Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force (PS4)

Before you read the following review regarding this PS4 re-release of "Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force" be sure to read my thorough review of the original PS3 version of the game via the following clickable link ... Fairy Fencer F (PS3)

Idea Factory International is a JRPG studio which has often times focused on the more "Moe" appeal of anime fantasies, and anime characters. While some of their older games such as the earlier "Hyperdimension Neptunia" releases stuck to a routine formula involving cute girls doing cute things they have innovated along the way, and have created many other noteworthy experiences that weren't solely based on said formula. "Fairy Fencer F" itself is nothing really new in comparison to the more recent IFI (Idea Factory Intl.) releases though it still remains one of the studio's more unique, and noteworthy adventures when it comes to plot, and character development. For one thing, "Fang", who is the game's slightly unwilling protagonist is a male character placed in a fantasy world where the joint efforts of both male and female characters are the norm. IFI actually strayed quite heavily from the all female, and all "Moe" casting of their previous Neptunia series within "Fairy Fencer F", and in doing so made the main role players more diverse in various ways.

Story-wise, "Fairy Fencer F" is also a game where there is a full fledged adventure without too many heavily comedic side skits. There are definitely some serious moments, and there is definitely a reason for gamers to advance the plot in order to see the three paths that are made available through ending choices come to fruition. As far as plot advancement goes you will be basically following Fang the Fencer, and his Fairy sidekick Eryn as they go about collecting Furies (swords containing fairy servants) in order to awaken a slumbering Goddess, or the Vile God who rest in an eternal stasis not far from each other. Choosing to revive either deity will have it's pros and cons as will going neutral at the end of it all.

The mythology in "Fairy Fencer F", for those of you who didn't experience it the first go around could easily be likened to an epic eternal conflict residing in the context of various worldly religions. On one hand you have the light focused Goddess, and on the other hand the Vile God with dark intentions. Both of which have their own end goals when it comes to the protection of life, and the destruction of all creation. It is their clashing of wills ages ago that ultimately stalled the fate of those who called their world home, and ushered in an era of Fencers and Fairies to pick up where they each left off. In the aftermath of the deity's intentionally decisive battle Fencers, and Fairies became the deciding factor of the fate of all. By gathering the other scattered furies, and using them to remove the furies that imprisoned each deity the Fairy and Fencer duos at play could effectively change the course of reality. This is where Fang the Fencer, and Eryn the Fairy step into the picture as the hero and heroine of the story being told ...

Gameplay in "Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force" is as it was in it's former iteration. Though the title, graphic details, and sound quality have changed a bit combat remains wholly geared around the Fencer, and Fairy bond. As the Fencer named Fang you will be fulfilling your destined duty, and will be seeking to awaken either the Goddess or the Vile God with the help of your Fairy partner, Eryn. Should you desire to you can also choose a neutral path at the end of your journey leaving both deities to remain in hibernation. The choice, and fate of humanity lies in your hands either way. Whichever of the three paths you choose you will be utilizing your Fury (Sword), and your gifted Fairy's powers to combat enemies, and to reveal the secrets of the world around you.

As a Fencer you will face foes in circular spaces similar to those found in "Hyperdimension Neptunia" games. The battles are also turned based as usual, and the attacks that can be dished out come in a similar combo, skill, and magic form. You can even merge with the Fairy/Fury using the "Fairize" feature in which your Fairy infused Fury becomes a part of your Fencer through visual impalement. Along with these standard mechanics comes the ability to change your Fury's weapon type for the sake of exploiting weakness of specific enemies. Needless to say there's a lot to utilize in combat scenarios. Luckily as you continue playing through the game's story you will be taught the ropes of gameplay, and will be able to access any learned features (Eryn's Lectures) in the main menu listings should you need to reference them. I suppose it should also be mentioned that you can have up to 6 Fencers in your party, and that you can switch between them using the "Switch" function which is placed conveniently in your options wheel (Items, Skills/Magic, Fairize, ...). Having multiple party members also allows for joint attacks against the harder to defeat boss type characters. All characters that join your efforts can be managed in a similar manner as Fang and Eryn are via the appropriate main menu listings. Things like party formation are essential to perfecting the fight.

As with most IFI games character equipment management, and character upgrades are also a vital part of your success. You will be using gained "WP (Weapon Points)" to level up characters' RPG attributes, and will also be using said points to increase the combo count as well as the Fairize duration for party members. The furies you gather, and fight for along the way will also open up perks in the way of attachable fairies with accompanying element/boosts effects as well as the ability to discover new areas/dungeons on the world map using a fury function known as, "World Shaping". By placing an unequipped Fury/Fairy into an area on the world map you will open up access to new dungeons, and should you leave that Fury in it's place after placing it you will allow for added effects to be applied during your dungeon playthrough.

Also on the world map you will be able to pull up a menu that includes access to a town, a bar, and a shop. This opens the game up a bit more with optional NPC (Non Playable Character) conversations, and conversations with characters of interest which will effect the unfolding story. The shop itself sells the usual sorts of items, and equipment you'd expect to see from an IFI game. There are healing items, restorative items, and even items used to refill your magic/skill energy for sale. You can also find character specific equipment, and accessories as well. If you are short on in-game currency you can even sell the shop vendor materials that you collect from defeated enemies on your dungeon outings.

