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Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Switch) artwork

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Switch) review


"Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is solid, but it does have a bit of a repetition problem."


"What a funny name!" said my friend Marc, when I told him I was playing Fairy Fencer F, a recent JRPG release for Nintendo Switch. I didn't even bother mentioning the "Advent Dark Force" part of the title, because subtitles feel like a waste of time in Steam chat. I like to keep things brief.

"It actually makes sense within the game's world," I explained. "You play as a 'Fencer' character, who partners up with a fairy, as is common in that world."

"And the extra F?" he asked.

"That's just to F with you, I think."

Actually, though, the superfluous 'F' probably stands for "fusion," since in combat you can fuse with your fairy partner and gain additional strength that lets you tackle the more powerful opponents you'll face in the final moment's of the game's campaign. Or it could stand for "fan service," because the game also has a lot of that to go with its anime style.

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Switch) image

Fairy Fencer F was originally released on PlayStation 3 in October of 2013. That's in Japan, mind you. The North American and European versions arrived most of a year later, in September of 2014. Then in November of 2015, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force made its debut in Japan on PlayStation 4. In July of 2016, that edition came west to North America. The PC version followed in February of 2017, and finally the Switch version was announced with release planned for Fall of 2018. If the team in charge of the port had been able to pull everything together in time, there would have been a new version of Fairy Fencer released every year from 2013 through 2018. That's... actually kind of impressive.

So, how good is Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on Nintendo Switch, almost six years after Compile Heart introduced its world and characters to PlayStation 3 fans way back in 2013? It's okay. Basically, it's a Hyperdimension Neptunia game, except with different characters and lore and various other tweaks that are just substantial enough to lend it a proper identity of its own. If you're into that other franchise and would like more adventures in a similar vein, you might as well just skip the rest of this review and go make an eShop purchase. But if you would like a little bit more info before you make that call, never fear: I'm here to provide it!

Like the Hyperdimension Neptunia titles, Fairy Fencer F is a time-consuming RPG that places a lot of emphasis on roaming dungeons and vanquishing enemies in turn-based, strategic battles. Progression follows a general pattern, where you clear a dungeon then head back to town and get more information so you can gain access to a new dungeon. Plot points are communicated through sometimes lengthy dialogue scenes, which for the most part are voiced. Some extraneous scenes are not, which is a shame, but there's a lot of conversation to parse and it makes sense.

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Switch) image

The story begins as a young man named Fang wakes up in a prison cell, where his fairy partner is urging him to break free and help her revive the goddess. Fang is a bit of a layabout who was locked up for pilfering some food he stole, and since he gets free meals while he is a prisoner, he's not anxious to leave his not-so-swank cell. During this initial exchange, which features plenty of comic relief typical of everything that will follow, players learn about the relationship between Fencers and Fairies, who basically roam the world in teams and take care of most of the world's heroics and mischief. Their ultimate purpose is to revive the goddess, who has fallen into an exhausted slumber after sealing away the wicked Vile God. Legend has it that if you collect all of the fairies, you can revive the goddess and she will grant you one spectacular wish. In theory, you could instead use the fairies to unleash the Vile God instead, but who would ever want to do such a thing? Only a true villain would, obviously!

As Fang roams the world in search of fairies, he meets various other heroes who join his holy crusade. The party grows to include a variety of affable characters, many of them proficient in a different weapon discipline. As you discover fairies, you can visit an alternate dimension and pull swords from the slumbering body of either the Vile God or the goddess, then infuse that weapon with the new fairy. From there, you equip the fairy to gain an attribute boost in battle, or you can stab it into the world map near the next dungeon you want to visit to provide special effects. For instance, you might enhance the amount of experience gained from battle, or the total gold dropped by defeated foes.

Character customization takes some getting used to, and it can be easy to overlook or discount some of the enhancements available. When you level up a character, he or she gets a small boost to various stats, but you also acquire skill points after each battle that you can use to improve general stats, to add additional weapon-based abilities, and to unlock character-specific abilities. As you advance, you learn special skills--which you can slot into custom battle combos--and you fill up a meter that allows a given character to "Fairize." This action makes them much more powerful, and mastery is essential unless you want some of the boss battles to drag on way longer than feels appropriate.

