Updated on April 18th, 2019 for providing thoughts on the Switch release.
Compile Heart has taken some strides to deliver better JRPG experiences that aren’t the likes of Hyperdimension Neptunia and Mugen Souls. Fairy Fencer F was originally released through NIS America a few years back, but since the time IFI took the property back, it's done a Steam port of the original and an enhanced port for the PS4. However, they should've gone a little further, as Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force delivers a few tweaks that are bit of a mixed bag, but result in an overall better product.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is about a young man named Fang who, after hearing the promise of having any wish granted for claiming the sword in the village, becomes bound to a fairy named Eryn along with the sword called a Fury. Since he claimed the sword, it’s now his duty to seek out the other Furies in order to resurrect the sealed Goddess and re-seal the Vile God. Two problems: Fang is a good for nothing idiot bum, and Eryn is somewhat amnesiac. Therefore, Fang needs constant prodding and trickery to motivate him to complete his task. Of course, he will meet up with other Fencers and other wielders, and either enlist their aid or become their enemies. Basically, it's your typical-but-simple JRPG plot.
The game delivers your typical-but-simple JRPG plot. Its turn-based combat and plays very similarly to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. You move around in a small playing field, trying to flank the enemy to land stronger attacks in the sides and rear. Different Fencer's weapons can morph to different forms to accomplish differing types of attacks, some enemies even have weaknesses to these types. Magic or skills can also be used, but once you gain access to combo attacks, you can sometimes launch a chain attack using your other party members. To unlock them, you need to make use of WP to spend on building attacks or learning skills or boosting stats.
Stats can also be boosted by accomplishing small achievement like goals. Other ways of boosting involve leveling up and equipping different Fairies, which need to be bound to the Furies you collect. These furies can also be planted into the ground on specific parts of a map to provide passive boosts or debuffs, as a sort of challenge or handicap like boosting experience that prohibits item use. Finally, your Fencers can also fuse with their default fairies to become a super boosted form, which is often necessary to defeat many of the game’s bosses.
While the combat of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is fun -- and there are plenty of ways to boost your party -- the balance of the game is still off. Too many enemies have high evasion, and most attacks tend to miss a lot unless you are in your “Fairized” states. Despite namedropping Nobuo Uematsu and Yoshitaka Amano, their involvement is fairly insignificant. Very misleading. But despite these issues that seem to make the game bad, it’s still an enjoyable play.
This new PS4 port benefits from a higher resolution and a better framerate, but it's also mostly the same game, with a few exceptions. For one, the game has some additional content that adds two new scenarios which are a bit interesting, and the original scenario has reworked and new scenes added to it as well. The battle system has also been improved to allow for all six party members to participate in battle at once. While this does make the game easier in some ways, it also mean that you need to protect them, and there's less real estate for movement. The PC Port also benefits from being able to display in 1080p, and looks pretty nice. Also worth of note is that gamepad support seems to work right off the bat. IFI's Megadimension Neptunia VII's Steam release had some issues with this, so seeing it resolved is welcome. Other than that not much is different from the PS4 release, but it's another great way to play the game.
Another result of this is that the Learning EXP sharing skill is less useful, now only good for DLC characters and any of the original six who can be swapped out with them. Its new scenarios are also based on requirements that are somewhat straightforward but hidden to the player. They are also mostly intended for a New Game+ run, as the challenge level is very high, unless you want to mindlessly grind. The requirements are based on which Furies you wish to pull out from either the Vile God or Goddess. Overall, Advent Dark Force is a good game, but if you already bought the PS3 or Steam versions of the original, it's not really enough to justify double dipping.
Update: I recently had the chance to play the Switch version of the game, and I can tell you right now, it's a bit of a mess. Even with patches to improve performance, the game runs not even at the same level as the PS3 original. At least, not consistently. Some times, it plays better, but it's framerate is generally sub 30 much like the PS3 version was. You'd think that the game would at least play at a stable 30 frames, but you'd be wrong here. It seems though as the port wasn't given the time or resources to be optimized well. Then again, the port was handled by Ghostlight, who have been known to not do such good ports of console to PC, so this is hardly a surprise. But it's definitely a shame here. Even more so to the point that this release is a digital only offer. There are no physical releases of this version planned. But based on the build quality right now, maybe it's for the best.
The Good: The game is enjoyable with decent combat and some amusing character interactions that shake up an otherwise average story.
The Bad: The new scenarios have hidden requirements to unlock.
The Ugly: The game has some balance issues that make the new scenarios a bit of a rude awakening to unwary players.
SUMMARY: Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is a decent turn-based JRPG that still enjoyable despite its new additions not amounting to much.
PS4 review code provided by Idea Factory International