It’s always nice to build up a collection of quality games, and when a company continues to produce games from favourite genres you particularly get attached to, it’s always a bonus with expectation and excitement when there’s the announcement of future titles and sequels.
A catalogue of games and spending hours of gameplay and experiencing what it has to offer to bring up plenty of little facets within a certain set of games within that genre. You begin to notice and gain insight into the creators’ and designers’ minds, the ideas that were later used and expanded and enhanced to create fresh experiences. Some games are used as a base template if you like, yet still exhibit those strands of DNA to further create something else.
Examples would be coming from a big gun in the Idea Factory / Compile Heart arsenal.
The Mary Skelter Trilogy established as one of the most popular and respected series in the first-person dungeon crawler genre, was soon exposed as not being entirely plucked from obscurity as an entirely new concept and idea.
My later experience with owning and playing the two titles in the Moero Chronicles series soon brought about that connection and realisation that this was familiar. This was essentially the older parent that conceived and brought Mary Skelter into the world.
The standard dungeons contained in the game were the template of what would later be redesigned and enhanced. The main character “The Pervert” would eventually be replaced as “Jack” with ecstasy abilities and meter in battle segments replaced with blood, and the monster girls were reintroduced and restyled to be eventually regarded as blood maidens.
It’s from here that we get to our title for this review with the very same premise that I’ve just discussed.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on the Nintendo Switch is a game that arrives with a great deal of that aforementioned familiarity and borrowing from another big and much-loved franchise in this company’s long list of releases, yet containing some fresh ideas and takes of its own, both positive and not-so-positive.
At the Fairy Beginning…
Fairy Fencer F is a 2013 fantasy role-playing game under Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG brand for the PlayStation 3 with a Windows version that was released on August 4, 2015.
An expanded version, titled Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, was released in Japan in 2015 for the PlayStation 4 and was released worldwide in 2016. It received ports for Windows in 2017 and finally on Nintendo Switch in 2019.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is an enhanced remaster of the original game for PlayStation 4, Windows and Nintendo Switch. It features extended fights, updated graphics, rebalancing, new story routes and character endings. The Switch version includes all of the new DLC on the PlayStation 4 version.
In a faraway land, the goddess of light and the vile God battled for supremacy over who was to rule the land forever. In a bitter confrontation, the goddess emerged victorious but was tinged with darkness as both deities locked before falling to the ground. The weapons used in the fight were known as Furies. Powerful weapons infused with fairies, granting each weapon powerful abilities and magic.
As they both lay silent with many furies embedded in their bodies and entombed in a shell-like grip with their powers sealed. Some furies in the heat of battle were scattered across the land and leaving the very fate of the world in the hands of the fencers.
People with the unique ability to hold and use furies and embellish the power to eventually free the deities.
But where does fate take them…for the greater good or evil?
After a lavish and exceptional quality intro to the game with some great music by the composer Nobuo Uematsu. We are taken straight into the game and introduced to the protagonist of the game Fang. A man oblivious to his huge task of trying to save the world he lives in and quite happy to dwell in the prison where he can eat and sleep when he wants.
This doesn’t go down well with his partner Eryn. An amnesiac fairy tied to fang, after he accidentally draws the town’s fury sword from a stone, and becomes initiated as a fencer.
This is the start of a fantastically funny relationship between the two. An adventure of witty put-downs and sarcasm as fang embodies his display of arrogance and male chauvinism as all he wants to do is eat food, much to the annoyance, irritation and dismay of his fairy partner.
It soon becomes time to leave the prison and after much persuasion, fang is plunged into the first area of gameplay within the walls of a prison dungeon.
The dungeon scenario acts as the first game tutorial as players explore the corridors for treasures and specific keys to unlock doors into other areas and eventually escape.
Naturally, the areas are not short of enemies in the forms of prison guards and like most games, your position as you approach them greatly affects your stance in battle. Facing them head-on will give you a first “preemptive strike” whilst getting caught off guard risks getting “ambushed” and the enemy striking first.
In a circular area battle “zone”, players take a free-roaming turn-based set of actions to defeat enemies and win the battle.
It’s here that it’s quickly apparent that this game borrows very heavily from the combat in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series of games as regards the freedom of movement and the basic combat actions required to win.
Yet with that aside, life as a fencer carries its own fresh and unique attributes added with it.
Scattered through the kingdom are furies. The weapons contain fairies that can be collected and infused into the weapon you are carrying. Each fairy carries unique elemental abilities that can be upgraded through experience in battle or can be amassed and selected as you wish to gain the player a wide range of strategic options to choose from.
As you battle, the fairy fencer infusion gives you two options. A set of unique special attack moves aside from the basic attack moves and after several attack turns the ability to “Fairize”. This transforms your player into an almost robotic powerhouse of its former self with the ability to execute a range of multi-combo power moves with devastating power.
After leaving the prison dungeon, the game begins to open up with fang at Zelwinds City. Our base and the main hub for operations before leaving the city and exploring the world map.
