Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force PS4 Review
The original release of Fairy Fencer F was a pleasant surprise, as it came from a JRPG studio that had quickly earned a reputation of being a C-list Neptunia factory. While far from the greatest of RPG classics, Fairy Fencer F proved to be a surprisingly enjoyable game that embraced its low-budget origins to deliver a solid JRPG experience. Consequently, this also paved the way for Compile Heart to improve its original image, as many of their following releases saw a substantial leap in quality, Neptunia included.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force follows the company’s tradition of re-releasing their previous games with a host of new features and improvements, but the anticipation runs a bit higher considering how well the original did. Advent Dark Force makes good with its enhancements, from gameplay additions to new dungeons to even new story scenarios, making this re-release more like a Director’s Cut that puts it closer to the recently released Odin Sphere Leifthrasir than a simple re-release with improved textures. In fact, Advent Dark Force has no improved visuals whatsoever, so take that, modern HD re-releases!
The core story is mostly unchanged from the original Fairy Fencer F: many years ago, two great beings known as the Vile God and the Goddess waged a deadly war that nearly tore the world asunder. The final outcome resulted in the two deities being sealed away by Furies, magical swords that contain unspeakable power and typically house inhuman beings known as Furies. One day, main hero Fang lackadaisically pulls out a Fury in the hopes that its power would grant him a free meal. Instead, it popped out a Fairy girl named Eryn, who has tasked Fang with collecting all of the world’s Furies in order to revive the Goddess. Despite barely having the drive to get out of bed in the morning, Fang is ultimately roped into a great conflict involving many allies and enemies scrambling to collect the Furies to have their wishes granted. It’s as generic a JRPG plot as it gets, but it is largely saved by its cast of likeable characters and often humorous writing.
Right from the start, Advent Dark Force shows off its new features by starting players in a brand new dungeon. This dungeon helps teach the various combat mechanics both old and new, and even features a boss battle with a character who originally did not appear until much later in the story. These story changes are integrated pretty seamlessly into the original script, though eventually things take a dramatic shift thanks to brand new scenarios that are based on the player’s decision. Other changes range from small-yet-convenient additions (such as the ability to dash while moving around dungeons, which is great for covering long distances as well as escaping an unwanted encounter) to completely changing the playing field (up to six characters can now enter battles at once, which also means a larger amount of enemies and stronger bosses).
At its core, the mechanics of Fairy Fencer F remain largely unchanged, but are just as polished as they were before. Battles are turn-based, but also allow 3D movement to allow for strategic placement of characters (including many spells that feature various cones of effect, thus encouraging players to squeeze in as many enemies within firing range). In addition to combo attacks and stat-affecting skills, characters can also use Fairize to fuse with their Fairies and gain a notable surge in power once their respective meters have filled up. There are also the numerous ways to grind out party members, from traditional grinding with enemies to performing character-specific challenges for instant rewards (jumping a set number of times, for instance, will grant a permanent skill boost, while surviving X number of battles without sustaining damage will offer another reward, and so on). There is also the World Shaping feature, where dungeons can be customized to feature a specific increase/decrease in stats depending on what Fury players choose to stab into the corresponding area on the world map; one Fury can offer increased exp at the cost of reduced defense, another can offer increased money while lowering the amount of exp earned, etc. These World Shaping parameters can be unlocked by pulling out swords from either of the imprisoned gods, though the difficulty of the enemies tied to each sword are notably tougher to defeat than they were in the original. Similarly, there are now more specific story consequences for anyone who chooses to pull swords out of the Vile God rather than (or in addition to) the Goddess.
As neat as these additional changes are, it would have been nice if they tinkered a bit more with the difficulty beyond simply making enemies more difficult. Many of the stock enemies and bosses can be dealt with by having Fang unleash his strongest attacks over and over, with little need to mess with the more strategic spells like buffing party members and/or debuffing enemies. There are also the arbitrary annoyances that have carried over from the original, like boss fights that are meant to count as story-specific losses, leading to a cutscene interrupting the action and (worse still) wasting your items and MP. There are also occasions where characters have certain items de-equipped because of their momentary absence, once again due to sudden shifts in the story.
Technically speaking, the PS4 version of Fairy Fencer F carries over the improvements from the PC version, including 60 frames per second and a higher resolution. While this game will never be confused for a big budget PS4 release, the anime art style and fast-paced animations help mask what is essentially a low budget JRPG. The charming localization and catchy soundtrack also help in this regard, though this enhanced edition does remove some of the original songs for less-catchy alternatives. Fear not, though: the Fairize theme does remain intact.
In the end, the additions to Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force don’t drastically change the original game, but further improve what was already a competent and casual JRPG (which still has some of the best assortment of RPG unlockables as well as the ability to skip every single frame of animation to cut down on grind time). It may be a B-tier RPG, but it’s a very well-made B-tier RPG that is just as addicting for JRPG fans as the A+ classics.