Ask certain people and they’ll tell you that life is a birthright that should be experienced with ease, that you should not fight your way to the grave but instead float their blissfully having enjoyed your time between birth and the inevitable darkness of death. Unfortunately not all of us are programmed to go about things that way, and yet many of us try to achieve such an unachievable zen thinking that it will be a change for the better.
Regardless of the way you live it, life is a mysterious entity that will always ask something of you, be it insignificant or on a grand scale, nobody gets through life having done nothing at all. Sooner or later destiny comes knocking at your proverbial door and asks something of you that cannot be demanded from anyone else. We call this “life purpose”, and it is a disease that effects everyone.
In Compile Heart’s Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force you follow the story of a lazy young man named Fang who, one fateful day, awakens a mystical sword from it’s slumber, initiating an unbreakable soul bond with the spirit that lives within it; a girlish fairy named Eryn. Despite Fang’s dislike for Eryn and the responsibility their connection forces upon him, they set out to collect a series of one-hundred swords much like the one he now carries. These blades are known as Furies, and their retrieval is the defining factor of this world’s continued existence.
Fencers like Fang gather from across the land to search for dormant Furies which can be used to resurrect a great Goddess who will bring undying peace to the land, or a Vile God who will scorch the Earth with his eternal flame. It’s your classic ultimate good versus ultimate evil plotline, and the one destined to turn the tides of this heavenly war is an apathetic young man without a care in the world.
Like many previous Role-Playing Games of it’s kind, Advent Dark Force features a protagonist that has been forced into a position of leadership. For whatever reason, he is the one destined to bring about the end of a blood-soaked era, allowing the land to once-again be embraced by the warm love of the Goddess. For the first few hours of the game, Fang is an incredibly annoying protagonist, and despite the fact that his irritating personality traits are somewhat pushed into the background later on in the story, his presence within the game is that of an annoying one, but the same can be said about all characters.
Playing host to such a basic story; Advent Dark Force is the type of game that must rely on it’s cast of characters to keep audiences interested hour after hour, but unfortunately each and every character within the game features nothing more than bland, trope-heavy personality-types that do not develop into something more relatable as the story evolves.
Considering this is a game developed by Compile Heart, who often do not take things too seriously, it is worth mentioning that a lot of what is said throughout the story’s dialogue and character interactions are obviously tongue-in-cheek, though usually they’re written in a more subtle way than in this case. Often a joke will be followed up by a detailed explanation regarding why it is either funny or why it does not make sense, and the same can be said for character traits, with one character always making reference to just how weird it is that another character has said or done something that, at five hours into the game, has already been established as their gimmick. I also have an odd dislike for protagonists whose entire character relies solely on their ability to eat a great deal, sleep a great deal, and complain a great deal. Whilst, as mentioned, this does change later in the game, it still doesn’t make it any easier to handle earlier on in your experience with it.
The good thing about the game’s story is that it’s simplicity allows for audiences to easily digest it. There’s no complexity within the story’s writing, nor is it delivered to the player in a confusing way. For the most part, the story follows the same steps which leads you from your Tavern headquarters, to a information broker, to a dungeon, and then back to the headquarters, with each step featuring character interactions and, in many occasions, the introduction of a new team member. Simple. Thankfully dialogue scenes do not drag out, if I was forced to sit through more than two minutes of these characters awkwardly interacting with one another at a time, I don’t think I would have made it through the game.
The game features a level of mechanics that allows for players of multiple skill levels to understand and enjoy, but favours those out there that find themselves lacking in role-playing game experience. Players will experience the game on three different levels: The first of which will be your story delivery system which is made up of mostly stagnant character images that will interact with each other through voiced lines of dialogue that can be clicked through at your own speed, akin to that of a very basic visual novel. The second level centres around dungeon crawling; players will traverse different environments, searching for hidden items, and taking part in battles with enemies of which can be seen wandering the landscape. This leads into the third and, arguably, final layer of the game’s hands-on mechanics which is that of the battle system.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s battles play out similar to that of older Hyperdimension Neptunia RPGs in the way that it is a turn-based battle structure that allows for restricted movement in a circular area. Once your character has been moved into a particular spot, you can choose to attack normally, unleash powerful magic, string together devastating combos, and do mostly everything else featured in the battle stages of an RPG.
Advent Dark Force’s gameplay mechanics feel as though they are at an elementary level. It seems as though Compile Heart, the developers, seemingly created this game with the idea that they would perfect the fundamentals before doing anything else, if at all, which they indeed have done. As you continue into the game, smaller, more detailed elements will be made available, but it never reaches the extent of a Triple A title JRPG like those in the Shin Megami Tensei or Fire Emblem franchises. Regardless, I feel as though Advent Dark Force is still very much enjoyable for gamers out there who are both new to the genre as well as veteran players. I believe that the focus on fundamentals before anything else helps make players of all kinds feel almost immediately comfortable.
Fairy Fence F: Advent Dark Force’s most striking visual attribute is just how smooth it is as a whole. Whilst character models aren’t as polished as they should be for a PlayStation 4 title, they moved in a noticeably fluid manner. The game has an incredible visual palette which is made up of vivid colours which are, at times, countered by sheer blacks and steel tones, both sides of which set the scene across the course of the game’s story.
The visuals are backed up by an interesting but ultimately out of place soundtrack that features no fixed genre type. Whilst I believe musical variety is a great feature in any game, I also feel as though their has to be something within the composition of a track that connects it to the last. Instead of the soundtrack coming across as assorted but enjoyable, it felt to me like one big mess, and while most tracks were singularly enjoyable, together they just didn’t work.
The voice cast weren’t as bad as I was expecting them to be, all of which were able to deliver their lines in a professional and enjoyable manner. The unfortunate side to this is that the lines of dialogue they were tasked with reading were, for lack of a better word…tacky. Advent Dark Force has a very child-like sense of humour accompanied by a cast of one-dimensional characters, with jokes that simply do not land, and lines that are cringe-worthy at best.
Those of you out there who are heavily acquainted with in-depth JRPGs will still find a sense of cathartic enjoyment from this game despite how primary it comes across, whereas those of you out there who are somewhat intimidated by bigger titles will find somewhat of a love for them thanks to the introductory level of this title. Compile Heart aren’t necessarily known for their compelling and in-depth Role-Playing Game titles, and nothing has changed with the release of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, but that doesn’t mean this is a terrible title. In fact, I had a wonderful time playing through it simply because it didn’t ask too much of me like many other JRPGs do, and despite the fact that I absolutely love the types of RPG that engulf you wholeheartedly, Advent Dark Force compelled me to go at it with a light-hearted approach that actually worked to relax me.
The best way to go about playing through Advent Dark Force is with a relaxed frame of mind wherein which you’re not demanding nor expecting too much of it because, if your expectations are high, you WILL be disappointed, so take it slow, and have a good time doing it. Like I’ve mentioned; it is not a game that breaks moulds or defies expectation, but it does deliver a quite a lovely experience that can be enjoyed on many levels. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force isn’t the greatest Japanese Role-Playing Game I’ve played in my time, but it is, without a doubt, nowhere near the worst.