Like Mugen Souls with less craziness.
There seems to have been a massive influx of JRPGs for the PS3 in recent months, something which fans of the genre will no doubt be pleased about. From the relatively mundane to the outright zany, there is a JRPG out there to suit every taste. The latest from NIS America and Compile Hearts manages to sit quite comfortably in the middle of this spectrum, with confusion and weirdness combining with cookie-cutter characters and an almost run-of-the-mill fantasy story.
Fairy Fencer F is not the most awe-inspiring title, but it does give a good idea of what to expect – fairies, fencing (albeit a little less dainty than what I think of as fencing) and F, which could possibly stand for Fury or maybe Fang. Okay, maybe it doesn’t describe the game as well as it could, but it is the title of a JRPG – what did you expect?
The story in Fairy Fencer F won’t hold any surprises, being a relatively familiar tale, but still manages to be quite enjoyable. The hero of the game, Fang, wanders into a new town and his hungry. Hearing about a sword stuck in a stone that can grant wishes to anyone who can pull the sword free, he immediately does so and takes a loaf of bread from a nearby vendor as his reward. However, things are not that straight forward and he gets arrested for shoplifting.
The sword happens to be a Fury, one of many spread around the world that are being used to hold a good and evil god in some kind of stasis, and comes with a Fairy called Eryn. Eryn doesn’t really know what is going on, but knows enough to realise that she and Fang, to whom she is now bound, must gather the rest of the Furies and their Fairies. She is quite enthusiastic about the quest, a feeling which Fang doesn’t share.
In fact, Fang is quite happy to be in prison. There, he gets meals and can spend all day sleeping. He also doesn’t appreciate being told what to do, so when Eryn tries to free him from prison so that they can set off on their quest to save the world, he is not best pleased. Reluctantly, and with the promise of granted wishes, he comes around and the two of them set off to find some more swords and free a god.
Through the course of their journey, new stereotypical characters will join their group and bring their own limited personalities to the game. While the depth of these characters is questionable, they flesh out the game and keep it moving forward.
And so, the player will find themselves exploring the map in search of Furies, taking on side quests and investigating dungeons. Sadly, it is all a bit grindy and repetitive, although the ability to use Fairies to change entire dungeons through “World Shaping” is an interesting inclusion. What is more interesting though, is the battle mechanic.
The combat in Fairy Fencer F is turn-based, but has free movement within the arena of battle. This means that the player has to move their team, when it is their turn, to be within range of the enemy they wish to attack, and opens up very real tactical possibilities that the player can take advantage of, or fall foul to. As the game progresses, combos become a very real possibility and the chance to use an enemies weakness against them mixes things up even further.
Then there is the chance to Fairize, which is possibly the worst name ever for a cool in-game transformation. Once a meter is filled up enough, the player is able to combine their character with their Fairy, giving way to a transformation into a vastly more powerful, and very cool, form. The combat can be tricky and would lead to frustration if not for the ability to Fairize. It also happens to come with a rather fun animation which CAN NOT BE SKIPPED, so be warned!
Progression will lead to the player gathering Weapon Points which can be used to upgrade weapons and learn new skills. Unfortunately, while the weapon points do lead to some very cool skills, things can get expensive which will lead to yet more grinding to afford. However, the system is fairly straight forward, something which is not always the case in JRPGs.
Visually, Fairy Fencer F is relatively average. The actual gameplay itself is quite nice to look at. The characters are of a decent size and reasonably detailed with a typical anime style. Yet the overworld seems bland and underdeveloped in comparison. The soundtrack for the game is surprisingly memorable and upbeat, although will not be for everyone. In fact, some players may actually be driven insane by certain, regularly repeating, tunes.
Fairy Fencer F has some nice ideas, but doesn’t manage to do enough to truly stand out in the JRPG genre. Those who are fans of the Compile Hearts games will find plenty of familiarity here to entertain them for many hours, but there is little here to recommend the game over other JRPGs. Fairy Fencer F is good fun, but nothing special.