Title: Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Compile Heart/Ghostlight Games (Switch version)
Publisher: Idea Factory International (NA)
Release Date: January 17th, 2019 (NA)
Review copy provided by Idea Factory International
This is the first Idea Factory game I’ve reviewed. After a long absence on Nintendo hardware since the Wii days, Idea Factory and Compile Heart have returned with a Switch port of a JRPG that originated on PS3. The only thing is that the port was instead done by longtime PC port and EU publishing house Ghostlight Games, who’ve ported a number of Idea Factory and Compile Heart’s games to PC over the years.
And this is their first Switch port and their first one on a console in a long time, possibly ever. So how does the game itself fare and how did it turn out on Switch? Will the game’s Fairize technique Maximize your enjoyment of the game, or will the game turn out to be so bad that it’ll Terrorize you? Let’s fine out!
A look at Fang and Tiara in a battle in the Sol Ruins.
This is a classic turn-based JRPG. The gameplay starts simple but starts getting more complex as time goes on. Let me explain. During battles, you move your character anywhere within a static circle. Once you’re close enough to an enemy, you then decide on your command, be it A to attack, Y to wait, or you can hit X for additional commands, such as magic attacks, items, and another technique I’ll explain shortly.
You start out with a single attack, and some magic attacks that use up SP (Special/Skill/Spell Points I think? I can’t recall it ever saying which), but over time you can enhance your capabilities with the Weapon Boost system outside of battles. You can get extra consecutive attacks, you can raise your circle range (handy for enemies outside of your reach otherwise), raise physical and magic attack and defense, etc.
Fang and Eryn using the Fairize technique.
But the other technique of the game is really one of the whole points of the game; the Fairize technique. This is essentially your super form where you gain more attack power, as well as access to an extra, more powerful magic attack that actually costs 30% of your health and a large chunk of SP, so choose when to use it wisely.
Three names come up all the time in the game; Fairies, Fencers, and Furies (not Furries!). Fencers are the wielder of the weapons called Furies, which contain a Fairy giving it special powers, and said Fairy merges with the Fencer to activate the Fairize mode. Simple right? *head explodes* Well our main hero Fang is one such Fencer… well he becomes one after pulling a fury out of the ground and meets the Fairy within named Eryn. Eryn is a perky pink-haired Fairy who’s on a quest to have her missing memories restored, so Fang’s sort of dragged into this quest because pulling the sword binds the two and blah blah blah. The poor guy just wants to eat.
A look at Fang’s Fairize form.fury
You actually begin the game in a literal dungeon because Fang stole some bread. For real, if there’s one thing Fang loves more than anything in the world, it’s food, and particularly meat at that. Here’s when the game begins and you start seeing some of the less good aspects of the game, I’ll get to that in a sec.
You start out in the dungeon where you’re running around in 3rd-person. You can use your weapon to stop and swing at things with certain buttons (such as Y). You can break certain objects like barrels to potentially find useful items such as potions or money. You can also jump with the B button to get over some small rises, which is nifty. Later you actually get to jump over small gaps like a platformer, how about that?
Eryn giving you a common dose of tutorial!
Here’s when you see a big issue; the performance. The game’s wildly inconsistent in framerate, and for some reason, it’s at among its worst in this first dungeon. Framerates can dip to 20 and seemingly lower at times. It got so bad, there was legit input lag, and I’m not one to really notice input lag, but this was the case here. HOWEVER, the framerate of other dungeons, such as the 2nd one, the Sol Ruins, runs much closer to a smooth 30fps. The framerate always dips pretty low (like single digits) for a second when battles start and when loading a new area of a dungeon.
The strangest thing is, the game can actually jump to 60fps at times. The 2D visual novel-esc cutscenes all run at 60fps bar some drops when portraits move or load. But even weirder is that when you Fairize, as well as when in the Vile God and Goddess revival room, those run at 60fps as well. To explain, the main objective in the game is to collect 100 furies. The Vile God and the Goddess referred to in the opening narration have many swords in them. You find and collect furies and merge them with these swords to pull the latter out. When this happens, a battle begins. Normal battles are usually 30fps, but bizarrely these battles commonly aim for 60fps, which is so weird. My guess is that the dungeons are still rendered mostly if not in full normally, but here it’s an isolated arena? I don’t know.
Tiara and Lola. The latter forgetting that gimme never gets!
The game also has a quest system. You unlock a pub area during the game in the main hub, and you can accept a wide variety of quests. Some include killing certain monsters a number of times, to finding certain items. When you complete one it will tell you on the spot via a message on top of the screen. The good news is, is that the item-based ones can be completed in uber quick succession. This is because if say you needed to find 5 Dirty Feathers, but you actually have 20, then upon handing in that completed quest, if it gives you another of the same one, then boom, you’re already done! Item quests like these can legit be rapid-fire accepted and completed all while being at the pub. The bad news is, this doesn’t apply to monster-based ones. If you have to kill 5 Ravens, but kill 10, then when handing that one in and get the same one again, your kill count of that monster resets. It’s a pain, it’s a shame they couldn’t have the same apply to the monsters, but it might have to do with your items always being tracked in your inventory, but monster kills don’t get saved beyond a quest? Who knows.
