Upcoming JRPG Fairy Fencer F seems at first like a typical Tales of _____ styled game, but upon closer inspection holds its own amount of unique personality and gameplay. My first encounter on the E3 showfloor took me to the NIS America booth to try out the PS3 game before its September release date. The game was originally released in Japan in October of last year and was confirmed for localization a few months later.
In usual JRPG fashion, Fairy Fencer F is a turn based RPG that sets you in control of a party of 3 potential members. Though the combat follows this traditional format, Fairy Fencer F adds its own unique flavor to gameplay through the variety of combat options offered in battle. While there are towns through which players can pick up subquests and level their Furies, all of the actual gameplay is experienced through dungeons. After selecting a location to explore from the map, players are dropped into a fully 3D dungeon to explore, populated by enemies and hidden treasures alike. Attacking a roaming enemy will kick you into a battle sequence, the focal point of Fairy Fencer F.
My experiences in the game landed me in a wide open field. While exploring I fought smaller enemies to get the hang of the combat system. As I moved toward the exit, I encountered an event notification on the map, which I then discovered to be the trigger for a boss battle I was nowhere near prepared for. While the end result was me getting my butt kicked by a reptilian enemy three times my size, the encounter did give me a good look at some of the more powerful combat options to be found in Fairy Fencer F.
Though combat is experienced as turn based, the structure of it escapes the usual limitations placed upon turn based fighting. Players are able to move their characters freely within a certain circular range of their original position. For the strategic gamer, the option to customize starting formations on the battlefield is available in the game’s menu. Attack range for most abilities is then represented by a circle extending out from your character. The trick, and strategy in this, is to position your fighters within range of the enemy to attack while keeping out of attack and movement range of the other monsters on the field.
Attacks, rather than being a single hit, have the ability to build up into combos. While combos in themselves aren’t anything new, the way they’re handled in Fairy Fencer F adds a new level of interactivity to the combat sequences. After initiating a basic attack, you are prompted to hit a second button to select from one of the three possible follow up attacks. As you progress in the game, more strikes and combo hits can be unlocked, each with unique stats and impact effects. No one attack is the same thanks to your ability to control the flow of battle through combos.
In addition to the usual HP and SP meters, Fairy Fencer F also utilizes a third meter that progressively fills as damage is dealt by a character. Filling this meter unlocks additional abilities to be used in combat, including a transformation skill that raises your base stats, unlocks new abilities, and gives your character an armored makeover.
That covers the ‘fencing’ part of the game, but what about those fairies? In this context, fairies have two distinct uses. The first applies a Fairy’s powers directly to the weapons, known as Furies. With well over 100 fairies in the game, this leaves the doors wide open to create unique and powerful weapons. As a secondary effect, Fairies can also alter the difficulty of dungeons. Before starting a dungeon level, Fairies can be applied to the dungeon, conferring both a good and bad effect to diversify the dungeon. For example, a Fairy could increase the experience gained in the dungeon by 30% while decreasing the defense stat of the player to compensate.
Though Fairy Fencer F is at its core a standard RPG, fans of the genre will enjoy the mixture of classic and new elements present in the gameplay. As an added bonus, all major questline points of dialoge are fully voiced and the character images displayed during dialogue are partially animated. Oh, and there’s a mode that lets you apply accessories to your in-game characters. For the duration of my demo, my protagonist was fighting monsters with a slice of toast hanging from his mouth.
What Fairy Fencer F lacks in originality it makes up in personality. Look for it on the PS3 on September 23.