Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
When Fairy Fencer F came out back in 2014, I enjoyed the title for several reasons. One thing I did not expect however, was the way it would stick with me over time. Maybe because it was a new property, it has found some solid legs to stand on and has been a game that I have gone back to – a rarity for me in the RPG genre. Often I play an RPG through to completion and never pick it up again. Why? Because while I love the stories and the worlds they weave, the replay value tends to be limited because I have experienced what they have to show me. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force reminds me yet again why I was so fond of the original game and I believe my appreciation for it has only grown in that time.
I think my affection for Fairy Fencer F starts with Fang, who is anything but the typical protagonist in these types of games. Sure, he has that youthful appearance accented by spiky hair all of the talent in the world as he is ‘chosen’ Sword in the Stone style to wield a blade that others could not draw forth from a giant rock. However, instead of being spunky and looking for the chance to be a hero and follow in some great legend’s footsteps… well, mostly Fang just wants to figure out what his next meal will be. Not only what it will be, but when. For all of his natural talents, Fang is not the most motivated lead male character, and his dull, often disinterested approach is actually refreshing as he is more or less tugged along into action, instead of seeking out it on his own.
The story sees Fang meeting a young woman named Eryn. While Fang manages to escape the common fantasy trope of amnesia, Eryn is less fortunate. She is in many ways the embodiment of the typical male protagonist in RPG games with her fiery personality and lacking memory. However, her continual banter with Fang did a lot for me in endearing both characters to me and bringing lots of charm to the proceedings.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is the same basic story as the first, set against a backdrop between the vaguely named Vile God and the Goddess, where they left weapons in their wake called Furies that were wielded by Fencers like Fang. Advent Dark Force is a touching up of the original game. It adds new characters, content and systems while improving upon the visuals and better leveraging the processing power of the PlayStation 4.
Idea Factory and Compile Heart are better known for their various Neptune games, and there is certainly some similarities to be had here. However, focusing on a new story arc and characters, Compile Heart is able to craft a game with a little more heart and less satire. It is a more traditional RPG game in that sense, and one that I perhaps did not as fully appreciate when I first played it as I do today. Certain influences from the team’s earlier works can still be felt. One of the main characters, Tiara, has a passing resemblance to Neptune and while there are still moments of fan service to be had, they are toned down. That is not to say there is no humor to be had here – Fang’s lethargic ways are just one example of how Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force manages to strike a nice balance between a more serious overall story while retaining some of the humor and moments of levity that have helped garner such a large following for the Neptunia games.
The visuals were always impressive, but they look smoother still on the PlayStation 4. Not just the character designs, but the environments as well. I remember the first Fairy Fencer F game having some minor framerate issues that seem to be completely cleared up on the PlayStation 4 hardware. Overall the visual touching up of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is put to good use. I appreciate that the quality presentation also sees itself through the outstanding music, which successfully conveys some beautiful emotion at times.
The systems at play still resemble the original game by and large. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force employs a turn-based battle system that now allows up to six characters in the fights. This increased party count in combat allows for more creative combat scenarios, with harder foes that require more strategy to take down. While the combat itself is played out in turns that are dictated by the action window to the left, it is a spacial system that relies on movement around the field of battle so you can position your characters both defensively and offensively. One of the more entertaining combat systems is the Fairize one – a sort of transformation that will be familiar to Neptunia players and gives you boosted… well, everything really.
One of the best features of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is that there are now different paths you can take the story down. I love that in my RPGs. I wish there were more variations, more ways to impact the story, but the fact that you can take the story down the original storyline (known as the Goddess route) or one of the two others adds some solid replay value here. This is impacted by the new Godly Revival where you remove the swords from one deity or the other – or both.
If you already were a fan of the original game, there is enough change here to warrant at least some consideration towards picking the title up. If you missed the PlayStation 3 release a couple of years ago, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is the definitive version of the game to play. With enough tweaks to make several aspects of the game feel fresh again, there is not enough of an overhaul that it should alienate those who enjoyed the game the first time around, making it easy to recommend to all RPG fans.Score: 8.75/10