Compile Heart is known for publishing pretty awful games (I call them devs and such throughout this, just deal with it you know what I meant), most notably the Neptunia series which oddly has managed to maintain a small following (even within the already extremely tiny jrpg niche) albeit being a terrible franchise filled with clunky combat, fanfiction level writing, and the most abysmally generic and vapid characters imaginable simply designed to pander. Their entire appeal being “our games have waifus for pathetic pigs with no taste who love vapid lifeless characterless characters” and absolutely nothing further somehow reaching enough of a sales base to continue existing. Every game they’ve made since 2010 has followed that exact same formula as well, not just Neptunia.
Neptunia (and most of their work in general) was always upfront and honest about being nothing but pandering to otaku and not trying to be anything more than a cash grab from a very specific demographic. Lots of girls of different generic archetypes that oddly had no relation to their namesake companies, making the whole gimmick of the series totally fucking meaningless. Comedy that was not only incredibly unfunny, but aimed entirely at otaku with a mix of poorly thought out game related ‘jokes’ and equally piss poor attempts at anime and otaku-in-general ‘funnies’. The most basic character designs without any thought put into them, terrible dungeons in a lifeless world, shitty fake ‘twitter’, and a story that literally amounted to, well, not even really existing. It was a game made entirely to pander and absolutely nothing else. Oh, and can’t forget the loads of fanservice just shoved in meaninglessly and needlessly. I’m no SJW, but I want my fanservice to be less forced – this entire fucking game revolved around sexualizing ‘waifus’ so people could jerk off to it, with everything else in the game lagging far behind on the priority list.
However, for Fairy Fencer F they seem to have tried taking things in another direction. The game still looks, feels, and seems in many ways exactly like Neptunia (specifically V), yet manages to make the first few hours seem like they’ve finally taken a step forward. Not a huge one, and not many – just one small step. Sadly, this crumbles as well once you pass the 3 to 5 hour mark and the game quickly devolves into Neptunia with a ever-so-slightly more tolerable cast. Though you have to get past the extremely drawn out tutorial shit to even get that far. I’m talking having to go through 4 dialog boxes just for the game to explain “press x to attack an enemy” to you, and that’s not an exaggeration.
Putting that aside, the most obvious change would be the lead character; it’s a guy (and one who seems to be from the world of Kingdom Hearts based on his looks). I figured such a big change from the forced waifu stuff would have an impact on the quality of the game, but no, he’s written just as poorly as any other character you’ve seen from them. He has probably the most cliche and generic main character quirks; he’s very slovenly and apathetic, refusing to do anything unless food is involved and otherwise sleeping. He is as empty as every character in Neptunia, yet feels more like an amateurish attempt at creating a character rather than a hollow shell for people to self insert their dick into. He’s…”tolerable” – and that’s where the entire cast stands, on the line of just barely acceptable as a character. They feel less like lifeless mindless cliches and more like 1 dimensional set pieces instead, which is a big step up for Compile Heart and Idea Factory.
There is one character I did actually like, and funnily enough she’s the most “neptunia-like” character in the game. She’s barely dressed, has massive heaving breasts, and has one of the only fanservice scenes in the game wherein you even see her tits jiggle around as she’s stripping down. However, even that being the case it just feels ‘better’. I think the fact that she’s the ONLY ONE like that makes her feel much more like ‘that one character’ every anime and JRPG has who is exactly like this – as opposed to being one of 30 cast members who are all filling the role of fanservice lady.
On top of that, and very importantly, she actually has a personality beyond that and even ignoring her body entirely is a likable enough member of the party. This applies even to the worst of the main cast members. They are all pretty typical, but that’s a far step better from being completely empty existences. Another very worth mentioning point is that many of the cast members this time around are dudes, and I’ve got nothing against cute girls but having guys around makes the whole thing feel less like a money begging machine and more like a genuine attempt at a video game.
The music, which is done by the extremely overrated near-talentless hack Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame is as sub-par as one would expect. There are about 2 songs that are alright and the rest are lackluster and unmemorable even during the course of playing.
Now, the story. This actually had some pretty cool elements in it, ranging from having a main character willing to murder villains without a second thought to time travel. The problem is all of it is misused or turned into something completely obnoxious. The biggest example would be said time travel. At first it’s pretty cool and feels interesting, but then you realize it’s just a way to beef up the play time without them putting effort in. When you go back in time you go back to the start of the game, wherein you then play the entire game over again nearly verbatim. Same maps, same enemies, same friends, 90% of the same dialogue in the same scenes, and so on.
