It started life on the PlayStation 3 before moving on to the PlayStation 4 and PC in a more fleshed-out release, and now Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force has made its way over to the Nintendo Switch too. It feels like a good fit for the system, with the portable nature of the console proving to be a good way to get through Compile Heart’s intriguing yet slightly flawed RPG – especially if you don’t want people to see some of the more titillating scenes on your TV…
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force puts you in the shoes of Fang, an arrogant and generally unlikable bloke who has uncovered a strange sword that carries the spirit of a Fairy within it. That Fairy just so happens to offer Fang the chance at adventure, with the fate of the world seemingly at risk if the special Goddess isn’t revived to protect it. Fang’s a bit of a prick though so he says no, but it doesn’t take too long for the Fairy to convince him and thus your journey across a world full of Fairies, Fencers, and the special weapons known as Furies begins.
Whilst it’s intentional that protagonist Fang is so arrogant to begin with, it did make it hard for me to like him throughout the game. The same goes for some of your party members too, who don’t steer too far away from the typical stereotypes you’d be used to finding in most RPGs. The thing is, I love playing through an RPG and feeling a bond with the characters to the point where I’m genuinely rooting for them through each trial and tribulation they may face – I just never really felt like that with Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s heroes. Naturally, they feel a bit more likable the further you progress through the game, but they’re certainly not a memorable bunch that’ll stick with you long after playing.
Oh, and as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s characters can be a bit risqué too. It’s not something that bothered me when playing, but this might make for a game that you don’t want to play when others are watching (unless you want some strange looks).
Whilst the characters don’t always make the narrative so appealing, the choices you get to make during it do add an intriguing touch to proceedings. There’ll be moments in the game where you have to make pivotal choices that won’t only shape how the story pans out but also your relationship with the characters around you. These choices aren’t just meaningless either, with each one actually having the potential to completely change how the game ends. Being able to add my own personal touch to the narrative was not only something I could appreciate, but it also adds a whole lot of replayability to the experience too. Sure, I’m not the kind to play twenty-hour plus RPGs over and over again, but completionists who want to uncover everything will definitely have fun seeing each of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s story branches through to their conclusion.
One of the highlights of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is the game’s battle system, which is enjoyable, quick-paced and surprisingly tactical throughout. It follows a turn-based setup, with the player taking six party members into battle as they switch between standard attacks, skills, and magic attacks to take down the onslaught of enemies. In a similar manner to the ‘Tales of’ series, you’re even able to run around the battle area during your turn to figure out a position that works best for you. It makes your character’s position a more important aspect of the game and allows you to not only set up more punishing attacks but also keep potentially vulnerable party members out of the way of trouble.
The variety of skills on offer can change up the flow of a battle too, as does teaming up with the Fairies to unleash some special abilities – there really is a lot on offer and it makes for a series of exciting encounters. That being said, don’t be surprised to find yourself intimidated at first, especially with the influx of tutorials that the game sends your way. Being taught all of the different mechanics of combat can feel daunting initially and there is a lot to take on, though it won’t take long before it all sinks in and you start dishing out beating to enemies with ease. It really makes for a good time.
Whilst Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s battling is of a generally high quality, the actual exploration in-between is more of a mixed bag. There isn’t really too exciting of a world to be found in the game, whilst the dungeons themselves feel so linear in design that it can feel like you’re following a fixed routine when progressing through them. I wouldn’t say any were particularly boring and the stat-boosting challenges that the game offers gives you something to work for as you progress through each environment, but there’s definitely a blander world here for you to uncover when compared to the likes of the ‘Final Fantasy’ or ‘Tales of’ series.
At least it looks pretty enough though, with the anime-inspired world making for some intriguing sights and colourful environments throughout your adventure. Sure, you can tell it’s a game that was built in the last generation of consoles, but it managed to hold up well even when playing on the Switch’s handheld mode.
It generally performed well too, with it maintaining a 30fps frame rate for the most part (though there were some drops to be found along the way). There were some slightly long loading times and moments where the game would hang momentarily, but in general it definitely worked well. That being said, it’s certainly not the definitive way to experience Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s adventure – unless you’re planning on playing on the Switch’s portable mode, you’d be better off playing the game on the more polished PlayStation 4 or PC ports if it’s an option for you.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s adventure is a bit of a mixed bag, with its unlikable characters and bland exploration particularly sticking out as the more sour points of my experience with the game. Thankfully, the enjoyable combat and branching storyline ensures there’s more good than bad here, but it still feels like just more of an average RPG as opposed to one you can’t miss out on.
Those eager to play a new RPG on their Switch may find themselves enjoying what Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force has to offer, but with better titles available in the genre right now it’s not one that I can thoroughly recommend – even if it does have its moments where it can really shine.
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC