2015.02.09 update: This game made our Top 5 console games of 2014 list!
If you are a fan of JRPGs and haven’t gotten rid of your PS3 yet and replaced it with a shiny new PS4 then I would say it’s probably a good idea to hold off on doing that. Better yet, just pick up a PS4 and keep your PS3 right where it is. Why, you ask? Everyone knows that if you want to play a great JRPG, the PS3 is the place to be. Currently, there isn’t a decent JRPG out for the PS4 and NIS America has jumped in with a cool new game for the PS3 to tide us over until someone releases one for the new kid on the block. Fairy Fencer F is the latest outing from Idea Factory and Compile Heart that combines hilarious dialogue, fast-paced combat, awesome music and beautifully rendered hand-drawn characters and environments that will make you glad you held on to the PS4’s older brother.
You take on the role of Fang, a young guy who stumbles across a sword one day who decides to help the fairy Eryn that resides in that sword to regain her lost memories. To his surprise, in order to accomplish that task, it is going to take a lot of hard work. Fang, on the other hand, only wants to eat and sleep and not necessarily in that order. On their journey, they will acquire new powers and meet new allies all while attempting to awaken a Goddess who Eryn believes will help her to regain her lost memories. Oh, and there will be cake.
Eryn (on the far right) is the Fairy that resides in Fang’s Fury (sword). Tiara (on the far left) is a Fencer who joins the group to help awaken the Goddess.
Fairy Fencer F is a Japanese Role Playing Game to its core and its built on the turn-based battle mechanics of Hyperdimension Neptunia. Fang and his cohorts are known as Fencers. Fencers are warriors who have partnered up with the Fairy that resides in the Fury, or sword, that has sought them out to assist them in collecting other lost Furies in order to awaken the Goddess and bring about world peace. Battles take place on a 3D battlefield with the order of battle being determined by the MOV value of your allies and the enemies. During battles, you can call upon regular attacks as well as powered up attacks and magic attacks to defeat your opponents to earn items, gold, experience points (EXP) and weapon points (WP). Your character, as well as any additional Fairies that you are teamed up with, will level up after earning a certain amount of experience points that grant buffs to the typical list of attributes such as Health Points (HP), Skill Points (SP), strength (STR), intelligence (INT), luck (LUK) and movement (MOV) to name a few. Weapon points, on the other hand, can be used to improve the amount of damage your weapon doles out, to learn new magic attacks, new weapon combos or to open up different skills and abilities. To be the most effective Fencer, however, the key is to find other Furies in the world in order to team up with their Fairies and combine their powers and abilities with yours to become world famous.
Battles in Fairy Fencer F can be fairly fast-paced once you get a good grasp of how the battlefield is laid out and how to use the battle mechanics to your advantage. The battles take place in areas called dungeons. While walking through a particular dungeon, you have the choice to gain a Preemptive Strike by attacking an enemy that you happen upon first or you can be ambushed by them. Gaining a Preemptive Strike awards you with the opportunity to attack first otherwise the enemy gets the opportunity to draw first blood. Once a battle has begun, there are several ways that you can choose to attempt to defeat your opponent. Basic strikes do low to decent damage depending on the level of your character but you can also choose to use a combo skill, weapon skill or a magic attack. All weapon skill attacks cost a certain amount of SP and do a good amount of damage while others will cost a certain amount of HP and SP and can do significantly more damage. Magic attacks come in many different types depending on the team member that you are using and only cost SP to cast.
You can see the stats of all of your party members at a glance.
The combo system in Fairy Fencer F is where you can pull off some really cool attacks on the enemies. Once you have earned enough WPs, you can purchase the Combo skill which will give you the ability to perform up to four techniques per turn. Your first technique is fixed, but you can assign additional techniques to the triangle, x and square buttons as you unlock more combo slots. In order to utilize your combos effectively, its important to pay close attention to the weapon type of the combo. Your sword has the ability to shape-shift into other types of weapons such as an axe, gun, glaive, bow or greatsword. These transformations vary between each of the characters so choosing the best combo for the characters fighting style will determine its effectiveness in battle. Each weapon form can also bestow various advantages in battle such as inflicting status ailments, increased hit count or increased damage to launched enemies.
