When it comes to Compile Heart’s latest, Fairy Fencer F, it’s clear the company went back to basics with a fresh coat of paint to tell its newest story of fairies, furies, and other magical things that just happen to start with F.
You should already be pretty aware of where the story is going when it opens up with the hungry Fang, who doesn’t really care about anything he’s doing since he’s so hungry. When he hears he can pull a special Sword in the Stone move and wish for whatever he wants (food, of course) he does so and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for. When a fairy jumps out and tells him he’s now forced to gather weapons to be used in a battle to seal away the “Vile God,” he becomes bound to a special sword and eating has to wait. I’d be pretty upset if I were Fang personally, but then again I would have just gone to a grocery store or something.
In case you couldn’t already tell, there’s not much of an opportunity for epic storytelling or anything like that here, so thankfully the silliness of the characters themselves and the battles that eventually crop up give some semblance of meaning to the game. It’s a familiar turn-based affair, though you can roam the battlefield and call on your Fury partners in order to give you power.
In fact, it changes over the course of the game. As you earn weapon points and the ability to custom your equipment, you’ll realize that strategic point assignment is absolutely important. If you don’t upgrade specific things, however, like your combos, you’ll find that cutting down swarms of enemies is actually an impossibility, finding yourself back at square one if you don’t bother to take the time to upgrade.
What really steals the show is the “Fairize” ability, which finds you fusing with your fairy partner for stat boosts that go completely off the charts. You get some fabulous transformations, interesting attack animations, a cool battle theme to tie it all together, and a nigh-unstoppable form that you’ll want to call on time and time again. Unfortunately, despite this powerful option, the game’s somewhat unpredictable difficulty curve will undoubtedly end up affecting you at least one point or another, especially when you find yourself facing up against bosses, who for whatever reason are vastly more difficult than the enemies around them. While that’s usually par for the course with bosses, the level of difficulty they achieve in Fairy Fencer F can get out of hand, and when you’re forced to grind for twice as long as normal to defeat them, there’s a problem.
There’s interesting rapport between the characters, however, and plenty of reasons to keep soldiering on even if you begin to see the combat wearing on your nerves. Collecting furies and leveling them up is a fun process and adds hours onto the game’s lifespan, and it’s also simply gorgeous to look at. If you’re a fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, it’ll be familiar, but hopefully welcome.
Fairy Fencer F is inherently flawed, but it’s also a welcome mix of familiar combat, interesting characters, and JRPG elements that should be instantly familiar. If you’re just getting into Compile Heart’s games and are looking for a starting point beyond the Neptunia games, this might very well be the best place to begin.