The Sword and Fairy series (better known as Chinese Paladin to some) has quite the storied past. Created by developer Softstar, the series has been a hit in China, spawning multiple sequels and spin-offs. Despite this success, the series hadn’t seen an official release outside of Asia, until now. The latest game in the franchise, Sword and Fairy 6, has received an official translation and port onto PlayStation 4, four years after its original Chinese and Taiwanese release. Unfortunately, what appears to be an interesting plot is bogged down with so many technical issues and poorly explained gameplay elements that players aren’t likely to stick around to see any of it.
In Sword and Fairy 6, you follow the adventures of Yue Qi and Yue Jinzhao, who have both lost their memories but exhibit mysterious powers. The game drops you right into the thick of things, with evil cults and magical spells flying around without much of an explanation, but the lack of exposition makes some sense given our characters’ amnesia. Eventually, the duo learns more about the powers threatening the world and more about themselves.
This is only a very basic outline of the plot, but the storyline is a lot more interesting in execution than it sounds on paper. Since Sword and Fairy 6 combines Chinese mythology with other fantasy elements, you get a story that feels considerably different from most JRPGs or WRPGs and their common tropes. The narrative of Sword and Fairy 6 would be a breath of fresh air .. if the game was any fun to actually play.
Battles are often, and best described, as being similar to Final Fantasy XIII’s combat system. While you wait for an action bar to fill up, you can choose what the character you’re controlling is going to do, and they’ll attack when the bar is full and it’s their turn. Some attacks you can perform are powerful but don’t raise the opponent’s bar that’s essential to break their defense, while other attacks are weaker but whittle down the opponent’s defense. Knock out their defense and they get stunned for a bit, giving you a turn or two to unleash everything and anything you have on them.
What it boils down to is that during bosses, you go through the trouble of breaking their defense, over and over until they’re dead, with an ample amount of healing thrown in. It can be hard to tell what’s going on as well, no thanks to tiny white UI text against a background that’s too bright to read from. Also, the game itself doesn’t do much to actually explain this, or the essential Meridian system that’s used to level up your characters, leading to a frustrating beginning trying to fumble your way through the game’s mechanics.
When I reached the first boss in Sword and Fairy 6, I must have been playing for about a half an hour at most, with most of that time in cutscenes. The giant scorpion quickly killed my whole party off as I tried to figure out how to use my healing items and even which ones were which. It took multiple tries to finally (and barely) take the boss down, and it’s just not a good introduction for a game that already tries to drive you away.
From a performance standpoint, Sword and Fairy 6 is a disaster. The game has long loading times and constantly has significant slowdown in framerate. Transition cutscenes would drop to single digit FPS, and walking around I often experienced various graphical hitches. Given both the graphical quality of the game and the fact that these problems were also present in the PC version, it’s difficult to forgive. It just seems like no polish was put on the game at all, which is a shame.
Also, there’s the issue with the text, as mentioned briefly above. In battle and in cutscenes, it is oftentimes difficult to read the words on the screen, often due to the background (or even lack of background) used. It made following along to anything difficult and a headache. It’s especially unfortunate because I was interested in the story, but sometimes I couldn’t read what the characters were saying.
Taken by itself, one or two of these issues--the lack of explanation of the game’s systems, the graphical hitches, the text issues--would be easy to write off. After all, game development in China is a different beast than it is in Japan and the West, and certain concessions should be given. However, all the issues in Sword and Fairy 6 pile up extremely quickly, and end up seriously impacting the enjoyment of the game.
I really wanted for this series’ first worldwide release to be great, but unfortunately, Sword and Fairy 6 is just a bad game. It’s difficult to recommend the game to anyone with its myriad of issues, and that’s a shame. Let’s hope that this doesn’t discourage the developer and publisher into trying again, though, as there’s a lot the Chinese Paladin series has to offer. Maybe next time.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.