Fencer Fang Collects Furies With Fairies Inside.
You play the role of Fang, a self-centred but likeable protagonist. Fang is a Fencer who collects Furies with Fairies inside. Are you with me? Didnít think soÖ Fencers are essentially chosen heroes who collect swords called Furies. You also collect Fairies which can consist of anything from a Pokemon-esque creature to a humanoid. Fang sets out to either revive a fairy goddess to bring peace to the world or raise a demon king to destroy it, depending on what mood youíre in. The story doesnít offer much excitement along the way. Itís a shame the developer couldnít make a tale of resurrecting warring gods more interesting.
The meat of the game is typical Final Fantasy-style turn-based combat. There are sparks of innovation and it is mostly satisfying. Thereís a surprising amount of customisation available from choosing your armour, attributes and skills you unlock. The game is a bit easy most of the time and has no selectable difficulty level. Many of the encounters can unfortunately be beaten by hammering X repeatedly to attack, rather than requiring you to consider the games deeper aspects like its elemental weakness system. However, it does get harder towards the end and during boss encounters, which makes you experiment a little more.
Thereís some interesting mechanics such as the ability to use Fairies to change the parameters of a dungeon to your advantage. This can, for example give you more experience at the expense of lowering your defense. There are however a few quirks, like the games habit of kicking out party members or restarting a boss with full health. Overall though, its strengths outweigh any of the oddities and leave you with an enjoyable combat system.
Another core aspect of the combat is the ability for your characters to Fairize. This transforms your Fencers into a Transformers-Gundam love child and increases their stats. You can only do this once a stamina bar is filled, but seeing as it only takes a few turns and it canít be saved for the next fight, youíll find yourself selecting this in nearly every battle. The process becomes repetitive but at least you can skip the short transformation sequence.
Outside of warfare, the game is split into 3D dungeon exploration and an overworld which is just a series of menus. The dungeons themselves are very basic in design and presentation. They become boring as thereís little else but linear progression from point A to point B, battling repetitive enemies along the way. Dungeons can be even more monotonous when youíre sent backtracking through them at the games halfway point. Liner dungeons combined with an underdeveloped overworked makes the game feel shallow outside its respectable combat system.
Like most RPGs, Fairy Fencer F has a series of side quest for players to engage in. Unfortunately, these extraneous tasks boil down to a piddling jobs with such imaginative titles like "fetch" or "kill." Seeing as items are gained from killing enemies, all the side quests require you to defeat monsters with no back-story surrounding the tasks. It ultimately feels like an attempt to artificially increase the length of the game rather than putting in anything substantive.
Virtually all of the cut scenes and dialogue in Fairy Fencer F are delivered by hand drawn 2D characters in the style of a visual novel. While this part of the game is beautiful and detailed itís a shame this level of fidelity doesnít carry through to the 3D parts of the game. The handful of 3D environments are bland and undetailed, looking more like an upscaled PS2 game than something that belongs on PlayStation 3. The transition from 2D to 3D art is quite jarring at times, making the level of quality of each stand out even more.
The score in Fairy Fencer F is light and whimsical but some melodies are over used and itís not particularly memorable. The voice acting is great but thereís some repetitive dialogue shouted during battles. Luckily the characters are distinct, deep and very well voiced. Thereís some humour that adds a sense of fun to the game and shows it doesnít take itself too seriously. However, some dialogue sections feel like they will never end and not all of the conversations are voiced or even necessary. Itís a shame the developer chose to include so much dialogue rather than fleshing out the more lacking parts of the game.
Fairy Fencer F also features regrettably clichť over sexualised JRPG anime girls. Oversized breasts and cleavage make regular appearances. Personally I find this a shame, as Fairy Fencer F has strong enough characters and mechanics to survive without degrading itself. The latest Tomb Raider showed we can have strong female roles without portraying them as sex objects and I would have liked to have seen Fairy Fencer F follow suit.
Reams of dialogue and backtracking help drag the game out to around 30 hours, which I felt was too long. Fairy Fencer F ultimately becomes hard to truly recommend. Bland visuals and a boring plot are propped up by strong characters and satisfying combat. Fans of JRPGs may find enjoyment in its stronger aspects but there are much better offerings within the genre.