Each perk comes at a cost however. To counter the positive bonus is a negative one. I forgot I had doubled the amount of WP earned at the cost of receiving two times the amount of damage. I activated this on a map when I faced a gauntlet of boss battles. I would get to the final fight and my entire party would get wiped out with my opponent’s Fairize move. After several failed attempts, I decided to leave the dungeon to get stronger. That’s when I saw the sword and had a face palm moment. The game does list the bonus and detractor in the bottom left corner if you chose to use this method. I just didn’t pay attention and forgot. It’s mechanics like these that made Fairy Fencer stand out and fun to experiment with.
The final level up system was perhaps my favorite. You can earn bonuses to your various stats by experiencing things in the game. For example, taking damage will increase your health. Using items also gives you a permanent boost. Every character in the party has this opportunity and if they are the party leader they grow even more. Jumping ten times, then one hundred and so forth pays off. As does playing for a set amount of time and getting surprise attacks on the enemy. The implementation of this method made me rotate my party leader often so each could gain permanent bonuses throughout the journey. It also gave me a good excuse for my wife when she wondered why I played as Harley so often.
I had read that Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame did the music for Fairy Fencer. I was ecstatic. While playing through some of the songs sounded influenced by him but hardly the majority. Once I unlocked the Audio Gallery I found only one song was composed by him. That knowledge didn’t detract from the soundtrack as the music was pleasant and atmospheric. The characters are fully voiced and the cast did a tremendous job bringing the them to life. The sound effects were less welcoming. The enemies used recurring sounds which became a nuisance. Fighting the same enemy over and over on a map got tiresome hearing the same responses. I’m looking at you Bandit for saying “impossible” non stop. The foot step sound effect was also grating as it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the polished game.
The graphics and art of Fairy Fencer were as enjoyable as the rest of the game. You’re character models are in 3D. The bright and vibrant color palettes made the characters and environments enchanting. With such a varied and detailed world, there was always something to look forward to during the journey. I also liked collecting the various Furies. Each Fairy is displayed on a card in gorgeous detail. In addition, the character skill and magic attacks were mesmerizing. Watching your characters transformation when they Fairize in battle never got old. Some of the ultimate attacks rivaled those of my favorite JRPGS and I’ll often think back to Fairy Fencer as setting new milestones in the genre. Though nothing quite beats seeing Luminaire for the first time in Chrono Trigger.
I didn’t run into any technical issues during my first playthrough of more than 30 hours. I mostly played in docked mode. Playing Fairy Fencer in handheld was time consuming and I would lose hours until my battery indicator said enough is enough. The beauty of the art work and battles were in no way tarnished when playing on the go.
Fairy Fencer F was a joy to play. When taking on a large scale JRPG with several play through options available, it can seem like a daunting task for a completionist. Yet it never felt stale and I’m excited to see what other outcomes my heroes will face. I highly recommend Fairy Fencer F to anyone who enjoys a colorful JRPG with an equally colorful cast. Maybe I just resonate with the lazy, food loving main character but it’s worth the 8GB and $39.99 price tag. The lewd content may be off putting for some and is the main reason I didn’t play with my children. It was a shame because my 9 year old girl loves JRPGs and I think she would have enjoyed the art and storyline of Fairy Fencer.
- Highly Re-playable
- Large Cast
- Gorgeous Art
- Intuitive Mechanics
- Clanky Sound Effects
- Not Suitable for Children