“Formulaic” is normally a phrase rolled out as a gentle negative when nothing inventive or new takes place in a game. In the case of Compile Heart’s Fairy Fencer F, formulaic means that you already know what to expect and you can easily dive in and just concentrate on enjoying the story and gameplay, and let it wrap itself around you like a warm duvet of JRPG-ness while feeding you chicken soup.
Initially, Fairy Fencer F is as generic as they come: a grumpy protagonist, a mysterious female accomplice, a quirky and annoying sidekick, enemies with grand schemes and an all-encompassing eternal battle between good and evil. But before you scroll down to the inevitable average score with bored, bleary eyes, I ask you to read on.
You see, Fairy Fencer F knows all of this. It knows it’s treading a well-trodden path. It knows it’s throwing the same things at you as everyone else and isn’t afraid to poke fun at its own situation and cast. Take Squall- sorry, I mean Fang. Take Fang: he’s not the sharpest “fury sword” in the place where they keep the Furies. Likely to complain about hunger more often than wanting to push on towards the next quest, abrupt and constantly peckish, he is only moody because Compile know that their competition mostly have moody characters.
You then have Eryn, a fairy that lives within a fury sword, who is constantly in a state of irritation because of Fang’s lack of urgency. She clearly doesn’t trust Tiara, who joins Fang’s quest early on as another Fencer, and makes her thoughts clear about this on a regular basis. Tiara is the mysterious girl with the mysterious past who is also looking to collect Furies.
There are regular stops in the game for some well written and snappy dialogue, which is often quite funny. It helps to build up the story and relationship between the characters and provides regular breaks from the main game. Again, it often makes a point of reminding you that it knows what type of game it is, which is very refreshing and adds to the overall charm.
Eryn the fairy is responsible for giving you tutorials through the game, in the form of a series of lessons showing you how to use everything from the map to your characters’ powers. Her lessons are fast and frequent at the beginning, not too long to become too annoying and always add something that makes the game slightly more manageable or take you in a new direction.
The action centres on a map, upon which areas are unlocked by dialogue or using Furies in specified areas to open dungeons. You will regularly visit the Tomb of the Goddess and Vile God to unlock more of the Furies powers which assist you in battle. Beating a boss will allow you to unlock other areas in the map, which usually means a dungeon to explore full of monsters to take down.
The combat is very “Ni No Kuni” in its execution. It’s turn-based, but allows you to run around your opponents in order to give you the best position to attack – you can even attempt a preemptive strike before you start the battle. You’ll have chances to use magic or items or even special attacks based on your currently-equipped fury. Once you’ve reached a certain level in your charge gauge, you can activate your Fairize ability which will give you access to super attacks to gain the upper hand in a battle. The combat is never a chore. If there is one thing I dislike about some turned-based combat games, it’s that fights can go on for too long and turn into grinds. Fairy Fencer F makes you powerful enough without taking away the challenge, so you’ll go into a fight knowing that if you’ve stocked up on potions and lotions and have the right notion then you’ll even scrape by through the worst case scenario.
The graphics are simple and effective, with cutscenes providing most of the story and entertainment, especially thanks to the voice acting. The dungeon graphics aren’t much to write home about, but the dungeon inhabitants and the animations within the battles themselves make up for this by being varied and imaginative.
Fairy Fencer F should be an average game. It’s mediocre in almost everything it offers – it even has fetch quests. It notifies you when Fang has jumped more than ten times in a dungeon. The dialogue is cheese on toast. The story has been seen a thousand times before. Though through all of this, I kept on playing. I travelled the map and found new dungeons and chuckled at the dialogue. I learned battle strategies and new moves and started to care about completing the side quests. I found myself really enjoying the adventures of Fang and his Furies, which I wasn’t prepared to do. It’s certainly been crafted by someone who knows the genre, and as a result the soup is tasty and the duvet is very comfy indeed.
If you want a break from continuously chasing the so-called “next big thing” and fancy getting your teeth into a reliable, enjoyable and regularly funny RPG, then jump off the hype train and hang around with Fang and his gang of Fury hunters. You won’t be disappointed.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.