"Fans of the developer's other titles will likely find it an enjoyable play, but it's not a particularly accessible entry for anyone else."
Before actually playing it, I spent a long time watching Fairy Fencer F on the E3 show floor. There was one man who, every time I returned to have a go, was standing there playing it — across two whole days. While I applaud his commitment to the game, I couldn't find as much enjoyment in it as he apparently did. Fairy Fencer F is similar in many ways to the Neptunia games, and the demo I played was a linear affair with numerous long, tiring battles.
There were no real story or dialogue segments to see in the demo, so most of my time was spent in combat or in the field. The field maps I wandered along were linear in nature, with only a few diverging branches leading to dead ends with items. The graphics were vibrant, and bright colours meant viewing the world was an enjoyable, eye-catching experience. Party character models were excellent too, and heroes Fang and Tiara sported quality designs from a technical standpoint. Less care had obviously been taken with enemies, who were not as detailed and had forgettable designs.
Battles with foes were frequent, but they could be seen on the field before engaging them. Combat was turn-based, but allowed for free movement within a certain range on each character's turn, similar to other recent Compile Heart titles. Formations could be customised, which means you could put thought and strategy into who goes where when a battle begins. Attacks and abilities all have a certain range, so you need to get in close enough to your target to hit them.
Once you initiate an attack, a combo segment begins. After the first attack, you can pick additional moves to combo with. These change depending on the order of execution. It's an interesting idea, but choices didn't have any real impact on any fight in the demo. Perhaps it will later on in the game, once you can execute more in a row. As you take and deal damage, you fill a "tension meter" that can then be used to unleash special attacks.
Before entering a dungeon area, you can apply Fairies to an area so that new options become available. These can change the level of difficulty, experience gained, be applied to a Fencer's weapon, plus many others. There are apparently over 100 different Fairy effects to play around with.
Fairy Fencer F is more of what we've come to expect from Compile Heart. It's a traditional JRPG with some interesting combat features that will be completely hit-or-miss for players. The combat was quite lengthy in the demo, particularly a boss fight, and I found myself becoming frustrated and tired as it dragged on. Fans of the developer's other titles will likely find it an enjoyable play, but it's not a particularly accessible entry for anyone else.