The Dragon Is Still On My Shoulder
HIGH Literally any of the adorable monster sidekicks. They’re all great.
LOW Trying to figure out how to get that third ending.
WTF I put everyone in their bathing suit costumes. It was… odd.
To a certain extent, I could simply republish my 2014 review of Fairy Fencer F, and that would be accurate because everything I wrote still applies to this re-release. It’s a standard JRPG that stands out due to a fascinatingly unique setting, interesting characters, and a unique mechanic for altering the game world. Yes, it’s built on the Hyperdimension architecture and shares many similarities to that series, but it’s fundamentally its own title, and an engaging one at that.
So how does it look and play on the PS4? Fantastically. While the graphics haven’t been redone for this new release, seeing them in higher resolution only makes it clear just how much work went into designing the models. All of the characters look gorgeous in and out of combat—so good, in fact, that they sometimes clash with the relatively underdrawn fields they explore and fight in.
The PS4’s impressive speed has all but eliminated loading times when moving into new areas or starting fights. It’s not a huge change, but it’s nice to see developers fully optimizing their games so players are never forced to wait around for any of the game’s content to get started.
The other big change is that there are a couple of new branches to the story. Sadly I can’t be as positive about these—not because the possible endings aren’t satisfying, but due to the fact that the the requirements for obtaining them are frustratingly obtuse. Characters have to be over a certain level and see a certain conversation during a specific chapter—and there’s no flags to know if requirements have or haven’t been met. I know this is par for the course, but I remain puzzled as to why developers put such large roadblocks in front of some of the best story content.
Thankfully, playing through the game more than once is easier than ever due to a change to the combat system.
Fairy Fencer still uses the Hyperdimension structure of having characters take turns moving around an arena and attacking with combos or special moves, but fights are simplified now that the player can have an unprecedented number of characters on their team. With a total of six active fighters, early fights are much easier and later battles more balanced—I had to replay far fewer boss fights this time. Add to this a function that lets players easily identify and skip scenes they’ve already encountered, and the game makes multiple playthroughs more convenient than ever, encouraging players to seek out all of the story branches and endings.
Upon its original release, Fairy Fencer F was one of the best Compile Heart games I’d played, and Advent Dark Force has proven that it’s still a title at the top of their oeuvre. Yes, all of the first game’s problems remain, but it’s absolutely worth playing for anyone who missed it the first time, and the new features and content make a strong argument for existing fans to take a second look. With any luck it will prove successful enough to justify Compile Heart making a true sequel and opening up the world of Fairies and their Fencers a little more.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Compile Heart and published by Idea Factory International. It is currently available on PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 45 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains blood, mild language, partial nudity, suggestive themes, violence. Expect the normal amount of JRPG salaciousness. There are scantily-clad ladies everywhere, a bath scene, innuendo-laden dialogue, and alternate bathing suit costumes for the main characters. That’s about it for objectionable content, though. The violence is almost completely bloodless, and there’s no drinking or deeply troubling messages.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing: It’s a JRPG—there are no vital audio cues, and everything is written clearly onscreen.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.