Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 07.02.2019

Review for Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch

JRPGs go often hand in hand with manga/anime-style characters. This does not necessarily have to be the case of course, and there have been examples to prove that wrong, but the vast majority of them do. Japanese developer/publisher Compile Hearts is far from going out of their way to prove that wrong, as a lot of their recent catalogue of JRPGs strikes dead in the centre when it comes to following the well established recipes of game design as seen with every game related to Hyper Dimension Neptunia released in the past few years. Just put together a fun story with lots of scantily clad lolitas and you have a recipe for success. Fairy Fencer F, while perhaps not quite as reliant on the design choice, does not fall too far off either. This is a game that has been around for some time, releasing originally in Japan in late 2013, then being ported to PC in 2015, then expanded upon and remastered as Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force for the PS4 in 2016, before finally being re-ported back to the PC again in 2017 - making this Switch release the fifth version of the game.

A long time ago, a war was waged between the Vile God and the benevolent Goddess, helped by armies of fairies at their service, whose powers inhabits giant swords called furies. The power of those is sought by many in the present day, and those who wield them are called Fencers. They roam the world accompanied by their partner fairy, which may come in many forms, from robots to animals, and from human-animal hybrids to straight up human-looking characters... of both genders. In comes the good for nothing hero, a rather dislikeable character by the name of Fang, who found a fury and pulled it out of the ground only to find himself followed around by an important female fairy called Reyn.

Reyn wants nothing more than revive the Goddess so that the latter may once and for all dispatch the Vile God she couldn't defeat entirely centuries ago... before he can be revived himself by his own band of followers, and straight up descendants. Fang however wants nothing to do with this and only tags along for the ride to stop the badgering fairy from driving him nuts. More characters join soon enough of course, of which the most important is Tiara who also wants to revive the Goddess for the sake of world peace, and they'll be collecting as many furies as possible to undo the seal that keeps the Goddess shackled. Not unlike Shining Resonance Refrain, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force uses still backgrounds, and richly animated character portraits as a mean to cheaply tell a story without having to spend too much on character animations for each story segment. So the flow of the game goes like: still background, with characters on top developing the story through well-written dialogue, with lots of humour strewn on top for good measure, then the player takes control, and moves the character around during the dungeon crawling sections, fighting groups of enemies along the way, until the next story segment starts up again, and so on.

It is worth mentioning that there is no area where the player is in control that is devoid of enemies. The only town in the game is just a menu with locations to be picked, where story events take place. Those include a shop, the inn, and Guillermo's pub which acts as this game's side-quest bureau. When they come back to town with a new fury/fairy in tow gained from an excursion to one of the dungeon areas, the party can engage in a Godly revival session where they pull giant swords from the bodies of either the Vile God or Goddess by spending those fairies when they pull one out. This moves the resurrection quest along of course, but also gives the fury corresponding to the fairy spent additional powers over their own as well as land shaping powers - more on that later.

Screenshot for Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch

The main quest, as pushed by the story itself, is of course to revive the Goddess, but what would happen if the player chose to focus on the Vile God instead? There are three different possible paths that the player can choose. The default Goddess path where Fang goes along with what the ladies want, the Vile God path where Fang chooses Evil over Good, or a third one which so as to avoid any spoilers will not be revealed here. The story has that amount of depth to it, but the aforementioned way it flows wouldn't work well, and would feel repetitive... and therefore not very engaging, if it wasn't for the fact that the characters do manage to instil some interest in the mind of the person in control.

The story is written and plays out just like an anime series. Take any Dragon Ball episode, for example - there are the fights where not much is told story wise, then you have the slow moments where either more important story development takes place, or some random event can be seen as light comical relief. It flows by alternating between both, and it works because the story is engaging enough, and the characters likeable enough, and overall there's a lot of fun to be had during the comical moments too. Fairy Fencer F taps into that and brings it in JRPG form, where the story segments can be of either kind, and the moments where the player is in control are akin to the action moments of shonen anime.

Those battles can be pretty addicting too, thanks to a well designed battle system that is nothing more than a modified version of what is found in the Hyper Dimension Neptunia franchise, with the Advent Dark Force remaster bringing in some extra touches to expand the formula some more over the original PS3 release. In battle, characters move around freely within a circle shaped area corresponding to that character's "move" stat, with some able to cover more distance than others, and every enemy within their range can be hit with regular physical attacks. Those come in multiple forms and can be chained in a combo for as many actions as that character's "combo" stat will allow. Combos can hit an enemy directly, launch it into the air, or pursue it into the air if it has already been launched for some extra damage. Each different action comes with different ranges themselves, so they are more likely to miss if the performing character is too far away when the combo is initiated, and each also has a different hit count value as well as a wait time associated. Indeed the more actions are chained together in a combo and the high their corresponding wait value is... the longer that character will have to wait after that before they can take another turn in the battle. Thankfully a combo can be interrupted at a press of the B button at any time.