This is doubly a problem because – oh, did I forget to mention – the ‘dungeons’ are already copy pasted after the first 3. From there on even BEFORE the time travel stuff you’re redoing the same dungeons again and again, just with one little room added on to them to make it count as a “new dungeon”. So by the end of the game you’ve played the same 3 dungeons over 30 times. All the times before the time travel in copy pasted “new” zones, all the times going back into those and the original zones for furies (important things, not just collectibles but also not 100% mandatory), and of course all the times AGAIN after the time travel including in the copy pasted zones. Not to mention going back to one if you need items to craft or to complete a quest.
Speaking of quests, the quest system is also shit. Locking you at low levels of quests and not giving you new ones unless you pass a certain ‘test’. The ‘test’ to go higher than level D (or maybe C, I don’t remember) was something that I double checked on and it is 100% grinding for several rare drops and nothing else. And I mean a lot of grinding. Fun. And if you don’t do this you’re left with never getting new side quests the entire game.
Back to the story, everything is extremely cliche. The big bads are bad because they want to rule the world and are, of course, an evil organization masked as a wonderful one. The good guys are good because they want to save the world but each have their own stupid reasoning for helping out (or not). The main character who, as I mentioned, was fine with killing main enemies also devolves into some kind of pathetic moralfag who refuses to kill his enemies and constantly begs them to join his side instead even as they keep trying to kill him. None of which actually do (and they end up killed anyway), and only 2 are capable of actually joining but you have to do massive amounts of grinding ahead of time (and know you have to somehow) to make it happen (else they just die as well).
I was into the story for a bit – not deeply or anything, but I read all the text and talked to all the NPCs and such (all menu based again, like always with these people) and tried to follow along with the plot. I wanted to give it a chance. This lasted a while albeit I found myself forcing it more and more until I ended up just skipping all the text or skimming through it extremely quickly only to more quickly get to a game I couldn’t stand playing anyway. The dialogue isn’t just bad due to the story though, it’s more full than ever with embarrassingly poor tries at humor and nearly depressing attempts to try and give a character personality but failing horribly.
Along with everything else are some annoying flaws in the basic game; my biggest issue being the constant ‘challenge completion’ announcements popping up during combat. I like knowing this has happened, but it blocks the entirety of your lead character’s health and SP bar, making you wait forever for it to go away (and it does take awhile). I suppose more importantly though is that the combat is so boring and unengaging you already hold the skip animations button after about 30 minutes, and even then it feels like a huge fucking chore to fight.
Finally, this whole game’s engine, the combat, the gameplay overall, and the looks are all EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME AS EVERY GAME FROM COMPILE HEART. It’s literally worse than things like Call of Duty or Battlefield about reusing resources and engines. If you add that to the rehashed dungeons and the whole going-back-in-time thing that just is a way to make you replay the same content again, you end up with one of the most lazily put together pieces of shit (that ISN’T an indie game) to release in a long time.
I could seriously go into detail about everything, but this isn’t really a game deserving of an in depth look at all that’s wrong with it. You get the point – it’s a bad game. You will not be drawn in by the story, nor the characters, and everything about this game is severely lacking or plain fucking terrible (usually both). However, if you’re a fan of Compile Heart then this is more of the same. I say a fan of Compile Heart as a game developer, not a waifu creator. If you only like their games for the neptunia gals you might want to avoid this due to the multiple males in the cast and far less of a focus on making you buy the game to pretend you have a love life. However, if you’ve never played a CH game and for some godawful reason want to, this would be the one to try first as it’s the least bad.
Final rating: 1 generically exact-same-looking-as-the-rest breast out of 20. That’s not even one pair. The continual milking of otaku by this company and this pathetic attempt at making a somewhat more ‘real’ game for once just shows Compile Heart lacks the latter part of their name and that they only care about doing the bare minimum for a niche fanbase they know will pay for it anyway. They have no intention of making good games or putting any care or work into them. Expect another 30 games from them all with the same everything before they finally go out of business. Most of those will be Neptunia spinoffs or be so similar to the series you won’t know they aren’t part of it anyway.
This is in no way as bad as something like Ni No Kuni or The Worst Game Ever Made A.K.A. Time & Eternity – but it is very much a shit heap. It’s almost to the point that the game feels like a fucking parody of shitty JRPGs, featuring every element from grinding rehashed dungeons with awful and unfun gameplay against the evil big evil mc evilbad evils while playing as a character who totally doesn’t want to be doing this and totally doesn’t care at all but urrgg he just wants to sleep so lets get this over with so he can eat and sleep but not before a shitty joke and before every girl falls in love with him.