Swords with cute anime girls inside of them? That sounds somewhat familiar...
For the most part, Fairy Fencer F Advent Dark Force goes pretty much the way you’d expect of your average JRPG: handsome anime boy finds sword; sword is magic and has cute anime girl within it; cute anime girl tells handsome anime boy that his destiny is to save the world; they meet cute anime girl #2 and her furry companion; they form a party in order to save the world, and so on and so forth. There’s not much variation on the usual formula, but that doesn’t mean that it’s entirely without merit. A remaster of the 2013 game created by the same team as the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise, Fairy Fencer F completely lives up to the expectations set by its pedigree, for better or for worse.
Long ago in the world of Fairy Fencer F, two deities known as the Goddess and the Vile God engulfed the world in a fierce war, the Goddess attempting to protect the planet and the Vile God attempting to destroy it. This war was fought using magical blades known as “Furies,” each of which was inhabited and empowered by a creature known as a fairy. The war came to an abrupt end when both deities used their furies to seal the other, and any furies not used in the seal were scattered around the earth.
Many years later, we are introduced to our main character, a young man named Fang. Fang loves eating and sleeping and not much else. He’s selfish and lazy and generally does not like the idea of being a hero. While on a walk through a small town he encounters a fury famous among the townspeople for being impossible to pull out of the ground. Being a JRPG protagonist, Fang yanks it out with ease and is introduced to Eryn, the fairy living within the blade he’s just acquired. She informs him that this action has made him a Fencer, and his duty is now to travel the world and gather the rest of the furies. He initially refuses this calling but begrudgingly changes his tune when Eryn reveals that she has lost all of her memories. Fang decides that the least he can do is help her find another fairy that will recognize her. From there, the two begin their journey, meeting your usual colorful cast of party members along the way.
The main cast appears to have been created using a checklist of anime tropes and includes a sheltered rich girl and her furry companion and an “asset-laden” gunslinger with a penchant for stripping at the drop of a hat (or rising of temperature), among others. Though these tropes may be generic, that doesn’t make them unmemorable, as each character still manages to stand out in their own way and their interactions with each other prove to be at least slightly entertaining. Some aspects can get uncomfortable, though. For instance, when Fang uses derogatory language towards the character Tiara, she appears to actively become aroused, which caused more than a bit of collar-tugging on my part. The game appears to be unable to figure out whether it wants to be a parody or to be taken seriously, awkwardly toeing the line between the two sides constantly.
The dungeons are your standard JRPG fare, once again seeming like they’re being picked from a checklist. Some hills, a volcano, an ice cave, abandoned cities: it’s all pretty much what you’d expect to find. Sadly, none of them are really designed like something meant to be explored, instead feeling more like a rail system leading you from Event A to Event B and so on until you’ve hit the boss and completed the dungeon. Movement feels dated and janky in small ways, though this is probably a result of the game being older. Nevertheless, things like the overly sensitive movement or colliders that stay in place for just a tad too long have the tendency to turn the already boring dungeons into a slightly annoying affair.
The battle system is simple and easy to learn, something you wouldn’t necessarily believe after the seemingly endless tutorial screens the game shoves you through. During their turn, characters have free movement ability within a certain area, and attacks are aimed using an orange area of effect. Certain abilities can hit multiple enemies within a certain range, while others can only target one enemy at a time. Each character also has a special ability known as “Fairize” that transforms them and causes their overall stats to skyrocket. Overall, combat in Fairy Fencer F is not a very deep experience, with the main strategy often devolving into ganging up on a single enemy or hoping the enemies put themselves into a position that allows you to hit multiple at once.
By far the most interesting part of Fairy Fencer F is its multiple story routes and the way it allows the player to decide which one they’d like to experience. After retrieving a fury from a dungeon, the player will return to their base and from there can enter Godly Revival. Here they are presented with a sealed Goddess and Vile God, allowing them to choose which one to break a portion of the seal off of using their newly-acquired fairy. Depending on which swords and when you decide to remove them, the story and your relationships with certain characters will change.
The game also advertises music by the one and only Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame, and it’s very easy to tell which songs he was or was not involved with. Music ranges from awesome rock pieces to a track seemingly played by a trombone player who has long since given up. Sound balancing is also a problem in some parts, with footsteps being ten times louder than they should be and multiple scenes where ambient crowd noise is so loud that it completely overpowers any dialogue being spoken by the cast.
Despite all its flaws, however, I cannot completely count out Fairy Fencer F. It is dated and may not be a great game or even a good game all things considered, but overall I would consider it a pretty okay choice if you’re simply browsing the eShop in search of a quick “junk food” JRPG. There’s not a lot of substance to it, but it will at least keep you busy and entertained in some form for the twenty or so hours it will take you to complete a single route.