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Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force Review

A mere two years ago, Fairy Fencer F was released on the PS3. It is now being remastered and brought back with a release on the PS4, bigger and better than before. A bit of research on my part has shown that a lot has been added to the game. Lovers of the first release will find a lot to appreciate, as the original's hindrances have been attended to, but does that make it a great game?

All the traditional RPG storyline beats are here: the reluctant hero, the quest to save humanity that requires him to overcome his shortcomings and defeat the evil corporation that at first appears to be a benefit to mankind but has a hidden agenda, the evil second in command that acts as a chief protagonist, et cetera. The game presents the story via massive amounts of recorded audio files and simply animated avatars. Characters have some stances that are very similar, with perhaps a moved arm. Mouths are animated, and emotions are shown through facial expressions and anime emotion markers. Upgraded from the original, the game's storyline has expanded on the characters some considered shallow in the first release, giving them more of a reason to be there.

Battle scenes are reminiscent of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, where characters are placed in the field and have a range of motion and bevy of attacks to take down the enemy. From basic hits to magic, special abilities and items to super "fairized" attacks, you will build your attack style as your characters level. Improved from the original, you are able to have six characters active in your party at one time instead of the three, as in the original release. In addition, the difficulty and game mechanics have been adjusted accordingly. There are sections of the game that allow you to spread out and face larger enemies, a perfect challenge for your larger team.

In the field, you have to use "Furies," swords that are granted special abilities by the fairies locked within, to open up new regions. Stabbing these swords into the ground near a location unlocks it for your travel, and each Fury has abilities that augment the region both positively and negatively. You may get a 10% boost to your experience, but physical attacks will drop by 10%. These Furies are your main object to collect, with many characters acting as if the full set you can get a Dragonball-level wish, as many plan to use the power to create peace in the world.

The biggest addition to the game is two extra endings. In the first game, there was a Goddess to save, and that was pretty much it. Now, you can choose to resurrect the Vile God, or take a twist that leads to the Evil Goddess ending. This changes the last two thirds of the story, giving the plot ways to divert into more exciting stories. It gives a main mechanic of the game (resurrection of the Goddess) the needed heft that the original game lacked.

Perhaps my main complaint with the game, though, comes from it's depth. Not only is a player choosing which ancient deity to resurrect, determining which of your limited Furies to use to augment your characters while using others to unlock dungeons, but monitoring character growth is a multi-step process. You've got basic stat increases, equipment choices, and spreading out points that you can choose between unlocking new abilities or augmenting old ones via power boosts or increasing weapon damage or attack rates. Personally, I was two dungeons in and ready to give this game a wholeheartedly sour review because in order to defeat the simplest foe I would have to bust out the biggest attack, then I was terribly weak when I got to the boss. Finding this menu (which was a bit difficult for me to realize was there) allowed me to boost those stats and better face my foes. While I appreciate the depth, it seems as if it's trying to do an awful lot at once, and it was a bit overwhelming at times. There's even mundane bonuses you can get by having each character, as the lead, walk so many steps or jump so many times.  Once I was aware of all of the stats and how to boost them, I was able to keep up, but it often felt that character growth led to a lot of busywork that seemed unimportant when I was in the heat of battle.

I felt the story presentation was trying to do a lot as well. Character voices were nice, but when you're playing a deep game such as this, it's hard to sit and watch static characters move their mouths to dialogue, of which there is a lot of. I can read a lot faster than the characters speak, and as I got deeper into the game it was hard to sit and wait for the voice actors to catch up. While I liked the streamlined menu-based town interface, it got frustrating to go two levels down into a menu to see that all the game was alerting you to was a two-second side joke by a random townsperson that you might have walked right past if it were a traditional RPG town. Then there's the issue of fanservice. I'm not unfamiliar with fanservice, and it can be a fun bit of color as a part of developing a character, but there are times it felt jammed down my throat. At a particular tower, a character decides it is hot. Mind you, this isn't a "desert tower" or anything, she just feels the A/C could be kicked up here. This turns into a chance for the artists to flaunt a 90% disrobed picture of the character, whilst everyone else stares on in shock or awe, depending on their opinions. As I said in one of my Neptunia reviews, it would be amazing to be able to edit the unnecessary ones out of the game with an option menu. I'm not one to believe in censorship; in fact I applaud the company for creating what they want, but that particular scene felt shoved in for no use other than titillation, and I didn't need that character's breasts to jubble around every time she did her super move either. I just feel that it alienates a percentage of the population that could very well enjoy the game. I also didn't get the whole "Fairize" concept's execution. Okay, it makes your character stronger and unlocks new abilities. But why do we have to stab ourselves straight through the chest with our weaponry to activate? We aren't injured statwise, there's no sacrifice, we just get cool accessories. Again, just another odd story presentation that I have yet to have explained in game other than "that looks cool."

All of my gripes aside, though, I do enjoy the basic combat of the game. Mastering your characters in-menu is enjoyable and it feels as if you are truly growing a character via the myriad options they give you. In the field, you can attack preemptively if you are fast enough, allowing you the first turn. Basic attacks go directly in front of you, while special attacks can arc in front of you or radiate from your body. This means that with the right planning you can group your enemies and really lay the damage down. It does fall under the traditional RPG trope of identical battles as you go through a dungeon and finding a combination that becomes repetitive after a while, but finding that groove and getting through battles unscathed is very satisfying.  This is important to be enjoyable if you are going to maximize your enjoyment of the game. After all, to complete the game fully you are going to be playing it three times over, so it is integral for the core mechanics to be fun.

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force definitely outshines the original PS3 release. While wondrously upgraded from it's original, the game tries to be a Jack of All Trades, and the result is overwhelming at times. Mastering all of these different mechanics is wondrously satisfying, and you'll have plenty of time to get them down while making three trips through a traditionally lengthy RPG. So long as you can manage some awkwardly placed and unnecessary fanservice, you will find yourself an enjoyable title with a story worth following, and a branching story to flesh it out much like the most recent Fire Emblem. Fans of turn based combat that lands somewhere between Final Fantasy X and Dynasty Warriors will find an enjoyable combat system that will test their strategy muscles. If you can deal with a few flaws, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is definitely worth the time of a classic RPG fan.

Thanks to the developers for providing a digital copy of the game for review.

Final Review Score: 3.75/5

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