Fairy Fencer F (PS3) Review
Fairy Fencer F is the latest PlayStation 3 exclusive to come from Japanese developer Compile Heart. With franchises like Mugen Souls, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Record of Agarest War it's no surprise that this game is of the RPG genre.
As its title implies, the game revolves around the idea of Fencers, people who have made contracts with weapons containing fairies. These powerful fairy-infused weapons are known as Furies. These ancient weapons were once used in a war between the Goddess and Vile God in an attempt to defeat one another. In the end though, both deities were sealed by each other's attacks with the Furies. After the end of the fierce battle, the remaining Furies fell down to the mortal world where they awaited for a Fencer to collect them.
The story centers on one such Fencer, a selfish and very lazy individual named Fang. We are introduced to this unlikely hero after he is thrown in jail and manages to obtain a Fury containing the fairy Eryn. Despite his reluctance to become a Fencer, Fang is eventually roped into collecting all the other Furies in order to awaken the Goddess from her slumber. Along the way, he is joined by a myriad of equally colorful characters and their fairy companions.
At its core the storyline is fairly clichéd with many shonen manga like tropes, which is a pity due to the fact that the overall premise has a lot of potential. Much of the plot is straightforward and offers very little excitement, character development, or twists that I would have expected in an RPG. There are some dark undertones here and there that could possibly be expanded upon despite the light-hearted setting that the game tends to use. Part of this image is due to the fact that the dialogue is mostly whimsical. However, most of the fluff and banter is entertaining combined with the gung-ho deliveries of the excellent voiceovers. The translated dialogue has some interesting fourth-wall breaking and enough Western and Eastern humor sprinkled into the localization to keep people engaged. One thing to note though is that there are several moments of blatant fan-service, which is an aspect not uncommon in Compile Heart games.
Characterization wise, the cast of characters is fairly well rounded and surprisingly likeable. Akin to most JRPGs there's a character that fits an archetype, but the game does a good job keeping their personalities lively and distinct from one another. With this said, I have to say that Fang and Eryn are both rude and arrogant. They constantly seem to bicker at all times, which is quite unfortunate since after a while they can be very annoying. There's also a sense that most of the characters, with the exception of a few, don't seem to take issues very seriously which makes it hard for the player to care about the issues at hand.
While the story is lackluster, the combat systems and customization are both very enjoyable. There is a complex flexible system that lets you distribute WP (Weapon Points/EXP) into any area that you want. These points can be put into areas to unlock new spells, passives, and even new weapon forms. Within these weapon forms you can further customize your Fencer's attack combos. Want to string together sword attacks only or switch out weapons each time you attack? Go right ahead!
To emphasize more on customization there is the Fury/Fairy partner system where you can pair a Fencer with a fairy that best suits their stats or skill. These Furies can also be further customized with the Godly Revival system, which allows you to remove one of the Furies that has sealed either the Vile God or the Goddess. In turn you fuse the Fury with one of your fairies and score some sweet stat bonuses and skills like enhanced EXP or item find. It's interesting to note, that you don't have to remove all of the Furies from one god to clear the game, but doing so will definitely give your fairies an advantage on the battlefield. Perhaps the most intriguing feature is the World-Shaping feature. Fairies that aren't being used can be used to alter a dungeon's parameters drastically. You won't be able to use this fairy in battle with you, but the right World-Shaping can tip the scales in your favor.
The battle system of Fairy Fencer F is probably going to be very familiar to those who've played Mugen Souls or other turn based games. Battles are turn-based with free-roaming capabilities during your turn. Characters can run around on a battlefield in order to get closer to an enemy before using an action. Attack combos can chain different weapon types, and if an enemy is constantly hit with its weakness the whole party can unleash combo attacks as a reward. There are only three members in your active party, but they can easily be switched out with your inactive ones. I actually enjoyed the fact that you could position your characters adding a little bit of depth tactically to the otherwise stale and standard turn-based approach. There are some disadvantages with it as you can now only escape by running to the edge of the battlefield, and targeting becomes quite tricky. It may take several tries to position your characters exactly the way you want to execute a multi-hitting attack for example. Standard to most JRPGs these days, Fairy Fencer F also features a "Limit Break / Overlimit"-style meter that gradually fills up when you take damage or dish out attacks. When it fills up you can fuse with your Fury "Fairize" and dish out lots of damage.
In terms of presentation, Fairy Fencer F has aspects that it has done very well on and some that definitely need to be improved upon in the future. The game absolutely shines with its 2D presentation in terms of artwork and user interface. Dialogue is presented in visual novel style, which should be no surprise to Compile Heart veterans. The character artwork is heavily detailed and beautifully rendered with some minor 2D puppetry effects to give them some life. Also the character designs are all visually appealing and have nice color palettes to accentuate them. Interestingly enough, the color choices for the characters and environments seemed more toned down compared to previous entries such as Mugen Souls. Yoshitaka Amano was said to be one of the concept designers on this game but I'm not entirely sure if I recognized any of his art in the game as they're a departure from his normal work.
The user interfaces, HUD, and navigational displays are crisp and clear. While they are still fairly colorful, the designers had a good array of texture choices and placement to make these elements visually appealing. Thankfully even though there are a lot of choices and menus in the game, Fairy Fencer F takes the time to walk you through every aspect of the game. Even with that, most of the menus are fairly self-explanatory and easy to navigate with time.
In terms of the items that could be improved upon. Sadly I have to say that the 3D models in this game are subpar. They have very little detail and seem cheap-looking. Environments are sadly very sparse and linear. In my opinion, the environments are the biggest letdown in Fairy Fencer F as it makes the locations seem very boring and uninspired. Dungeons as a result suffer a lot from linearity and are actually very small areas. The pre-rendered cutscenes look decent, but suffers from texture quality as well. It's truly a shame that the 3D models and environments aren't as visually spectacular as the 2D components.
The soundtrack for Fairy Fencer F is decent but also somewhat bland in fashion. The sound cues have very little variation and aren't very memorable like other game OSTs. However, there are some neat vocal themes mixed in during special attacks and when a character Fairizes. I appreciated the fact that you could switch the game's audio from English to Japanese if you wish. Overall though, I found that the English voice overs did a pretty good job with their characters.
Fairy Fencer F was certainly an interesting game to play through. At first I was highly put off by the two main characters, but the farther I got into the game the more I started to be entertained by the antics of Fang and his Fencer friends. While the graphics and story certainly aren't a focus of this JRPG, the gameplay seems decently thought out with the amount of customization for your characters and solid battle system. Even though there are still many flaws here and there, the game is still pretty fun as long as you don't take the storyline and the characters too seriously.
- Great 2D Presentation
- Fun/Solid Combat System
- Customization options galore
- Likeable characters and interactions
- Bland and uninspired 3D models/environments
- Lackluster story
- Protagonists are very annoying at first
- Fan service might be a big turn off for some
- Frame rate issues when there's lots of action on the screen
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor.