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Game Review

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord


Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Fang and crew are back! Return to a land of Furies and Fairies, attune with mystical Muses to empower yourself in battle! All you can count on is your strategy and your teammates—can you find all the Fairies before Dorfa does?

Compile Heart may be best known for the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, but their Fairy Fencer series has quietly chugged along in the background since 2013. With Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord, we return to the land of Fairies and Furies. How does the newest entry shape up?


Well, for starters, we do have to address an elephant in the room: if you don't like the simpler aesthetics and presentations of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, Fairy Fencer F isn't going to change your mind. The 3D graphics are fairly simple, looking about the same as they did on the PS3/Xbox 360, and I wish I could say they looked better in motion. What does impress are the VN-styled cutscenes between characters. While Fang and his friends might come off as a bit over-designed, Live2D has been used to animate sprites during the cutscenes. The animations are very limited, amounting only to characters occasionally blinking or flapping their mouths to talk, but it goes a long way in terms of presentation. The artwork for the Fairies themselves is also lavish and detailed; there's a great deal of creativity among the various fantasy-flavored Fairies or the more mecha-looking designs. While definitely not as iconic as the myriad Blades from Xenoblade 2, it's definitely cool to see your ranks fill out with so many unique fairies. So ultimately, Refrain Chord looks good—but not much better than that.


Thankfully, the writing is sharp. Fang and company are very defined in their personalities. Even if you've never played a Fairy Fencer game, it's easy to sit down during a cutscene and feel like you've known all of these goofballs for years. Fang is a hotheaded glutton with a habit of conversing with cockroaches, Tiara is an heiress with a masochistic streak, and Harley is a hot mess. As simple as these characters might be, it's never annoying to see them banter with each other. The game also offers plenty of opportunities to explore character dynamics with optional cutscenes and dialogue outside of combat, too.

Even if the visuals aren't the most cutting-edge, the rest of the game is thankfully solid. Fang will be given a mission at some point on a world map, wherein he'll fight against a swarm of monsters in a turn-based strategy battle. The usual rules apply; attack from the sides or from behind for maximum damage, higher altitude increases damage, that sort of thing. Refrain Chord does offer some interesting mechanics, however; characters can merge with their Fairies upon storing enough energy for a stat boost for a few turns. Fairyizing, as it's called, also unlocks certain skills that can only be activated in this mode. There is also the Avalanche Attack, wherein your party can deal major damage to any enemy in range upon filling a meter. The real new wrinkle is the Muse system: both the player and the enemy opposition will have a Muse character that can sing a song for a few turns. This grants a buff to any character in range. There's plenty of strategy with the Muse Arias; you can spend a turn to increase its range or strengthen the buff, for example, but if the range for the Arias overlaps then any character in the area gets both buffs at once. Also, activating an Avalanche Attack during an Aria unleashes an even stronger Avalanche Harmonic. You can tell a lot of thought went into the Aria mechanic because each Muse gets their own song, and the songs overlay when both Muses sing at once. It's hard enough to make a catchy song, it takes real creativity to make two songs that match up.


There's also a fun amount of strategy to be had with the Fairies you find in battle. While each playable character has their own Fairy partner, you can also equip Sub-Fairies for further stat boosts and bonus skills. Some Fairies only offer skills for certain weapon types, though. And other skills still need to be bought with FP earned from clearing fights, adding incentive to exploring towns, satisfying local quests, and hunting down new Fairies.

All of these factors come together to make a fun strategy game, even if it's not the most original one out there. While the visuals in combat may be lacking, the presentation is nevertheless crisp and the gameplay loop offered is engaging and rewards experimentation. Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord isn't the most innovative title around, but it's a well-executed one with fun characters and fun strategies. Pop it in, track down Fairies, and get ready to enjoy laughing at a very hungry man and his army of numbskulls.

Overall : B-
Graphics : C
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : B-
Presentation : B

+ Tons of great writing, great music, character building is deeply satisfying
Not the prettiest game around, the basic battle system is a bit simple, a bit of a slow burn.

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