I was pretty hyped about Fairy Fencer when I first read about it.
The game has some serious artistic chops. Toshiki Inoue, known for his work on Yu Gi Oh and Death Note, was the lead writer for the game. Nobuo Uematsu and Yoshitaka Amano, both of whom previously worked on the Final Fantasy series, have music and artistic credits respectively.
However, in spite of its creative talent, the game is a hot mess.
Fairy Fencer’s plot follows the typical 'Shonen Jump' story arch. A group of warriors known as Fencers search for 100 Furies, which are magical swords infused with fairies. The Fencers aim to use the Furies to revive the Fairy Goddess, who has the power to grant them any wish they desire.
The game has cool story ideas, but the execution is boring. The main characters are intolerable, and their one-note personalities can usually be summed up by a single word - Fang is lazy, Eryn is irritating, and Tiara is worse.
The story is told as a visual novel. Action takes place via screen text. Visual novels are great for dialogue-driven games like Phoenix Wright where most of the conflict takes place through conversation. But Fairy Fencer’s story is action-oriented. Major battles are stripped down to a brief text description, followed by terrible sound effects. These scenes completely suck the momentum from the narrative.
Fan service is rampant. One character, Harley, was likely crafted by the dreams of 12-year-old shut-ins and is condensed into a pair of boobs. She prefers to spend her time studying. She strips off her clothing because she’s too hot. And her battle animations zoom in on her jiggling jugs at every opportunity. Other female characters behave as if the lead writer has never actually spoken with a human woman. And one of the main goals of the game revolves around reviving a fairy goddess, whose skin becomes more exposed as progress is made.
The sound design in this game is atrocious. Even after adjusting volume levels, random sound effects would still overpower the rest of the soundscape, and character voices would occasionally get buried by the music. I grew frustrated trying to fix the sound, so eventually I muted the game and used Spotify as the soundtrack. (Incidentally, Primus makes amazing battle music.)
Gameplay is Fairy Fencer’s saving grace. Combat is turn-based, with special focus placed on positioning your characters to gain the upper hand on the enemy. The pace is swift, the battle animations are slick, and there are plenty of options to customize your fighters. Furies are used to buff your fighters, and can also shape the overall dungeon to provide special benefits like extra gold or experience points. There are plenty of techniques for the characters to master, making it easy to build a party that suits your playing style.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t utilize combat to its fullest potential. It takes a long time before you acquire all the characters in your party. And once you do, the main character travels back in time to the beginning of the story, forcing the player to go through all the dungeons and collect party members twice. Furthermore, characters will systemically drop out of your party for ridiculous plot-related reasons. Thus, you seldom have a full-powered team.
Unless fan service is your thing, most gamers will probably give Fairy Fencer F: Advent DarkForce a pass. Combat is really, really good, but never feels fully utilized. The story has potential, but aggravating dialogue and a lack of visuals hinders it from being enjoyable. Combined with cosmetic problems like troublesome sound design, there’s not a whole lot to recommend here.
Final score: 5.5 out of 10