Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force Review
Let us first address how Advent Dark Force is not a sequel. Instead, it acts like an expansion pack to the original Fairy Fencer F (read our review of this version here). Having first appeared only a couple years ago, there hasn't been a noticeable upgrade to the visuals, but Compile Heart has taken the time to redress almost every other feature in the game.
Players take on the role of Fang, a lazy good-for-nothing who only dreams about the quality of his next meal. While walking through a small town, he comes across a sword stabbed into the ground. A passerby explains that whoever managers to pull the sword out will have one of their wishes granted. With dreams of a large feast filling his brain cavity, the young man takes a chance and removes the weapon with barely any effort.
He is greeted by Eryn, a fairy inhabiting the sword who explains he has become a Fencer and must set out on a journey to recover other furies (the name of the sword like her own) to revive the holy Goddess to bring peace across the land that may one day be threatened by the Vile God.
Initially, the story remains identical to the original release - up to a point. A few new scenes have been added to introduce unique events. The choices made during these moments can alter the course of the game. The plot soon diverges, leading you to one of three different endings: the original route, along with two new directions.
One ending is meant to be the new canonical ending, with the story playing out in an outlandish but far more interesting storytelling. This is made evident when Ethel, Sherman, and Marianna are shown more prominently in the game's opening. Their development has been expanded upon compared to the PS3 version.
The other ending turns everything on a dime, drastically changing each character's personality. There are amusing elements, but the sequence of events grow far darker as a result with important figures being maltreated in bizarre fashion.
Players will find conflict in which ending is more preferable, but I appreciate how Compile Heart rectified baffling plot decisions, like how a certain character went completely off the deep end in the first release. It isn't blatantly obvious how to set yourself up for the new ending and newcomers will likely play through to the first ending, but that's what New Game Plus is for.
Speaking of which, characters I despised in Fairy Fencer F redeem themselves here in different ways. The new script provides a decent amount of laugh-out-loud moments, feeding into the light-heartedness. Unfortunately, there were also circumstances when the irredeemable become more insipid, including a few unique faces. Some of the antagonists are still poorly written, and those who only play through the original ending may walk away disappointed.
I can't say everything is on target. On multiple occasions, the game would whip out an invincible boss that is magically weakened after a deus ex machina appears. Battles are restarted constantly, and this newfound power for one person has been extended to the entire party.
This constant cycle present in both the old and new content wore me out and eventually made me upset. The writers boxed themselves into a corner and used extreme acts of convenience and contrivement. Even with the new release, I found it difficult at times to invest in the tension the game was trying to deliver.
Player grind is also more prevalent. Features like Shukesoo's Tower and the furies' ability to modify dungeons helps to alleviate some of the mess, but expect to spend a lot of time going back into dungeons and leveling up your party before exploring the new content.
On the other hand, with few exceptions, the voice acting is on point in both the Japanese and English dubs. Fang is particularly well done in both options, even if I found it more difficult to find appeal in him as a person as the story went on. I could even hear the distinct voices of Compa and Nepgear. Overall, there are plenty of voiced segments here, even in the new events, so the gross disparity that used to exist in Compile Heart's games has almost evaporated.
Outside of the cliché plot devices and meandering pacing found throughout the game, there was still something in Advent Dark Force that kept me entertained. It boiled down to the characters and the people they interacted with. There are noteworthy gameplay enhancements made over the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, such as the larger party count and the far more enjoyable combat. It even has different difficulty modes to allow for more replayability.
For the fans of that series and its comedic tone, you will find the same style of comfort here. For newcomers, if you can put up with how contrived the story can be, it may be worth a shot thanks to the exclusive content. And with the way things end up, we may see more Fairy Fencer F in the future.