Speaking of dungeon outings, the traversing of said dungeons remains as it did in the original release of "Fairy Fencer F". You will make your way through labyrinthine (I love that word!), or maze-like paths with enemy avatars representing battles moving about. By pressing "X" before the enemy avatar indicator indicates that it spots you (Crown Symbol = Safe / ! = Spotted) you will gain a preemptive strike advantage meaning that you get to attack first. Should you be spotted, and attacked by the enemy avatar before you do that though you will be drawn into battle via an "Ambush", and attacked by the enemy first. It should be noted that when drawing swords out of the Vile God, or the Goddess via the "God Revival" menu option at the Inn (sorry, forgot to mention that world map location!) the battle will start off with you being attacked without any preemptive strike opportunities.

When it comes to the Inn, and the "God Revival" feature you'll find that this part of the game yields it's rewards in different ways. By applying a gathered Fury to an impaled Fury with a similar alphabetical ranking you will trigger a sort of boss battle against numerous creatures that are more powerful than normal. Should you come out victorious the Fury will be removed from the deity of choice, and the Fury's Fairy will in turn gain some bonus attributes that can be either equipped to a party member or used in the "World Shaping" function. Like Fang, and the other Fencers in your party equipped Fairies will level up, and gain new abilities (Skills / Magic) as well as rankings. These equipped Fairies/Furies will in turn enhance the character they are attached to in an elemental, boosted, and attribute specific manner. There are lot of Furies to remove along the way with the S-Rank ones being the most difficult to deal with.

Back to the dungeons ...

Aside from dealing with lesser enemies, and making your way from area to area in a dungeon you will also find plot points indicated by floating orange avatars as well as the occasional boss fight which also has it's own avatar based indicator. Boss battles are usually preceded by a floating save icon/avatar allowing your efforts to not be in vain should you saved the game before engaging in a battle with the boss character/creature. By simply running into the previously mentioned plot avatars you will activate character driven conversations that are accented by animated character images, textual/spoken dialogue, and background art. These usually lead to pivotal moments in the story, and will open up the game's lore a little more each time. Boss battles on the other hand are also telling in their own way, and will effect story progression too.

Another returning feature from many of IFI's game franchises is the "Quest" system. At a certain point in your playthrough the pub, or bar manager will offer quests. As usual the quests are rated alphabetically in accordance to difficulty, and will reward the player doing specific things while out on dungeon outings. These required tasks included everything from collecting specific materials to killing certain enemies. For fulfilling quest requirements, and turning them in at the pub/bar you will be gifted things like currency, items, and even equipment. It definitely pays to do the quests. Just be aware that the come in repeat, and single use form.

The point of the game at base level is to get to know the major role players, discover their roles in the story, fight battles, take on quests, and ultimately make a choice about freeing the Goddess or the Vile God. Using the provided mechanics, and guiding all of the characters on their mostly linear journey to a final resolve will in turn reward you with one of three endings. A good, evil, and neutral ending, respectively. Thus is "Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force".

What's New & Verdict ...

If I were to be honest I've not seen anything really different other than some visual, and audio changes. I am only part of the way into my playthrough though. Having not played the original game for years my memory is rather fuzzy regarding the game, but I have remembered the story from the PS3 version which seems to be playing out in the same fashion. To me the game appears to be an upgraded version of "Fairy Fencer F". The soundtrack is much better in quality as are the visuals. I've also seen some things in the way of stages/ dungeons that seem to have been added in. Perhaps even a character? I think what really sets the game apart from the original though is that it's going to be DLC inclusive. According to online sources it appears there will be free "Beginners", and "Secrets of Shukesoo's Tower" DLC on launch. The "Shukesoo's Tower' DLC in particular (from what I've read) seems to be a heavy grinding addition similar to the Tower add-on released with "Megadimension Neptunia VII". To have it for free would be nice. 

As far as graphics go the game really shines when it comes to the character conversation art. Everything in said conversations looks graphically updated. I think I even noticed new conversation window frames which do enhance the game's appearance quite a bit. Unfortunately when it comes to gameplay the graphics at times still show some slight similarities to last-gen's visuals. This may, or may not be a turn off to potential buyers. If you can get past it, it's actually an enjoyable game. Just know that most of the game's value lies with it's storytelling, and character development, but not so much the combat. Fairy Fencer F was a game created closer to the earlier 'Hyperdimension Neptunia' games, and had a very basic yet similar combat setup in comparison to those said games. With that having been said though I think it held enough charm, and charisma. It kept me interested enough, and still does.

Despite it's shortcomings in the way of a few instances of slightly dated dungeon/character model visuals I think "Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force" warrants a purchase. I loved it back on the PS3, and it's just as enjoyable on the PS4. I think the main selling point though will be the free DLC, if it is in fact free on launch. That and the upgraded visuals as well as the accompanying soundtrack are noteworthy points. Just know that this game will be launching on July 26th of this year. If I find anything new as I continue to play through the game I will keep you informed through additional posts!

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