There is also an additional system worth noting that allows you to do even more damage to your opponents because some dungeon bosses are just too damn stubborn and powerful for their own good. The real pièce de résistance in Fairy Fencer F is the Fairize system. When a Fencer and their fairy partner shares a powerful bond, the two of them can transform, or “Fairize”, into a very powerful combat form known as “Fury Form.” Fang and his allies each have a power meter called the Tension Gauge and during battle, this Tension Gauge will fill when you land successful attacks or receive blows from the enemy. When your Tension is high enough, your attack power will increase, however when your tension is low, your defense will suffer allowing you to take more damage. When your Tension reaches a certain point, you can Fairize or transform to a more powerful battle form. While transformed, your power will increase tremendously and you will be able to use certain skills. You only have a certain amount of time in this form so once your Tension drops below a certain point, you will be forced to disassemble. Using your Tension properly and knowing when to Fairize will be the key to your success.
Fang transforming into his Fury Form.
There will also undoubtedly come a time in Fairy Fencer F when it will be necessary for all of your teammates to bring the smackdown on a single enemy all at the same time. This can be accomplished with the Avalanche Attack. As long as your teammates turns precede the enemy’s once an Avalanche Attack is triggered, your allies can gang up on the enemy with their own combo attacks. The characters who contribute to an Avalanche Attack will not lose their turn, and can still act normally once their turn arrives. Avalanche Attacks will activate most often when you attack an enemy with a weapon that they are weak against but can also randomly occur when a character lands a critical strike. You will know what weapons an enemy is weak to because the word “WEAK!” will appear after you strike them with that particular weapon allowing you the opportunity to exploit that weakness.
The graphics in Fairy Fencer F are really one of the standout highlights of this game. Idea Factory and Compile Heart has a style all their own and they do a great job with their hand drawn characters and environments. The game is done in an anime style that really captures the essence of the story line and brings the characters and their world to life. Colors are bright and playful and used in such a way that sets this game apart from many games that NIS America puts it’s stamp on. The character designs as well as their “Fury Forms” are unique and very detailed which serves to develop their individual personalities. In addition, the monster designs are very awesome and varied enough that each area that you visit will contain monsters that you have never seen before which helps to keep gameplay fresh and the areas feeling unique. Although many JRPGs that have released on the PS3 over the course of its lifespan have been done in the anime style, this game’s artwork is superb and the care that was taken to present truly awesome visuals clearly shows.
The Avalanche Attack brings the smackdown on an already outgunned opponent.
The soundtrack in Fairy Fencer F is also another great asset to an already almost technically perfect game. On start-up, the player is greeted with a guitar riff heavy face-melter intro song written by R.O.N. and performed by Matsunaga of the Japanese pop group StylipS. It only gets better from there. Tunes range from upbeat battle anthems to orchestral serenades and never fails to impress. If there ever was a game that got the music absolutely right in regards to how it fits the whole experience, this is it. The voice-over work is also very well done with the voice actors really having the chops and the understanding of their characters that brings them to life. The dialogue can be crass at times but is hilarious at others and has kept me engaged through my entire Fury finding foray.
As with any JRPG, inventory management is key to being able to survive in the dungeons of Fairy Fencer F. While you are in the town or out on the world map, you can save your game at any time. There are shops where you can purchase or synthesize potions or cures for status ailments as well as buying new armor and equipment for your party. When you are not in a dungeon, your HP and SP will replenish automatically. When you are in a dungeon, you will need to rely on the items that you brought with you or those that you have found while clearing that dungeon. In addition, you can only save at certain spots in a dungeon which is a feature that really disappointed me. JRPGs have come a long way and it doesn’t make sense to me that I can save when I want when I am not in a dungeon but when I am in a dungeon, I can’t save until I am able to find the arbitrarily placed save spot. This seems like an old JRPG trope that could have been left out in favor or giving the player a little more control about how they explore the dungeon levels being that it is here that you are most likely to be defeated. If that is the case and you are killed, you will then have to start at the beginning of that dungeon having lost all of the items, EXP, gold and WP that you had accrued up to that point.
Fairies have their own stats, level up and gain new abilities just like the main characters.
The act of teaming up with other Fairies that you find during your journey and having their attributes combine with your own to make you an even more bad-ass Fencer is a unique take on character customization and opens the doors for various types of customization options. Not only can you increase the stats of your character by the usual means of earning EXP, WP or purchasing cool equipment, but you can also stick with a particular fairy whose skills and abilities complement your own and level them up or you can choose a Fairy that may not necessarily have the same skills and abilities that you do but work against certain enemies that you may encounter in the game world. It all comes together to create a fast-pace, fun experience that I thought we wouldn’t see anymore on a last-gen console. To my surprise, Fairy Fencer F was a welcomed addition to my PS3 library and one that I know for a fact that I will be sinking many more hours into. Fans of JRPGs will mark this one as the new water mark in Japanese role playing games.
Who knew the PS3 would still have great JRPGs releasing for it?
Fast-paced combat. Awesome music. Hot anime chicks.
Who could ask for anything more?