Right at the end of the PlayStation 2 era, NIS America released a series of RPG titles with silly anime storylines that were mostly fun and sometimes great games.  They served as tests for how their future titles would be made.  Once again, here at the end of the PlayStation 3 era, NIS America is at it again, releasing a few RPG titles with throwaway anime storylines and various experimental game mechanics as seeming test fodder for the future of their RPG gaming titles.  Some of these “test” games are complete disasters, clear examples of what not to do.  Fairy Fencer F, the latest release from NIS America’s RPG factory, is the bright side of late releases.  An excellent and deep RPG hidden amongst a linear adventure and terrible story, Fairy Fencer F shows promise in what may be for classic RPG game’s uncertain future.

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Here’s the gist: World has some Gods, and the Gods did stuff.  Now there are one hundred swords strewn across the World that hold some power (and a fairy!) and that has something to do with the aforementioned Gods.  The story is a complete copy and paste from every game that’s ever been made.  Sparing the details, a kid named Fang pulls a sword from a stone (yep, that’s a thing in this game) and becomes bonded to a cute, eternally 14-year-old fairy named Erin, who both lives in the world and also resides in the sword, or “fury”, of the same name.  Thus begins a journey to collect all 100 of these furies, and the days of Fang the Fairy Fencer.

If you can look past the tepid storyline and inane, frequent dialogue triggers throughout, you’ll see that Fairy Fencer F is actually a very fun and creative RPG experience.  Set up with parties of 3, battle is done is a medium-sized free-range “arena”, where enemies and party members are set up with distance and attack ranges.  Unlike most tactical RPGs, characters are moved in free action, but this game is really more a tactical RPG than anything.   The two styles are blended well in combat.  There is a special metamorphosis power called “Fairize” that is boosted by hits taken and landed.  The power turns your character into a cyborg of sorts, and makes you much more powerful for a limited time.  You can extend the time by landing hits without yourself being hit.

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Battle is simple, but very fun and very challenging.  Part of that challenge is manufactured in high HP enemies, but most of it comes from strategically using your special points and player/enemy placement on the map.  All in all,  Fairy Fencer F boasts an above average battle system that stays fresh battle to battle.

The idea of collecting 100 weapons was more than intriguing, a sort of Kingdom Hearts on PCP.  It was unfortunate to learn that players are stuck with the weapon of their “bound fairy”; thus when you collect a sword, you don’t really have the capacity to use it.  Instead of the weapon, you are given a fairy that resides in the fury you’ve collected.  While it is rather lame to only have one weapon throughout the entire game (as far as I can tell, that is), the way the game utilizes the fairies you collect is more than adequate as a replacement.  Their primary use is as a boost for characters.  Fairies can be equipped and provide special boosts and powers to their users.  However, these little fairy friends have some other uses that deepen the dungeon-delving experience.

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The first of these powers is the ability to free the Gods from their prison in what is called Godly Revival.  The “Vile God” and the “Goddess” are both locked in this purgatory-esque realm, bound by hundreds of furies whose fairies have faded in power, dedicated to locking the Gods away.  The fairies you collect can be used to free these swords and help unseal one of the Gods.  It appears to be your choice, each with their own consequences.  Either way, when the fairy is bound with one of the swords, a battle incurs, and if you are able to win you’ll power up the fairy bound with special powers and new stat buffs.  Each fairy has a class that must match up with the class on the sword.  Between leveling up the fairies in battle and using them in Godly Revival, the power of the little winged companions will grow at a very rapid rate.

Lastly, the fairies are used to quickly locate new dungeons.  Named “World Shaping,” new dungeons are first displayed as unreachable destinations on the map.  Using fairies and the fury they inhabit by stabbing them into the world at the dungeon location opens up the location for exploration.  If you remove the fairy, you can explore the dungeon and equip the fairy as normal.  However, if you leave the fury in the ground, the dungeon is given the full effect of the fairy’s power, as boosted by the Godly Revival mode.  That’s a little complex to digest in text, but it basically works like this:  Godly Revival gives a special set of powers to a fairy, and then the fairy can be used to boost a character, or boost an entire dungeon through World Shaping.  Simple but brilliant, this little mechanic opens up enormous levels of strategy dungeon to dungeon.

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The only real drawback to the gameplay is that the overworlds are completely and utterly linear, and most of the scenery is drab and out of place.  Outside of the gameplay, Fairy Fencer F borders on disaster.  The whole thing looks like a sleek version of a Nintendo 64 game.  The music is absolutely vile, in particular a theme song that sports the line “metamorphosize your heart, release the hell inside” that plays in all of the video clips, as well as every single time you use the fairize power in battle.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It makes using the power as horrible as it is powerful.  Dialogue is absolute garbage, and the characters are molded and pressed from all of the basic anime cliches.  You’ve got a food-obsessed handsome vagabond, a naive but determined heroine, a smug and high society anti-hero that joins the group reluctantly, and so on and so forth.  It is very clear they spent no time at all developing the story, and it is a real drag on the game.  Maybe 60% of it is spent in dialogue, and that is way too much for game so lacking in story development, or even story creation.  Many of the battle animations are very slick and good looking, but there is little to no animation in the cut scenes.  Instead, the game provides glitchy looking 2D figures and voiceovers.  Pretty cheesy stuff.