Fairy Fencer F, an upcoming JRPG from NIS America, does many things correctly, but falls noticeably short of the paragon adventure. Although the tale is generally agreeable, the game attempts to set itself apart with a well-meaning tactical system that plays too flat to be an asset.
Fairy Fencer F progresses through a series of dungeons and a sprinkle of towns, episodically selected from a map. Although towns are useful for grabbing small quests, you’ll spend most of your time wading through these dungeons, and you’ll get quite intimate with the unique combat system. Taking a more strategic note than your average RPG, this game has you tactically position up to 3 fighters before beginning a sequence of attacks. Your goal is to place your characters in prime fighting position, while keeping them safe from enemy attacks. A healthy dose of strategy can be extremely enjoyable, and really deepen the combat system of a game. Successfully executing this requires careful integration that keeps the game equilibrated between calculation and action. Unfortunately, Fairy Fencer F‘s combat plays out closer to a flat game of checkers than a dynamic adventure.
The lackluster design, sadly, turns heroic characters and daunting enemies into inanimate chess pieces. Turn by turn you adjust your tokens, while the raging beast stands completely still, waiting patiently for your move. What should be lively encounters come to a screeching halt, painfully removing the player from the fantasy in every battle. This sort of removal would be less disappointing if the strategic system felt immersive or effective. In reality, I didn’t feel much weight in my positional choices, and the available tactical decisions lack the variety and impact to warrant this level of deviation from dynamic battling. I would have loved to see this title bring tactical complexity, but its humdrum style and simplicity fell short of both RPG and strategy standards.
The highlights of combat were the colorful and varied battle animations, based on attack chains you can enhance over the course of the game. However, as vivid as these moments were, they couldn’t save the dull combat system. Had the tactical elements been successfully implemented, Fairy Fencer F‘s action scenes would liven up a smart battle rather than dotting a vapid encounter.
Outside of combat, the game features voiced dialogue for main story moments and partially animated dialogue figures. Also unique to the game is the use of fairies to add a touch of specialization and variety; over 100 different fairies can be collected and utilized to grant powers to weapons, and alter dungeons to increase difficulty but offer special rewards.
Fairy Fencer F makes some quality decisions, and some less than impressive strides. Although there is real fault to be found in the battle system, the game overall is a generally enjoyable experience if you can overlook the half-baked combat. The game features a notable level of liveliness and characters with an engaging amount of personality. Depending on your taste and patience, these plusses combined with the crafty fairy system may overpower the unimpressive battle design. Come September 23, Fairy Fencer F will bring its faults and triumphs to North America on the PS3.