Shining in the darkness
Following the release of last February’s Megadimension Neptunia VII, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is the latest RPG from developer Compile Heart to make its way to the PlayStation 4. While more of a remaster than a sequel to the 2014 PlayStation 3 original, Advent Dark Force spit shines the delightfully quirky adventure, bringing one of the studio’s most well received adventures to a new audience, complete with a handful of fresh mechanics to keep veteran adventurers interested. However, does a fresh coat of paint and the addition of a few new features make this HD retelling worth experiencing all over again? Read on to find out!
While Compile Heart’s previous releases were certainly no slouches when it came to style, Fairy Fencer F brings with it a stable of talent to make it stand out from the developer’s previous offerings. Firstly, the game features some fantastic concept art and music by Final Fantasy veterans Yoshitaka Amano and Nobuo Uematsu, which pair surprisingly well with Neptunia character designer Tsunako’s vibrant character designs. The game also delivers a story which, while still lighthearted, manages to stay a little more grounded than the goofball antics we’ve come to expect from the developer’s past releases. All of this comes together to craft an adventure that delivers plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments while still keeping you glued to the screen to see where the story goes next.
For those just making it to the Fairy Fencer F shindig, the game’s story centers around Fang, a notoriously lazy swordsman who inadvertently gets pulled into a grand quest after removing an Excalibur-like sword from a stone in a village. After hoisting the sword out of the stone like a lethargic King Arthur with a serious case of tapeworm, Fang inadvertently frees Eryn, a fairy who resides within the enchanted sword. It turns out this long-forgotten blade is called a Fury, a powerful weapon wielded by Fencers, brave swordsmen who collect these ancient relics to use their powers to resurrect a fallen Goddess. Shortly after crossing paths, Fang and Eryn encounter Tiara, a mysterious maiden, and the trio set off on a quest that takes them all over a wild fantasy world, crossing paths with numerous allies and menacing forces bent on using the power of the Furies for their own ends.
While Fairy Fencer F‘s core package is entertaining enough, Advent Dark Force also brings with it a handful of new updates and enhancements to make it stand out over the original release. The most notable of these changes comes in the form of the new Godly Revival system. At the Sunflower Inn, players can access the Godly Revival menu, which allows you to use the Furies you’ve equipped to remove swords that are lodged in both the sealed Vile God and benevolent Goddess. Removing these swords not only rewards players with helpful bonuses, but it also opens up the pathway to two new stories, each with their own foes you’ll encounter, allies you’ll side with, and endings to uncover. Of course, you can always leave well enough alone and continue with the original game’s story arc, but this unique mechanic adds a welcome incentive to complete multiple playthroughs to see how things unfold.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force also does a bit to spice up the core gameplay. For starters, the game now offers three difficulty levels to choose from to better tailor the game to your skill level. The game’s combat system has been expanded to support 6 party at once members at once, making the game’s fast and frantic battles more action-packed than ever before. You’ll even cross paths with new characters NPCs who can be added to your party, breathing new life into the experience. These new additions to the game’s formula are great, but a few nagging issues that plagued the original game still rear their head to give you a headache. It’s not uncommon for enemies to unleash area of effect spells repeatedly, which can quickly reduce your party into a pile of mush with little you can do to defend yourself. The computer also revels in piling up on your party’s healer, which can make some of the game’s more challenging boss battles a bit maddening a times. Still, if you stock up on healing items and take on plenty of side quests you’ll typically be able to tough things out without any real trouble.
The new features don’t exactly make Advent Dark Force feel like an entirely new game, but they are welcome additions that feel right at home grafted onto the framework of the original and make for a better overall experience. Still, while most of the game’s changes are for the better, it’s a bit disappointing that some of the visual quibbles from the original title weren’t ironed out for this HD release. For starters, the various dungeons you’ll explore still feel largely barren and lifeless; a problem that’s persisted in many of Compile Heart’s other titles. It gets to the point you’ll notice that some of the dungeons are even comprised of identical rooms to those discovered in other stages, which is a bit disappointing. Also, it’s worth mentioning that while the updated visuals look quite sharp, the animations for the dungeon-crawling segments are stiff and awkward, and simple actions like jumping and striking enemies before a battle feel stiff and cumbersome.
On the subject of those dungeons I mentioned earlier, they’re pretty easy to breeze through. These largely barren corridors offer no real puzzles to speak of or any distractions to keep you from racing from the entrance to the inevitable boss encounter, save for a few tucked away item crystals to collect or barrels to shatter in your quest for shiny loot. That said, you’ll likely wrap up multiple dungeons in one sitting without any real trouble. While those gaming on a limited schedule may appreciate this, it admittedly makes the story breeze by at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, many of the scenes that would otherwise pack an emotional punch end up feeling somewhat halfhearted as a result.
Having said that, I have to stress that these gripes do little to stand in the way of what Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force ultimately is: a fantastic RPG that isn’t afraid to show us its cheeky nature one minute while exploring darker themes the next. What’s more, the game features a fast-paced combat system that grants players a satisfying degree of freedom as they enhance their spells, unlock and customize new combos, and perform explosive “Fairize” abilities, which transform your party into almost comically powerful death machines – all without a single stutter thanks to the PS4’s added muscle.
When all is said and done, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is a welcome addition to the PS4’s library of role playing games. Developer Compile Heart’s smart changes and refinements to the game’s classic formula do a great job of adding to the package while giving those who’ve previously experience the game a reason to experience the game once again. The game isn’t without its faults such as its unimaginative dungeons and sometimes frustrating encounters, but these nagging issues never manage to put much of a damper on an adventure that’s simply just too fun to put down. If you’ve yet to experience Fairy Fencer F, there’s no better time than now to take up your sword and be a hero.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed) ; Publisher: Idea Factory International ; Developer: Compile Heart ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 26, 2016 ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.