Fairy Fencer F wasn’t a particularly notable game. I’m not trying to be mean, only honest. When the PlayStation 3 and PC game came out in 2014, it was a rather unimpressive JRPG coming out near the end of a console’s life cycle. You’d expect a developer to be familiar with the hardware by that point, but instead Compile Heart gave us a rather stereotypical, nondescript adventure that recycled Hyperdimension Neptunia’s battle system. Nothing about the story stood out. Not only did we deserve better, but Fairy Fencer F did too. It’s gotten that chance to be the game it’s supposed to be with Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force.
Most people are going to go on and on about Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s adjustments to the battle system, extra difficulty levels and improved visuals. Which is fine. All of those things are important and deserve your attention. Getting to take six people into a battle and choose if you want to enjoy the story on easy, play as Compile Heart intended on normal or push yourself with hard is important. But the biggest improvement is to the story. Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force allows us a far richer narrative.
The original Fairy Fencer F made Fang follow the path of the goddess. Years ago, she fought with an evil god and was sealed away in the process. Fang, our hero, stumbles upon a Fury, a weapon that holds a Fairy inside, and is declared a Fencer in the process. He’s convinced by Eryn, his new Fairy friend, and Tiara, another Fencer, to collect every other Fury that exists. Once they’re all in one place, the Fencer wielding them can make a wish.
You can guess where this goes. Fang wishes for the goddess to be unsealed, good prevails and the day is saved. A cast of crazy characters comes along for the ride. One ally is very blatantly set up to double-cross everybody. Don’t forget to toss in some romance with a heroine who becomes a damsel in distress, because of course that has to happen. Congratulations! Fairy Fencer F follows the JRPG formula we’ve been seeing since the 1990’s.
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force enriches your experience by offering the element of choice. You can do what’s expected of you; you can follow the “good” route everyone expects from one of these games. But now, you have an opportunity to completely alter the second half of the game. After Fang and his friends face a rather important boss fight at the halfway point of the game, two other roads open to you. The Vile and Evil Goddess paths show that your actions matter and can revolutionize an otherwise typical RPG. Best of all, one of these new endings encourages you to reconsider the canon ending.
For example, the Vile Goddess route makes you wonder who Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force’s hero really is. The timeline restarts with another character replacing Fang as the hero. This new leader is one of the few people who remembers the events prior to facing Marianna. New characters join the party, including ones who might have been enemies before. Characters defy our expectations and appear with different morals and motives. Fang doesn’t even returning to the fold until we jump through several hoops, due to how different his disposition is in this story. We see new sides to people that allow us to understand how easy it is for someone’s perspective and personality to shift.
In the Evil Goddess route, we find that even someone who seems villainous could have good hidden within them. It takes previously established figures and authorities, even gods, and makes us realize that the real threat could be one we don’t even realize exists unless we push ourselves and explore every possible option. People develop different depths. It’s gritty in a way the original goddess path isn’t. This route has extraordinary twists and turns to it, affording the opportunity to completely throw out the typical save the world/save the girl option offered in Fairy Fencer F. Some might even consider it canon, once they reach the end, thanks to the unanswered questions it leaves.
Instead of keeping with tradition and perhaps offering even more stereotypical routes for people to explore, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force rips out all of the pages from the book that made up the original story and alters our entire perception of the plot. Suddenly, the opportunity to explore alternate realities gives us the chance to see worlds that are drastically different and filled with infinite details that show how such alterations affect everyone. It’s beyond refreshing; it makes Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force more interesting. It’s a richer experience.
Which is what we want from these games. JRPGs aren’t always the most technically astounding and intricate. Aside from a few landmark titles that stand out, most distinguish themselves with the stories they tell. Fairy Fencer F didn’t have the best story.