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Fairy Fencer F (PlayStation 3) artwork

Fairy Fencer F (PlayStation 3) review

"Fairy Fencer F may have been designed specifically for a Japanese audience, but any JRPG fans who can stomach the problems inherent to Compile Heart games will also find plenty to love."

When you think of the JRPG, a number of big franchises immediately come to mind. Franchises such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have built a legacy of quality over the years that can’t be matched, but that hasn't stopped some other developers from trying. Fairy Fencer F, the first game from Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG team, is one such attempt. The team was gathered in early 2013 to create quality games specifically for a Japanese audience, but that's a tall order for a company otherwise best known for the generally mediocre likes of Hyperdimension Neptunia.

The good news is that Fairy Fencer F takes its story more seriously than any other Compile Heart game before it. Thousands of years ago, the Goddess and the Vile God battled each other for control of the world. The two ended up sealing each other away with magical swords called “Furies” that contain the power of fairies. In the modern age, Fencers hunt down these “Furies” for the power they contain, and in hopes of reviving the Goddess to grant any one wish.

Fairy Fencer F (PlayStation 3) image

This generic scenario leads us to Fang, a warrior who would rather eat and sleep all day than fight for truth and justice. In fact, he only becomes a Fencer to obtain food. As far as JRPG protagonists go, he's incredibly unlikable. The writers do a good job, however, of molding him into somebody worth rooting for as the adventure progresses.

One of the major catalysts behind Fang’s transformation from zero to hero is the wacky cast of characters that join him along the way. While these characters fit within the usual JRPG archetypes, Compile Heart and the localization team at NIS America have added little twists to them. For instance, the mercenary Galdo was given a Canadian accent in the dub that makes him sound like he's straight out of Fargo. It may sound weird on paper, but trust me, it’s an absolute delight.

The game's presentation is also top notch, thanks to some amazing talent. Compile Heart managed to get Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy fame to design the Goddess and Vile God, while Nobuo Uematsu composed the music.

At a glance, the gameplay is reminiscent of Hyperdimension Neptunia. If you’ve played the most recent entries in that other series, then the battle system in Fairy Fencer F will be immediately familiar. Three characters take to the field during any conflict. They can move about within one circle, while a second circle shows the range of their attacks. A character can attack, guard, or perform an action (such as casting a spell or using a skill). A combo system improves on the one featured in the Neptunia games, removing the restriction that limited which attacks you can use to form a combo. Now it's possible to stack the most powerful moves without consequence, but an unfortunate side effect is that the game now feels a little too easy. Thanks to a powerful partner move called a "Fairize," combat with bosses often finds the heroes just barely making a dent on their opponents life meter, then destroying it in a single shot after hitting "Fairize" status.

Fairy Fencer F (PlayStation 3) image

Another reason for the game's lack of difficulty is its weapon point system. After battle, players obtain experience, gold and weapon points. Weapon points can upgrade the Fury each character possesses, which grants the player stat point increases, new skills and spells, and new combos. Players can also equip a secondary fairy they find on the field that levels up along with them. It adds some Shin Megami Tensei flair to the title, since the fairy augments each character’s stats and abilities. Those fairies also allow players to learn still more abilities, and to change the attributes of some dungeons from the world map.

All of the elements described above come together to create an enjoyable experience that serves as perhaps the best Compile Heart title to date. I’m a self-proclaimed fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, but I recognize also that they are targeted at the lowest common denominator. With Fairy Fencer F, Compile Heart may have put together something that can appeal to more than just otaku. At least, it may if they can look past some technical issues. The game struggles to maintain a steady frame rate, and sometimes even dips into the single digits when multiple Fairize are being used in combat. Even more worrisome is a game crashing bug that renders a number of side quests impossible to fulfill. NIS America is aware of those issues and may fix them before the game officially launches, but that remains to be seen.

Despite the technical issues I encountered, I still enjoyed my time with Fairy Fencer F. The only real complaint I can levy against the title is that it felt too short. It must seem insane to say 33 hours isn't enough, but I really wanted to spend more time with these characters. They had just begun to really grow on me when the game ended. Thankfully, Compile Heart is already working on a sequel for the PS4 that will hopefully solve the technical issues while retaining the heart that makes this game feel so special.

Fairy Fencer F may have been designed specifically for a Japanese audience, but any JRPG fans who can stomach the problems inherent to Compile Heart games will also find plenty to love.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (September 10, 2014)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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zigfried posted September 10, 2014:

Even more worrisome is a game crashing bug that renders a number of side quests impossible to fulfill.

Where can I find more information about this? A quick Google search for "Fairy Fencer F game crash" only brought up a topic about the JP version. I'd like to make sure I know how to avoid it in case I ever play the English version.
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Phazonmasher posted September 11, 2014:

Hey zigfried, let me try to better explain my situation without spoiling too much.

About halfway through the game, you'll be asked to go to the second fire dungeon. In this area, there is a B1 level and a B2 level. As long as you remain in the B1 level, you can leave. As soon as you enter the B2 level, any method you use to leave the area will result in a crash. This happens when the dialog box opens asking if you want to leave, and it crashes upon selecting yes.

Now, how was I able to get around it? Well, the one story sequence that happens there teleports you out of the dungeon upon completion. You aren't given the dialog box so there's no crash. Funky, right?

As I stated in my review, NIS America is aware of the issue. I sent them a save near the area so they can replicate the bug and try to get a fix out before launch.

Hope that helps!
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zigfried posted September 12, 2014:

Ah-ha! Your answer helps a lot -- I know what area you mean, so I'll be sure to avoid crashing the game.

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