Visually, other than the performance, it isn’t that bad. It was a PS3 game and I think most would agree it looks more like a prettier Wii game (actually it reminds me of Arc Rise Fantasia a bit here). And RPG Site’s review claims it actually aims for 1080p docked which is evident because it does look pretty crisp. Lighting seems good, but there’s a sort of depth of field effect that seems to make things more jagged than they would be otherwise. Textures look pretty high-res most of the time, though the textures on Eryn’s fury when first found in a 3D cutscene had low-res textures which stuck out.
Tiara in a rare 3D in-game cutscene early on.
Speaking of which, most of the game’s story is told via the 2D portrait dialogue scenes. But on very rare occasions, you’ll see as full 3D in-game cutscene, such as the aforementioned scene of Fang pulling out Eryn’s fury (though brief), and another featuring the second playable character Tiara. Shame these weren’t more common. However the 2D ones actually animate and emote well enough (they shift to different expressions, but their mouths move fluidly).
Audio-wise, I was impressed. The game is virtually fully voice-acted. Only some optional character interaction scenes are mute, and a rare brief story-based one will be muted as well, but other than that, it’s fully-voiced. The English actors do a really good job for the most part. One criticism I have is oddly regarding the very first voiced dialogue you hear, and that’s the opening narration telling you about the Vile God and Goddess. This recording was horribly compressed and muffled. I was legit worried this was going to apply to the whole game. Thankfully it didn’t, but what an absolutely bizarre error. It’s LITERALLY the first second of starting the game. How did they miss this? I’ve watched footage of other versions and this isn’t the case there. Maybe they lacked the high-quality sample… I guess? Also the game has Japanese voice-acting as well. I did really get a kick out of the main Fairize theme song that plays when you Fairize. It’s sung in English and actually really gave me Sonic-vibes.
Tiara’s battle results screen. She’s all a glow!
Before I conclude, I need to make a couple of important notes. One is regarding some equitable items. You are given items at the start of the game (seems to be all the included DLC from the other versions), and some increase your P-DEF and M-DEF to ridiculous heights, like several hundred points. This is important because you basically become invincible when using these items. I played to about 8 hours so far and I’m only finally starting to notice my characters getting taking damage from normal attacks. However you’re still vulnerable to effects like Poison which makes you lose HP every turn. But if you want to cheese your way though, you’re in for a treat.
The other note is that the game can be a bit… fan-service-y. Meaning you’ll get some chest shots during Tiara’s victory poses. But a much larger case regards your third playable character named Harley Harler. Not long after she joins your group, you go into a hot area (is only so for the cutscenes). Harley in particular finds it so hot… she flat out starts undressing herself and the game really shows it in a pseudo still image. I say pseudo because while the image is static in general, as the scene plays, she starts shaking and… you can imagine what else shakes. Ahem. That’s all I’ll say on the matter. Just a warning if you’re put off by this sort of thing. There’s no nudity by the way, but it gets pretty close at times, like in the aforementioned bit.
The quest pub.
Overall I was surprised at how much fun I had with this game. Despite initially being put off by the performance, I found the combat to be pretty fun. And the characters are actually legit enjoyable. In a bizarre twist, I actually found this more enjoyable than Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA (here’s my review of that game). Yeah that sounds utterly ridiculous, but hey, it’s how I felt! Also, one last thing. The game crashed not long after meeting Harley. Both when you access the new dungeon from the world map from this point, but also after in the preceding cutscene when seeing Lola, who tells you where furies are (for a high price). You can save anytime outside of dungeons, but in them you can only save at certain spots. So save often! Bizarrely both crashes happened almost at the same points (both of these are right after the other in the story). So when you see Harley and she joins you, save ASAP.
+ Really nifty combat.
+ Nice upgrade system, being able to upgrade individual stats (on top of them already getting increased each level-up) is a neat feature.
+ Cutscenes are enjoyable to watch despite their mostly portrait nature. They animate to the best they can within the obvious limitations.
+ Nearly full voice-acted. Characters sound really good, and there’s a decent bit of humor thrown in.
+ It’s seemingly 1080p, or at least aims for it in docked mode and it does look very crisp.
+ Music can sound really nice at times, but I really got a kick out of the main Fairize theme song which is sung in English.
+ A variety of difficulty settings that can be changed at any time in the setting menu.
+ Includes all 25 pieces of DLC from the other versions free of charge.
+ You get equipable items seemingly from said DLC which makes you near invincible for a big chunk of the game if you wish.
+ The quest system and how it handles item-based ones.
+ Has screenshot and video capture support.
– The framerate can get very choppy more often than not.
– The opening narration was horribly compressed and muffled for whatever baffling reason.
– Monster-based quests don’t carry over kills.
– The game gets pretty fan-service-y at times as mentioned above if you’re put off by that.
– The game crashed twice. You can save anytime outside of dungeons, but in them you can only save at certain spots, so save often.