Screenshot for Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch

Each action can also be performed with a different form that the fury held by the character can take. Indeed, even if Fang's fury, for example, looks like a sword by default, it can also take on the shape of other weapons too to aim at an enemy's particular weakness, and this is done by having it perform specific actions in a combo. Furthermore, beyond those physical attacks, each character also has the obligatory skills and magic spells, which cost SP to perform, as well as ultimate attacks performed in "Fairize" mode that consume both SP (a lot of it), and a good percentage of that character's Max HP. "Fairize" is a mode that can be engaged after a specific gauge fills enough as the character inflicts damage on the enemy, and which only disengages after that gauge lost too much through taking hits from enemies. "Fairize" greatly increases damage output and defence and allows for the use of the aforementioned ultimate attacks.

That's about the gist of how battles work. There is enough depth to them and they are designed cleverly enough to keep the player invested. Those are enjoyably snappy too! Everything happens satisfyingly fast, and it helps too that they can be avoided for the most part, since they are not random encounters. It is even possible to skip every single battle animation at a press of the ZL button, right down to the end of battle results screen! After one has seen those a thousand times already, this certainly prevents from feeling burned out. Nothing ever stops the speed at which things can go and especially during grinding or farming moments, this is a blessing to say the least.

The dungeon sections can be accessed from the main world map. There are not too many of them, sadly, and they are unfortunately very bland. Worse even, some recycle the assets of areas already visited, which means only half of the two dozen or so of the available areas to visit will feel fresh when they are first seen. Level design is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the whole experience. On the world map, however, a decent amount of originality is in the aforementioned Land Shaping function. By planting furies with land shaping powers around the location of the dungeon area, it is possible to add certain effects to the area, such as increasing the party's physical defence, item drop rate of enemies, the amount of experience, money or weapon points earned... but always at the cost of something else, like reducing another stat or doubling all damage inflicted and received. The whole experience on the whole is very enjoyable indeed thanks to the atmosphere right out of an anime, the character design, the situations in which they find themselves and the snappy combat.

Screenshot for Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch

This is only really held back by the dungeon design and an infuriating reliance on missables. The quest is that of resurrecting the Goddess, and that, as mentioned earlier, involves investing fairies into pulling out swords out of her body. Certain swords require fairies of a higher rank, and the final one requires an S rank fairy. However, there are only two, and the second one obtainable at Shukesoo Tower requires that all of the other fairies in the game, including the first S rank, has already been found. However, that first one can only be obtained through a series of side-quests, one of which at least can be completely missed for good, since it only appears for a brief moment at one point in the story. Reaching the end of the journey only to realise that a side-quest was missed in the first half, which now means the best ending can't be achieved, is infuriating indeed, and leaves you with a bad impression in the end. New Game+ carries over practically everything so rushing through a second playthrough to unlock what was missed at first should not take much more than 10 ̴15 hours, but still, this should not be required.

Last but not least, what comes to lessen what is otherwise an overwhelmingly positive review is the matter of performance on Nintendo Switch. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force runs at what appears to be 1080p docked and 720p in handheld mode, or possibly a slightly lower resolution that that. The frame-rate however hovers from anywhere between 60 to 20fps. The lower end of the spectrum manifests itself, sadly, especially in the first few areas explored in the game, especially the very first one, which does not help to get newcomers started on a positive impression. The areas that exhibit the heaviest drops of frames appear to always involve copious amounts of alpha transparencies. Moreover, a depth of field effect is used throughout to blur our the scenery in the distance but it is use so intensely in places that things that are two metres away from the player's avatar already appear blurred out.

That effect is totally unnecessary, at least at that level of intensity, and certainly does nothing to help performance since it makes the GPU do some extra work that doesn't actually benefit the experience a whole lot. Therefore, toning down or removing DOF entirely, and putting a frame-rate cap at 30fps instead of 60, which the game barely ever reaches anyway, would work wonders to make the whole thing feel smoother to the eye. The options menu has a setting for turning off shadow rendering, so as to gain a frame or two per second, but that's about it. More options along the line of what was just mentioned here would go a long way to make the whole experience feel even better than it still manages to do despite those hindrances.

Screenshot for Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force benefits from great sound design and artistic direction, and is uplifted by a story that's interesting to sit through, and, at moments, hilarious. It feels, for better or for worse, just like watching an anime because of the aforementioned production values... except all of the actual moving around and fighting is controlled by the player. The whole thing is held back by lazy level design, infuriating missables, and, in the Switch version, some easily fixable performance issues that the launch patch didn't manage to iron out. The experience feels very good indeed, but vehicles a sense of imperfection that could be partially fixed with improved performance on Switch. As a result it comes highly recommended to fans of harem style shonen anime stories and JRPGs but, in the state that it is in at time of writing, with a reservation that if portability is not a huge factor, it is better experienced on PS4 or PC, if those are available options.

Developer

Compile Heart

Publisher

Idea Factory

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   

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