Fairy Fencer F Review (PS3)
Fairy Fencer F reminds you that the ultimate goal of most video games is to make money, and that to accomplish this, you must sell as many copies as you can while making your product as cheaply as possible. Fairy Fencer F is one of eight RPGs that Compile Heart released in 2013 (one every 1.5 months!), and as a friend of mine astutely noted, you cannot sustain that level of current-gen output without some serious hits to quality.
The penny-squeezing is felt at every level. The only real use of the third dimension occurs in the dungeon sections: everything else is communicated through static images and menus, like a visual novel. The character portraits use pleasing 2.5D models (a feature lifted from Compile Heart’s Hyperdimension Neptunia series), but with few exceptions they remain frozen and posed like 2D images, and although the mouth moves when they talk, their chins remain still. A lack of assets is wallpapered over with expository dialogue describing off-screen events like, “Oh no, she fell off the cliff!”. The frame rate is low enough to have a distracting judder, and drops further during battle segments. The opening title sequence is not animated, but cobbled together from pre-existing assets.
Juxtaposed to this is a level of fanservice which can only be described as, no pun intended, an extremely hard sell. You’ve got magitech, superheroic transformations accompanied by anime theme songs, cute girls in fetish costumes, pretty boys with dark and mysterious pasts, power armour, collectable cards, comedy skits, a casual disregard for the fourth wall, Japanese language options, cosplay attachments, optional bikinis for the female cast, a scene in a hot springs where the female characters compare their breasts and a scene involving tentacles. One of the female protagonists is a haughty teenage girl in a gothic lolita outfit who gets sexually aroused by the verbal abuse(!!) of the main hero. (At one point he tells her to “Shut up, or [he]’ll slap the taste out of [her] mouth”, a threat of physical violence that sets her vagina aflutter.) Another female character is described by the game as being “unaware of her own sexuality”, which leads to a scene where she gets too warm and just starts stripping in front of the camera. A third looks and acts suspiciously similar to the mega-popular “Black Rock Shooter” character. If you go into the character profiles, you can hear voice clips of the characters confessing their love to you, the player.
Nobuo Uematsu (of Final Fantasy fame) is namedropped as the celebrity composer of the game’s soundtrack, and is the only credit under “Music” in the opening title sequence. Yet according to the game’s own sound test, he only composed one song and didn’t even provide the arrangement heard in the final product, much in the same way that your favourite E-number sweeties “contain real fruit juice”.
But what of the effort put into the story? Put it this way: This is an RPG released in 2013 that uses amnesia as a major plot device. Lazy bum “Fang” pulls a sword from a stone and in lieu of the English throne, gets handed a spunky fairy named Eryn and a fetch quest. Taking pity on Eryn, he agrees to help restore her missing memories by freeing a good Goddess from bondage. As a bonus, this will also lead to world peace despite the world being in no obvious danger… so that’s cool, I suppose. There is also a group competing to free the evil “Vile God” first, and you’ve already guessed ninety percent of the story.
The world feels flat due to a complete disinterest in worldbuilding outside of the narrow story the game wants to tell. The dungeons are decorated with signs of advanced technology, but the common villagers in the hub city see no reason to use it to increase their quality of life. One character calls herself a “famous fairyologist”, but does not elaborate on whether this is a qualification or a self-appointed title. The world seems squeaky clean aside from the living fleshbags of experience points wandering the countryside, but there is a noted demand for orphanages(!). It does not even bother to name the main setting of the game, and there is only the barest implication that other nations exist outside of the world map.
I wanted more love to be put into the making of this game, because there is a solid foundation under there. Compile Heart may churn out an excessive number of RPGs but that volume means they are very familiar with the basics. The visuals are bright and pleasing, and the tutorials teach you new mechanics with patience and friendliness. The battle system is functional. The popcorn story gives you exactly what you expect from the cover, and Fang’s character arc is well-executed. It almost makes for a fantastic introductory JRPG, if not for the fact that certain high-level quests require a lot of grinding for rare drops. By far the most interesting mechanic is the ability to alter dungeons before you enter them, from increasing the amount of experience points earned to completely changing the roster of monsters within. (If only more had been done with that, perhaps focusing on the implications of physically changing the world to your advantage.) As far as localisation is concerned, NIS America have done an amazing job. Their script is genuinely funny and charming in places, in large part due to some fantastic comedic timing from the English dub cast, and really elevates the material. They also decided to translate a regional accent by making one of the main characters Canadian, something that really should not be as funny as it actually is.
This is not a buggy or broken game: this is a game without any aspiration. You grind numbers to earn numbers to spend on increasing other numbers. An everyman hero embarks on a Hero’s Journey with his trusty female companion-slash-weapon. Evil villains do evil things because they are evil. Boobs. On the one hand, you cannot accuse Fairy Fencer F of not giving you exactly what it promises on the box. In this way it is much like a hamburger from a fast-food joint, in that it does not fail on the basic requirement of being a burger. But it’s exactly the same as the last burger you had from that place, and in the back of your mind you’re trying not to think about the quality of the ingredients used.
Score: 2.5 F’s out of 5Fairy Fencer F Review (PS3),