It’s here that players can talk to other residents, buy items from Tomoe’s Shop, view events and take on side quests at Guillermo’s Pub and talk to people in Fountain Plaza.
From there a good majority of time is taken on the world map, where you will visit a dungeon location, explore around to gather items, unlock story segments and eventually reach an area containing a dungeon boss or character next to the location of a hidden fury.
Defeat them and the fury is yours to keep and use, infuse your weapon, even use it to unlock a secret dungeon location and grant buffs giving the player extra gold or extra xp, but most importantly to use on Godly revival.
Revealed to you just after the first dungeon, at the sunflower inn in Zelwinds city, godly revival involves the player facing the statues of the fallen deities, the goddess of light and the vile god. Players are then requested to pick a certain body part area with a weapon embedded and then use a specific fairy collected to remove the weapon granting the fairy extra abilities once it’s removed and with one of three different endings in the game, players’ choice on the ending is dependent on which god you choose and eventually free.
So as gameplay progresses, it becomes a session of several stages. Zelwinds city to buy items, take on side quests or subquest story missions. Explore the world map and complete dungeons for furies, activating storylines and gaining other characters to expand your party. Go back to zelwinds city, remove a weapon from a deity, rinse, repeat.
As your party expands, so does your wealth of options as battle experience not only levels up your character and party in terms of statistics but also builds WP (Weapon points) to increase and build a staggering amount of new skills, abilities and a bonus of increasing your fencer rank granting you access to finding furies of a higher rank with greater abilities.
Dungeon bosses are for a large part, a decent chunk of your gameplay time as difficulty with enemies leading up to it is not much of a challenge. Not big in stature and yet they’re beefy enough with a good amount of variation in their attack styles and elemental abilities to give players a decent challenge as they look for weaknesses and try to gain the upper hand.
For a good amount of gameplay parts, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable romp!
Graphics and Performance…
Unfortunately, an otherwise great game is instantly held back by two major puzzling and generally confusing issues.
This will instantly become apparent in the very first battle in the games tutorial chapter when from a razor-sharp series of impressive cutscenes, you are taken to a battleground with a huge downturn in graphical quality, combined with another hit back down in framerate.
If you can imagine trying to play a game through misty spectacles, then you’ll get the idea of what you’ll be faced with, and this combined with very stuttery and janky movement between your party and enemy characters is suddenly a huge letdown considering the presentation, menus and cutscenes are at such a high standard.
Confusing because the same experience happens with Megadimension Neptunia 7. And confused because at least for that game, there were several in-game configuration options to tinker with and get the game running smoother and at a much better higher spec.
Sadly, for this game here, there’s puzzlingly very little in the way of options to do anything about it, and you’re left pretty much stuck with the downgrade for the entirety of the game.
The same goes for the game’s lack of a setting for a brightness option.
Dungeons and caves soon come across as painfully dark to the point of being unable to spot enemies or any items of interest without being just a few feet away from them.
Whilst this could be termed as credible because “caves are dark, dungeons are not renowned for a high standard of indoor lighting”, I’ve yet to come across any game before this that has areas this dark, and requires players to adjust the console brightness settings as an only means to rectify the problem, seems harsh when it could have been implemented as a game setting.
As regards performance as well, there’s no reason the game should randomly crash as much as it does.
Just under one hour into my game brought up a system “software error message” because you can only save in town areas by choice or from a very few points in dungeon area settings. This is a big problem regarding trusting the game for large chunks of time exploring and progressing through the dungeons, with that hidden dread and fears that your game may suddenly crash out at any moment. It happened personally, costing me the inconvenience of restarting from a save point in the very first point of save at the very first dungeon. Having to skip text story sections and complete the first outside area before being given the chance to save again.
To top that, my game shortly after, just glitched in the second area of the first already mentioned outside dungeon, with a “now loading” message constantly flashing with movement occurring everywhere but my main character, the only thing unable to move in battle, and forcing me yet another restart.
Happily Ever After…?
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is a game that packs a few surprises. Most prominent and relating to what I explained in my introduction, a game that should have been a standard Hyperdimension Neptunia clone, turns out to be something much more different.
Extending away from the clutches of a standard JRPG genre, the pacing with short bursts from hub to dungeons and vice versa steers this more into monster hunter-style gameplay. The high-paced and high-standard fighting cutscenes exhibit signs of an arcade fighter.
Add the hilariously funny and adorable characters, 5 difficulty levels, NG+, Three different endings and a good chunk of DLC added to the mix granting tons of replayability at a decent price of £29.99 and it comes recommended.
NOTE: The performance and stability issues were experienced in the first few hours of gameplay and written at that time for the review from the digital download. It can be fixed by transferring system data files from the SD card to system memory.
This was left in the review for anyone wishing to buy the game and this fix was provided as a guide, should you experience similar issues.
Review scores are not affected.
Thanks to Idea Factory / Compile Heart for the code