Fernz Gate (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 24.12.2018

Review for Fernz Gate on Nintendo Switch

The list of JRPGs brewed by Exe-Create and published by KEMCO has reached some quite impressive heights over the years. Their partnership goes way back at this point, and such games as the Asdivine series, Antiquia Lost, Revenant Saga or Dragon Lapis will surely sound familiar because they've been seen making the rounds in review sections around the net for quite some time, and with good reason, since practically each of those got released on the Wii U, 3DS, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, or a combination of those platforms over the years - the Nintendo Switch has been no exception. They all appear very similar from afar, though they tend to have something to set them slightly apart from the rest each time. Fernz Gate, one of their more recent efforts, just landed on Nintendo Switch so it is time to look at it.

In the fictional universe of Fernz Gate, multiple worlds are connected to each other by gates. However one realm in particular, Fernland, acts as a crossroad where people from many different worlds seem to wind up by accident. Currently, this world is being ravaged by the Overlord Clangorrah, who harvests mana from other human beings to grow his own power, and ensure his own dominion. Alex, the protagonist, ends up in Fernland like other "outworlders" while he was on his way home from school. He comes from a place, likely ours, where monsters don't exist, and, as such, is not accustomed to fight. Wandering in the forest where he landed, he stumbles across another outworlder, Toril, who is much more accustomed to fighting than he is, and soon finds himself getting involved in the fight against the Overlord.

While the story won't set the world on fire for its originality, the dialogues in particular tend to be part of the best attractions in games made by Exe-Create, so it is not surprising that here, again, as seen previously in other games they made, thee prove to be very entertaining, and that the cast of characters is extremely likeable. Kodan, for example has an afro and is accompanied by a familiar, Vibachi, that lives in his hair(!) who, despite being a powerful, stoic warrior, gets angry every time anyone refers to the familiar as a thing, or an animal. There's nothing to complain about in the plot department, and if anything, it proves better translated to English than even some greater RPGs out there tend to be sometimes. However, the first thing that jumps in the player's face, and this is the main criticism that can be aimed at the KEMCO RPGs in general, made by Exe-Create, is that they all look so similar.

Throughout said titles, the aesthetics barely change at all and retain that suspicious RPG-Maker vibe, no matter which one you pick. Asdivine Cross, Infinite Dunamis, or in this case Fernz Gate... if anyone was to mix together screenshots from the overworld of each, no one could tell to which game each belongs, because the same generic looking assets keep getting recycled between each release. In fact, that RPG-Maker look and similar releases does seem to indicate that if this is not what these games are running on, maybe Exe-Create did develop their own flavour of RPG game editor in house that gets re-used each time. This is speculation, of course, but, at any rate, this prevents titles like Fernz Gate establishing their own strong visual identity like other classic 16-bit RPGs that stood the test of time.

Screenshot for Fernz Gate on Nintendo Switch

It's one thing to pay homage to the oldies, but those did push the limits of what was possible in their time, such as sprite work being more refined with each release, whereas in this case, this is an aspect that remains absolutely stagnant. That is not to say that the rest is bad though. In fact it usually isn't, and in the case of Fernz Gate, many features make a comeback while others seem to be new, although one would need to have played absolutely all of Exe-Create's creations to figure them all out. Two areas that do seem to vary to a satisfying degree between releases, for example, are battle and character progression mechanics. Certain elements, like the turn indicator at the top of the screen, seem to carry over, but beyond that, this is where most of the development time seems to be invested whenever a new one of those gets churned out.

In this case, the new Buddy System turns out rather interesting. While in battle, fighters are paired together, either amongst main playable ones or summonable buddies. These can be collected much like monsters in Dragon Quest, to fight alongside the party of heroes, by summoning them using rings that can be won in a mini-game called Jar Breaker, which is like a lottery for rare items. Most are monsters, yet some special, rare ones, are actually characters taken from other KEMCO RPGs in which they were part of the main cast of playable ones. While playing for review, Jade from Antiquia Lost popped up as well as Litany from Asdivine Menace.

Another peculiar element is the presence of multiple currencies, of which gems are very important since they can be spent to summon rare enemies at will at designated booths to farm for rare drops, as well as be spent in an in-game shop from rare items, or even be used upon death to be resurrected on the spot. That in-game shop is also where the Jar Breaker mini-game is found and it allows unlocking things such as alternate costumes for characters as well. Finally, that section is where a rather forgettable element, the Premium Additional Content shop, can be found. This offers items in exchange for real, hard earned cash on the Nintendo eShop; items that provide a boost to experience, or bonus skill point gains, for example, as well as orbs that permanently double inflicted damage. Those items are frankly overpriced, and not at all necessary since the game itself proves more than generous enough as it is, and not hard, or even long enough to justify the need for urgent level or gold grinding.

