Reviewed on PS4 by Matthew Nobbs
Fairy Fencer F Advent Dark Force is the surprise package of the year. The original released to mix reviews on PS3 back in 2013, and despite some good ideas the game ran poorly and had technical issues throughout. Despite this the great characterisation of the heroes in the game allowed it to build a loyal following, and this updated version will in no way disappoint them.
The playable party members in this game are the real star of the show, and the focus of my attention as the overarching story about the battle between two deities became less and less interesting. Fang, the main protagonist, continually highlights how he doesn’t care much for the story of Vile God and the Goddess, and this initially turns into how I felt as the player. Instead I became invested in each of the characters in my party, and tried to develop the relationships between each of them. This made me care about training the characters and grinding out levels, as I wanted my favourite characters to be my most powerful.
The battle system in this game is surprisingly deep in a lot of places, but really lacking in others. Battles take place in a turn based system, but the characters move freely around the enemy, manoeuvring to avoid spacial attacks and spreading out so that bosses can’t wipe out clusters of my team members at once – however spreading out means I can’t use characters to heal each other, making spacing my team out in the battle a tactical decision. I played the game on hard, and even with a lot of grinding beating each of the bosses felt like a well masterminded triumph.
Each enemy, and character has a Pokemon-esque elemental weakness and strength, it doesn’t go excessively deep or make that much logical sense (some rock enemies were weak to ice?) but it adds a lot of variety to battling, and made me switch focus away from the lead characters when their moves were largely ineffective. Additionally characters have varying methods of attacking, be it with a sword, or a bow, or guns etc. However this is largely underused in combat and even on hard I never found myself needing to switch to a different weapon during a combo.
Technically the game runs fine throughout battles, I’m aware there were some framerate issues when it originally released on PS3, but none of that was present to hamper my experience here. Which is lucky because some of my favourite moments in the game were discovering the hugely extravagant animations for the new moves I unlocked – and I feel it would have become infuriating if I had to watch these animations stutter along every time I wanted to use said move.
I really loved the way that story telling and dialogue between the characters played out in the game, but the presentation sometime felt inconsistent. Every so often there would be a short in game cutscene at the end of a dungeon, or when meeting a new character – these didn’t look quite right as they were set to the largely bland backgrounds of the dungeons.
The character design is at it’s best when the heroes use their ‘fairize’ transformation, this adds a new level of aesthetic which hugely adds to the otherwise standard character design. Nevertheless what is here is really well drawn, and the characters successfully convey personality and emotion throughout.
The world map also allows for a great hub in order to plan your adventure, having a list of creatures and enemies that I would face in each dungeon made both grinding and completing pub quests a lot more enjoyable. However I wish there was a list of item drops included in this so I knew where to look when trying to craft certain items. As well as this the system of using Furies to change the level design (by raising EXP gained or the amount of item drops in exchange for a drop in stats) is a great addition which makes exploring the same dungeons again continually fun to do.
The game appeals to those looking to invest a lot of time in it. At the time of writing this review, I have played for over 50 hours, and there is still a lot for me to do (on my way to the platinum), so far I haven’t burnt out on grinding for items and experience. The new characters and dungeons also add a lot more variety to the game, and the way in which these are unlocked feels very organic and the inclusion of new story endings depending on your use of the godly revival mechanic gives each play through a good amount of variety and replay-ability. I will be updating this review once I’ve got the platinum trophy with information on how doable and enjoyable getting it was.
All things considered Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force was a blast to play, a lot of the major story beats didn’t manage to grab me – but the incredible characters and excellently written dialogue kept me coming back for more (and actually reading the cutscenes as I played with Japanese audio). The combat system was deep and rewarding (at least on the higher difficulty) and felt like it was always increasing to offer me a new challenge. The game is a must play for JRPG fans on Playstation 4, and even if you’re not into JRPGs but are at least a little interested in the art style of the game, or turn based combat its’s well worth checking out.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force releases on July 29 on PS4. This review was based on a review copy from Idea Factory. For more on Fairy Fencer F, and everything JRPG make sure you subscribe to Echo Games UK.