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (Switch) image

Early on, I really enjoyed the game because the writing is often genuinely funny, the artwork is vibrant, the fan service is subdued enough to generally avoid being embarrassing, and combat and character customization prove surprisingly deep and satisfying. However, the experience eventually started to feel repetitive, and the plot dragged things out longer than I would have liked. Then things got a little bit silly. About halfway through the campaign, certain events transpire and you find yourself thrown back in time. You then play through a lot of the same locations and relive many of the same events, but with small changes. What's not immediately apparent is the fact that in this new and expanded take on the game, there are three different routes that second half of the campaign can follow. The exact path you take depends on how many weapons you infuse with fairies, and how many of those weapons are pulled from the goddess or from the Vile God.

If you want to see everything in the game, you must play through the campaign's second half a total of at least three times... plus you'll have to play through the first half on each of those runs. In New Game+, you keep your improved stats and equipment and such (unless you inexplicably choose not to), so that it's easy to blow through the familiar first half in an hour and a half or thereabouts. Just run through the dungeon, dodging the enemies as best you can, then unleash holy hell on any bosses. When you get to the second half, you're suddenly forced to grind again as you deal with considerably more powerful adversaries. In practical terms, this means that on your "second" trip through the second half of the campaign, you're often visiting each dungeon for at least the fifth time, since you already went through that same dungeon twice for story reasons on the previous trip, and then again to collect optional fairies that you really didn't want to do without and then again in the first half of your second run.

The repetition grows tiresome, and it no longer really matters that you're still seeing additional plot beats. The game simply spreads itself too thin, and that means you start to notice things like how there aren't a whole lot of individual enemies and how half of those are just palette swaps. The unique content that is on hand is very good (of higher quality than anything in the first three Hyperdimension Neptunia games that preceded it), but reused assets definitely wear thin and I can only watch even the best combat animations a certain number of times before I just start skipping them.

In spite of my negative comments above, I mostly did enjoy my time with Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force... and particularly on my first time through it. There aren't a whole lot of games that offer quite this experience, so if you need something that scratches that particular itch and you've already gone through the other games from Compile Heart, I would say give it a shot. On the other hand, folks who are tired of the JRPG in general are unlikely to find anything here to change their mind or rekindle the old love for the genre. It's a bunch of better than average filler, basically, but nothing more. I'm glad it exists, I'm glad I spent dozens of hours playing it, and now I'm happy to move onto something else even though I'm still not sure what the 'F' is all about.

3.5/5

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 25, 2019)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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hastypixels posted February 26, 2019:

The Switch is becoming the perhaps not so humble home to second, third, and even sixth releases of ports. Honest I can say it couldn't happen to a more convenient system - though it does emphasize the opportunistic nature of game development and marketing.

The better for us, in fact.
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Masters posted February 26, 2019:

Jason, this is an excellent 'long' review. I don't often make it through long reviews, so for me, that says a lot. And I'm not just saying that because I essentially co-wrote this review. Good use of my unintentional soft ball, by the way. I have one suggestion to make:

of higher quality than anything in the first three Hyperdimension Neptunia games that preceded it, in my opinion

The 'opinion' bit feels unnecessarily wimpy.

Anyway, it's a great review when it's longish and about RPGs and I still get through it, and have managed to be educated and entertained.
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honestgamer posted February 26, 2019:

Thanks for reading, both of you. And Masters, that's a good call on the "in my opinion" bit, so I've gone ahead and removed that since it doesn't really need to be said. Obviously, the whole dang review is my opinion!
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zigfried posted February 26, 2019:

Glad you finally played this! What's the framerate on Switch?
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honestgamer posted February 26, 2019:

I can't tell the difference between 30FPS and 60FPS unless I'm playing games side by side, so I'm afraid I can't answer that particular question for you. It's a turn-based RPG, though, so it's not like there's any reason frame rate would actually impact the gameplay, and everything seemed stable at whatever FPS was in place. I'm going to go ahead and guess a stable 30FPS?
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Ogreatgames posted February 27, 2019:

Still don't know what "F" means?

I don't know as well but I do know your review of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on the Switch was "F".

Yes, FANTASTIC!

I'm actually glad that this JRPG finally made it to the Nintendo Switch.

I believe that this game is one the best to grace from the collabs of Compile Heart, Idea Factory, and Ghostlight.
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honestgamer posted February 27, 2019:

I'm glad to see the game on Switch, too. It's starting to get a little bit easier to take ports of great games for granted, since the platform has been receiving so many of them lately. It seems like every week, there are another 10 or 20 awesome ports to welcome. But games like Fairy Fencer F fall squarely in the "type of games I most want to see" category. Even though I didn't think it was absolutely amazing, I had a generally good time and I would like to see some of Idea Factory's other stuff come next. Thanks for reading!

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