Compile Heart is a young company, founded in 2006. Their first titles were met with a generally negative reception, but as they released new games and additional sequels most of the elements that they were bashed for were refined to the max. Fairy Fencer F is an example of this, taking all the best elements from their other titles, but not over cluttering it with unneeded systems.
After an ancient battle between the Goddess and Vile God, both of them were sealed by magical weapons called the Fury. A long time has passed since then, with the only remnants of this battle being ancient weapons scattered across the land, wieldable by special people called Fencers. Legend has it that anyone who collects enough Faries will have their wishes granted.
However the story focuses on a lazy, gluttonous fencer called Fang. His adventure starts when he pulls out a Fury sword stuck in a stone. This sword ends up being Eryn, a cute but typically amnesiac girl, who bares slight resemblances with Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia with her two hairclips. He unwillingly decided to help her regain her memories and sets out to collect the rest of the Furies.
Along the way you also meet Tiara, a presumably rich masochistic girl, who has a cute animal friend called Cui, and Harley, a gun wielding chick who is this game’s main source of fan service.
As you might expect with the setup aside not much happens story-wise. Your will go from region to region meeting new allies and dispatching new enemies, frequently reminding me of “villain of the week” shows. Still the whole story is much more down to earth, at least when compared to Compile Heart’s other games.
The gameplay doesn’t differ from Compile Heart’s other titles. Battles are turn based. You can move all characters freely in a radius and then specify an attack, combo or skill. The simplicity of the battle system means that you will have to use every trick the game teaches you in order to succeed which is step away from games that have dozens of systems you won’t ever need or use.
During your battles your tension gauge will increase. The higher it is the more damage that character will inflict. Once it fills up enough that character can stab himself and transform by shouting Farize. This is pronounced as Fair-Ize and not Fa-Rice as some members of the RiceDigital team keep wanting to call it :). This system makes you really feel like a super hero, but at a cost as many of the skills in this form not only use up a lot of MP but also a percent of your HP.
As you progress through the game each character will also unlock a special command. Some characters can scan enemies while others enrage themselves dealing 50% more damage but losing SP even when using the standard attack. This is an excellent risk reward system that allows for flexibility during the tougher battles.
Dungeons are your standard fare. You roam 3D areas, making your way from one event point to another, all while fighting respawning enemies, and finally ending in a boss battle. Later you will backtrack to older areas to complete side quests or find hidden treasures. This never feels like a chore as grinding isn’t really required.
In Fairy Fencer F you to collect cards. Each time you gather a new Fury you gain a Fairy card. These cards somewhat resemble those from Persona titles. Your party members can equip one, giving them specific boosts, which in turn level up as you earn exp.
These cards can be further enhanced by using them in order to revive one of the two fallen gods. Each card you have allows you to pull out a single sword from either the Goddess or Vile Lord and in turn gives you specific boosts in the world map.
Despite Fairy Fencer F being a collection of the best elements from Compile Heart’s other games, a few of the flaws also managed to creep their way in. The framerate is utterly broken. While far from making the game unplayable, it still makes the game a lot less enjoyable as it is ever present during the more action packed scenes. The battle controls can be a bit too fiddly making it hard to aim your attack precisely.
Some amazing people worked on this title. The composer for this title is Nobuo Uematsu, known for the music in the Final Fantasy series. The concept artist is the legendary Yoshitaka Amano, the man behind many popular anime and games, while the character artist is Tsukano, famous for the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Not only does the art style look good but the 3D models look excellent. The battle animations look great and they can get you really into the action. The conversation use the classic Compile Heart breathing portraits which still look impressive, as they add a lot of life to otherwise flat 2D images.
Fairy Fencer F features both an English and Japanese voice track. While I usually prefer the original Japanese voices, the English ones are surprisingly good. You may come to remember some of them from other games such as Danganronpa, Demon Gaze and Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star.
Fairy Fencer F is a decent title. It does away with a lot of the complicated elements from their other games, keeping the most simple and accessible parts. This is one of the most down to earth RPGs that Compile Heart has made, which still contains enough wacky elements and jokes to entertain old fans and newcomers alike.
The sequel, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, is already underway, scheduled to come out for the PS4 next year.
For those willing to snag a copy you can buy one at our store, which includes a free artbook!