Screenshot for Fernz Gate on Nintendo Switch

Moreover, as was pointed out in Cubed3's Asdivine Cross review last year, these usually feature certain things that are often sorely missed in modern RPGs. For example, a proper, useful map system for one thing, but also a proper tracking system of the number of chests already opened, and how many there are available in total, which for the completionists out there is a real blessing and, why not, for speedrunners going for a 100% category. Just about every type of things that can be amassed and collected in this game has a proper tracker associated with it under the "prize" section, which is thoroughly appreciated. The way it acts could be likened to a built-in achievement system, really.

Still on that note, games like Fernz Gate tend to have short but effective tutorial screens that don't get too much in the way of the pacing, so it doesn't feel too much like the early moments of the adventure that are all about learning how to even play the darn thing. It moves on pretty quickly into letting you have fun with it, and that's something quite a few wannabe AAA masterpieces out there could take a leaf out of. Yet another such positive element that keeps coming back with each of these releases is the consistently good in-game character art, shown next to their text boxes during conversations, and this is no exception. They may not be the most strikingly original out there, but are still very well done and make the characters look interesting enough, on top of conveying their emotions which is particularly a good thing because, again, the sprites themselves look nice enough, but lack of elaborate sprite animations make them appear rather lifeless.

Amongst the new additions that seem to be specific to this one, there are character skills unique to each playable character. Some examples? Alex can pick locks; Lita is a bookworm; and Toril can learn how to skip jump on stones to get to otherwise inaccessible places. Those abilities level up through conversation sequences, and are used when needed if the right character is chosen as the overworld avatar, adding a light puzzle solving element to exploration. There is also a new system in place, where the player can grow plants over time, using seeds dropped randomly by enemies. Consuming these seeds as-is yields permanent stat boosts to the consumer, however planting them instead and waiting for them to yield a fruit increases the effect when consumed, so it is definitely recommended to give those time. The rarer the seed, the better the boost but also the longer it takes for the seed to produce a fruit.

Screenshot for Fernz Gate on Nintendo Switch

There is a timer system in place for that purpose, which keeps counting down time until it hits zero and that timer, surprisingly, keeps going even when the Switch system is in sleep mode, as long as the game isn't closed on the system. That timer has a side-effect that the in-game clock that keeps track of playtime doesn't stop either if the system is left in sleep mode, and this is still running. Not a deal-breaker but a regrettable oversight nonetheless. For all the criticism geared towards the appalling similarity in look between each release by that developer, Fernz Gate still manages to provide good, light-hearted, classic turn-based JRPG fun that always suits portable play nicely. It would be a bit harder to recommend on a strictly home-based platform, but on mobile ones, or a hybrid machine like the Nintendo Switch, sitting down with a quick round of this game in portable mode is always something that doesn't frustrate too much, and the story proves interesting enough each time.

Sadly, and this is a common criticism towards these, the technical execution is rather sloppy, since the frame rate when anything is scrolling on the screen is rather poor, with a noticeable choppiness that stands out rather badly, although, believe it or not, it seems the scrolling is much less choppy in portable mode. Overall, Fernz Gate isn't terribly long to finish and this, for the price, doesn't prove too bad either. Like its brethren, this one may not be very memorable but there is still something light-hearted about those that still manages to somehow hook the nostalgic JRPG fan, sensitive to a different age when things where a lot simpler than today. Those games are indeed, unlike more modern 3D games, blazingly fast, as, besides an initial load time at boot, there no load times at all, bringing in that feel of cartridge based JRPGs of the '90s.

Heck, even the writing tends to be well above average in those, therefore, while Fernz Gate is still not the most ground-breaking homage to the JRPGs of the 16-bit era, and the recycled elements do prove irritating at times, it turns out way more entertaining than it could have been expected at first, or even second glance. This is all complemented by a fairly enjoyable soundtrack - sample based with a quality sometimes in line with the SNES, and sometimes perceivably more in line with non-orchestrated soundtracks from the 32-bit era, due to the better quality samples. It is however meant to sound closer in its approach to the JRPGs of the first half of the 1990s, which suits the experience perfectly.

Screenshot for Fernz Gate on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Like other Exe-Create developed/KEMCO released turn-based RPGs, Fernz Gate delivers an interesting enough narrative, fun (if classic) battle mechanics, and character customisation options. Sadly, like its predecessors, it gets let down by a general mediocre, generic, and soulless visual presentation. Looking beyond this hurdle, however, what remains is a thoroughly enjoyable homage to 16-bit JRPGs that won't overstay its welcome, and which, for its price, proves fairly acceptable - and suitable for short bursts of play on the go. Here's hoping Exe-Create dares to try more grandiloquent things, and craft something way more memorable, because there is clearly potential.

Developer

Exe-Create

Publisher

Kemco

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Ofisil

There are 1 members online at the moment.