During the seventh era of gaming consoles we saw a number of publishers trying to figure out what worked. With enough power to radically change ideas, along with more options than ever before, a number of franchises came and went. Among them was Fairy Fencer F, which gained a following after its original release. Years later Compile Heart has returned to the franchise with Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord. With new ideas, expanded concepts, and much more powerful hardware, is it a must for fans, or is the game they loved long forgotten?
Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord‘s narrative is very reminiscent of modern Neptunia. There is an overarching plot about finding special weapons called Furies, and a war between gods, but most of the time is spent on character interactions. For this reason alone it can make the initial couple of chapters harder for newcomers, and fans less familiar with the original.
At this point the characters have set dynamics, and play off each other in an amusing way. While it might be apathy from playing every Neptunia title, Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord seems to have more amusing jokes. This starts almost immediately with the main character, Fang, failing to pay for a giant bowl of ramen following his inability to finish it and get it for free.
As he rots in jail, his fairy Eryn, comes to save him with some light teasing. There are some jokes that stick around, like some light teasing about Fang befriending bugs in jail, that can easily get a chuckle or two. Progressing reveals more characters, along with introducing players to their joke loop.
Fans of Neptunia can probably spot the similarities, so if you really enjoy the structure you’ll likely enjoy this as well. These jokes also expand into optional side stories, or include characters outside of the main loop to bring the concept home. But, beyond jokes is a rather interesting strategy RPG.
All the overworld stuff in Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord has been simplified to the point of making it really straightforward. Towns are just a series of icons, there are optional events indicated on the map, which you can either explore or ignore. There is also a shop to purchase upgrades, along new locations that contain fights.
Most encounters are fairly standard for a strategy RPG. Characters move across a grid, with a wide variety of conditions impacting their actions. Which direction you attack in has different damage/odds of doing damage, certain characters/enemies can attack a range, to even pushing players to use more powerful moves like transforming, or special attacks.
I need a Stronger Attack
One thing I like about this presentation is how simple it is. I can tell before I strike if my attack should defeat an enemy, and plan ahead. The system isn’t absolute, sometimes you miss, other times you land a critical blow, but it makes the choice between actions straightforward. Especially during more intense battles where a single mistake can spell defeat.
This expands further when you gain access to songs that buff a given area. Part of what makes this big isn’t just the tactical value for your team, but rather, anticipating how enemies will use their songs to best your team. It’s very reminiscent of Disgaea’s Geo effects, just with the ability to freely move, enhance, and expand said effects. It’s a cool idea that falls short due to execution.
Beyond the two aforementioned details, Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord is a pretty generic strategy RPG. Move to enemies, land a blow, limit their ability to damage you, and then repeat. I like that enemies, even on the lowest difficulty, move to maximize damage against you, though it usually isn’t that deep. Most times you’ll win a fight as long as you don’t get overwhelmed and keep up with gear. It also doesn’t help that a number of attacks have underwhelming animations, to even the bigger moves feeling a bit cheesy for the genre.
Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord Review Verdict
At its core, Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord feels like a different take on the Neptunia formula. For this reason, fans of the franchise will absolutely enjoy this adventure. For everyone else, it’s a good strategy RPG with amusing dialogue. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s still a lot of fun. Especially if you take the time to do all the optional content.
[Editor’s Note: Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]