By Renan Fontes 13.02.2017
In many ways, Steam has been following in the footsteps of the PS1 and PS2 as a sort of haven for JRPGs. Last generation saw the genre fall out of the mainstream eye and, with the exception of a few key titles, the Japanese style RPGs that once dominated the market were mostly relegated to handhelds. Recently, several RPGs from the last two gens have been resurfacing on Steam. Big name and small developers alike have been porting their content to the platform, and Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is Compile Heart's latest effort in trying to get more mileage out of its title. Does the 2013 PS3 game find a suitable home on Steam, or should it have been left behind to history?
As good as it is that Steam is becoming a home for all sorts of old and new RPGs, it also adopts the same problems the PS1 and PS2 had that ultimately led to JRPGs being pushed into the background: oversaturation.
Oversaturation doesn't diminish the value of already great games, but it certainly makes it more difficult to wade through the bad and find the good. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is the latest in that sea of mediocrity that can harm a genre's reputation.
Advent Dark Force is an updated port of 2013's Fairy Fencer F. The story focuses on a sleeping goddess and god, one good and one evil, who, when awakened, will either bring prosperity or ruin to the world. It has potential to be an engaging and thought provoking narrative on religious consequence, but instead chooses to opt for perhaps the worst JRPG approach to deities where there isn't much substance under the surface.
The main character, Fang, also falls into a rather generic archetype. He is a lazy, hungry, and hot blooded young man who finds himself holding the fate of the world in his hands, all while juggling his very own harem.
To his credit, Fang does develop over the course of the story and grows into a more respectable and admirable character, but it feels understated by the fact that everything in Advent Dark Force has been done before.
Homages are great, and some of the best video games have utilised homage to bolster their quality. In referencing and paying tribute to genre staples, however, those very games also try to expand and redefine the formula, something that Compile Heart seems to have very little interest in.
There are elements of time travel that add some flair of identity to the story, but they feel rather forced into the narrative without much thought put into how it could fit. This is not a problem unique to the time travel aspect, as Fang and his party travel from town to town with little objective outside of their goal of making sure the evil Vile God isn't awakened.
Fang's party lacks a tremendous amount of depth, especially for an RPG with an insanely high story to gameplay ratio. The majority of Advent Dark Force is pure story, but the gameplay also doesn't really offer much in terms of enjoyment when it comes time for it to rear its head.
Combat is based off the Hyperdimension Neptunia series' battle system, where characters move on a field and need to be positioned properly to make sure their attacks hit the proper foes. It's a system that offers a genuine element of strategy, but battles are pitifully easy and require little to no thought.
Fang's party can end up ridiculously overlevelled at the drop of a hat, and enemies just aren't aggressive or hard hitting enough to offer any semblance of a challenge. The easy difficulty makes the potentially engaging combat into a mindless cakewalk.
Even if the battle system had been balanced properly, the dungeon design would have still held the gameplay back. Dungeons are just as mindless, as Fang's party can simply run through each one with little to no issue. A dungeon should be engaging and serve as a test of skill where the game's mechanics are put to the test, but Compile Heart is content with their glorified battle grounds.
While it is certainly a good thing that Steam is getting more JRPGs added to its ever-growing library, developers need to take a step back and ask themselves if their titles are worth releasing, let alone rereleasing. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is little more than an update that wasn't nearly updated enough.
For such a story-heavy RPG, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force gives little incentive to invest in its rather unoriginal plot. It would be one thing if the story acted as an homage to the RPG narrative of yore, but it simply follows the tired "good god/bad god" routine without bringing anything new to the table. Battles themselves are too easy to take advantage of a potentially good battle system, and poor, underdesigned dungeons rip away any possible depth the gameplay could have had. Newcomers to the genre might be able find something to appreciate about Advent Dark Force despite its flaws, but diehard fans are hard-pressed to find much exciting about a port of an already unimpressive 2013 JRPG.