Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force Review
A zany, turn-based JRPG, Fairy Fencer F is the long but comical journey of an unenthused hero forced into a quest to save the world.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is an expanded version of the original Fairy Fencer F which released on PlayStation 3 in 2013, with improved graphics, extended party system allowing more characters available in battles at once, and additional story routes — giving you the option to play through evil versions of the storyline instead of the standard “save the world” line.
You play as reluctant hero Fang, a hapless guy who managed to pull an Excalibur-esque sword from the ground on a whim. Turns out this sword is a fury: a powerful weapon that houses a fairy, who immediately joins Fang, introduces herself as Eryn, and explains that he’s now a fencer and is expected to retrieve the other hundred or so furies from across the land.
Fang, of course, isn’t too pleased; he just wants to eat and sleep. Although it feels like Fang is meant to be the classic reluctant, lazy protagonist often found in anime, he often comes across as unlikeable or even obnoxious, which is unfortunate. It’s not easy playing a game when you can’t relate to the character you play as, let alone one you dislike, but thankfully he starts developing over the game into a more likeable hero.
Most characters you’ll meet in Fairy Fencer F are standard anime archetypes; the bubbly go-getter, the overly serious one, the maniac. The way they interact with each other with teases and bashes is pretty funny, and lightly taps into the comedy fare you’d expect to see in harem anime. Each character is well designed, drawn excellently and with high quality voice acting to help bring their individual eccentricities and personalities to life.
The game comes across as a videogame equivalent of an anime episode — battles have somewhat a look and feel of anime fights, and the game features animated intro credits with a typical J-Pop backing song. Much of the soundtrack is contributed to by Nobuo Uematsu, best known for his seminal work on the majority of the Final Fantasy series, and the quality is consistent throughout.
Save the Goddess, save the world
From the game’s world map you’re able to visit the city of Zelwinds, where you’re able to talk to locals, shop for accessories and items, and pick up and claim quests from the local pub. This is also where you’ll be able to visit your inn, from which you can hop into a different dimension to find the petrified remains of the ancient Goddess and her arch-rival, the Vile God. Each deity is covered in furies, and each fury retrieved from exploring the game can be used to withdraw a fury of the same quality from either god.
Pulling a sword from a deity summons a difficult fight, but will add new effects to the fury you chose, which can be applied as modifiers to any world zone. These can include gaining additional XP in zones, boosting your stats or even temporarily changing the monsters residing there — essential for bounty hunting quests — but also typically come with a negative modifier too. A fury that boosts XP gain may significantly reduce currency drops, another may increase your damage but prevent you from healing.
The general goal is to remove all furies from the Goddess, and this is encouraged by your companions; however, you’re free to pick a darker path and instead pull furies from the Vile God instead, whose revival is stated to destroy the world. Fairy Fencer F has three possible endings, based upon how you approach freeing the deities.
Get in there and kill something
Entering a dungeon location from the world map puts you into a free roam area of that zone, in which you can run around traversing the environment and collecting the odd piece of loot.
Enemy packs populate the zones, generally patrolling very small areas but will give chase if they spot you. Upon contact, you’ll be pulled into combat with that pack. If you strike them as you or they approach, you’ll get a first-strike bonus, letting your entire party move and attack first; if they reach you before that, you’ll be ambushed and they’ll get the first attacks in.
Players used to modern turn-based combat games such as the Disgaea or Neptunia series will feel right at home with Fairy Fencer F‘s battle system. Combat is turn based, with characters moving and attacking in sequence — slower characters will have to wait longer to move. Each attack has its own recovery speed too, with higher damage strikes causing a greater delay before that character can next act.
Combat has the usual options: striking with weapons, casting magic, or defending. Special attack skills and magic abilities all draw from the same resource pool, so developing well-rounded characters is important; neglecting SP in favor of pure attack stats on a warrior figure will backfire if they don’t have the SP to perform their best assaults.
For really tough battles, you’ll want to utilise your power to “fairize” — temporarily merging with your assigned fairy and transforming into a stronger, more resilient form with access to additional skills, many of which are devastating but cost a large amount of your own health pool to trigger. These transformations come with cool little animated sequences, though the cliché rock music that comes with fairize form feels more like you’re watching Power Rangers combine their zords.
Combat feels well balanced in Fairy Fencer F, with boss battles being suitably challenging — you’ll need to make good use of fairize form and party abilities, with some foes having certain weak spots which you’ll have to find and wear down first.
One of the highlights of battles are the fantastic sequences triggered when you fire off your strongest abilities, which have a real hype to them. It really feels like you’re annihilating some faces, and it’s a fun experience that rarely gets stale enough to warrant skipping.
For experts and those who love to grind stats, you can choose to start the game in Hard mode. That’s precisely how we started off, but be warned; the game is very difficult on its highest setting, with even tutorial NPCs causing the dreaded game over screen to appear. For most players, we’d strongly recommend starting the game on normal difficulty and raising it on a second playthrough.