Despite receiving generally positive reviews, Fairy Fencer F never really saw the light of day when it initially released on the PlayStation 3 late last year, and has remained in cult status ever since. Developed by Compile Hearts, the folks behind the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, the game has found new life on PC through the Steam platform, and hopefully will help push Fairy Fencer F into a more mainstream market. Trust me when I say, this game deserves it.
Fairy Fencer F’s most endearing quality is its self-referential parody of itself. “Generic anime” is written all over this game, and it knows it. Every line is a joke and every level is a hilarious anecdote. Even the music, written by none other than Nobuo Uemetsu, is in on it, with raging anime themes playing every time your character performs a special move, or overcomes an obstacle in the story. From the moment you start the game, to the moment the end credits role, I guarantee you’ll laugh at least a few times. Even if you don’t get the jokes and tropes presented in the game, the humor has a wide enough range to cover all your giggling needs.
This is in part due to the fantastically written characters. There are twelve party members for you to recruit, each with their own fairy partner, making 24 uniquely written and designed characters. While some can be a little annoying, such as Ethel, who initially only says the word “Kill” over and over again, others are downright lovable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Minnesotan anime character before, but not only does this game have one, he’s written on a Fargo-level of satire. Even the protagonist, Fang, who you want to dislike for being a total jerk most of the time, ended up being the voice of reason in all the insanity, making it surprisingly easy to relate to him despite his generally mean personality.
Unfortunately, none of this writing made it into the actual story. Much like everything else in the game, it’s something you’d expect to see in a space-filling action manga, but they don’t really go anywhere with it. The characters will comment on how terrible the main quest is sometimes, which can be funny, but just telling me it’s bad doesn’t help that it’s still bad. Essentially, the game is a giant fetch quest to find the 100 Furies, weapons that are inhabited by fairies and can be used to free the Goddess, a benevolent being who may bring peace to the world. And that’s about it. There’s an evil corporation trying to find the Furies as well, but they are literally there just to provide bosses for you at the end of some stages. It’s easily the most upsetting part of the game, especially when you consider how much effort went into creating the main characters.
Gameplay wise, Fairy Fencer F also falls a little short, though not for lack of trying. Most of the game plays out like an interactive novel, with action stages interspersed. While I appreciate the art, based off of concept art created by other Final Fantasy veteran Yoshitaka Amano, it gets a little stale when you’ve been staring at the same images for hours on end. If it weren’t for the character’s interactions with each other, I would never have made it through the first few moments of the game, since it actually takes a while before you get into any real gameplay. The actual game plays like a turn-based RPG with a few twists. For one it’s incredibly fast and satisfying. Fights were over just as soon as they began, but I actually felt like I did a lot of work regardless of this fact. Combat mostly revolves around your initial set up, done through the field menu. You can fully customize each character’s stats and abilities as you see fit with points earned after each battle, though they do ultimately fall into central roles such as fighter, healer, etc., and you can build combos to perform. Rather than just a simple attack with a sword, you can create various combos, and even transform your weapon, creating devastating custom attacks. You’re can equip the various Furies you find in a “Resonance” slot in order to raise your stats or add different passive abilities to your character as well. There’s also an option in battle called “Fairize” where the character merges with their fairy partner to increase their stats and initiate the awesome Fairize theme song, complete with a transformation sequence. While in the Fairize form, you can perform even more special attacks, inducing another layer of theme music by the way, that often end fights instantly. It’s unfortunate that these gameplay moments are so short when compared to interactive novel segments, often only lasting at most two or three small area maps, as they are a ton of fun.
Unfortunately, being on the PC has not added any new features to the game. It automatically comes packaged with all DLC from the PS3 release, which is a nice addition. On the other hand, the only graphics option you have available to you is to change the resolution. If you already own Fairy Fencer F on PS3, there’s not much reason to upgrade to the PC version unless you really want to.
Fairy Fencer F may not have found the audience it deserved on the PS3, and that’s truly a shame. There’s a lot to love about this game, even with its lackluster story and presentation. But with its incredible music, awesome characters, and fairly deep customization, every anime and RPG fan should definitely give this game a chance now that it’s more widely available.
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