In ages past, a Goddess born of the light fought against a Vile God born of darkness. As their fight continued, they created Furies – swords created to house powerful Fairies – and used these weapons to try to tip the scales. In the end, they sealed each other using the power of these Furies to end their conflict… for a time.
But now, the Furies are weakening, and those that did not hit their mark are beginning to awaken upon the planet the Goddess and the Vile God fought over. When a Fury awakens and finds its chosen wielder, the Fairy and the wielder bond. The wielder, now able to draw upon the Fairy’s power, is called a Fencer. Legends say that a Fury grants the wish of its wielder, but the truth is that it requires much more to truly grant a wish – as one must release the Goddess by gathering all of the Furies that landed upon the planet and drawing upon their power to unseal her. If one is able to, and one is worthy, they will be granted the power of the Goddess.
Fencers and Fairies
This show features a cast of characters you will quite likely hate when you first meet them… well, except Bahus and Harley, they’re just likeable from the start. Fang starts off as a lazy jerk, Eryn comes across as needy and demanding, Tiara’s a masochist in the weirdest way, Lola is greedy and obsessed with money, Ethel says nothing but ‘Kill’ the first few times you meet her, and Galdo is the Canadian stereotype taken to the nth degree. That’s not even all of them… but trust me, you probably won’t like most of the characters the first time you see them.
Fortunately, the game doesn’t leave matters that way. Eryn, Tiara, and Ethel quickly become interesting, and even Fang over time develops into a more appreciable character. It’s probably this game’s greatest feat that I actually liked Fang and Eryn as much as I did by the end.
But in addition to the main fairies and fencers, you also get a variety of unpaired Furies, and you get to see images of the fairies inside and see snippets of their thoughts as you level them. It’s pretty basic, but it’s kind of nice to see them give you a gift and say something like ‘we’ve been together for so long, here’s a present for you!’ Silly, I know… but it really builds atmosphere. Also, a lot of the pictures are really cool.
The Sword in the Stone
Each character only gets one weapon, which makes sense since each character bonds with a specific Fury and Fairy for the entire game… yet you’re constantly finding more Furies over the game, so where do they come in? Simple, you can bond your Fury to an unpartnered Fury to gain various abilities, stats, and bonuses. A great way to get around not being able to change their weapon.
Now, the Furies you find do have a base set of stats and abilities to them… but you also get to use the Fury to help unseal the Goddess(or Vile God technically) and, in the process, add additional powers to the Fury. You get to choose an ability for your Fury based off of those currently sealing the deities, and when you complete the process known as ‘Godly Revival’, the Fury you use in the process gains that ability. In addition to that, the Furies gain a World Ability, which can be used in the game’s World Shaping feature.
World Shaping is what you do with the Furies you’re not equipping. By stabbing the Furies into the ground, you can alter the stats of your party and the enemies within a dungeon, as well as the rewards you gain from battle. Except for the strongest Furies, Shaping always has a benefit and a penalty. Want increased physical attack? You might need to sacrifice some of your magic defense to get it. Want increased experience? Well, be prepared to sacrifice some of your gold generation in the process. It’s a very strategic system, as you really have to think about which Furies you want to equip and which you want to use in Shaping, especially since you can only fit so many Furies around a dungeon. It is also a fantastic way of making use of ‘extra’ weapons in a game where you’re going to be accumulating a lot of them. And since the area of effect a Fury covers is dependent upon its level, it is also a good way to encourage you to level the Furies you’re not using.
More Than Just Swordsplay
I know some of you were probably a little concerned when I said that Fencers wield swords. I mean, how exciting could a JRPG that only featured swords be? Well, have no fear… although all of the unpartnered Furies seem to be swords, the ones your characters get have a bit more variety than that. Eryn becomes a sword, of course, but Cui – Tiara’s Fury – turned into a glaive, Harley’s Fury Bahus’ default form is a pair of guns, and so on. But, even though that is their default form, each of the weapons can transform into other forms as well. This plays a critical role in the gameplay, allowing you to do combo attacks with various side effects as different weapons are good for different things.
Enemies are weak against certain types of weapons. This may sound pretty straightforward, but it allows use of one of the game’s most interesting combat dynamics: Avalanche Attacks. When you hit an enemy with their weakness, or if you get a critical hit, there’s a chance to trigger an Avalanche Attack where all party members with consecutive turns get an extra set of attacks during your turn. This is one of the best ways to handle some of the more difficult fights, so ensuring your characters are set up to use a wide array of attack styles is crucial.
The other key mechanic is called ‘Fairize’. You have a tension gauge that builds during combat, increasing your defense and attack, and when it hits a certain point you can merge with your Fairy entering Fury Form and becoming vastly stronger. The downside, during Fury Form your tension gauge quickly decreases, which causes you to take increased damage and eventually revert to normal, except with a very low tension gauge so you are remarkably vulnerable.
This game’s story really surprised me. I was expecting one of two things… either a harem story or something utterly absurd. And while the story here definitely ventures into weird territories, it stays remarkably grounded by the afore-mentioned character growth. The story has some really cool plot development, making use of foreshadowing and some very subtle hinting at a few places, and builds in a direction that I was not expecting.
The game’s big plot twists are also really fantastic, with some of them being a bit predictable, but others being really hard to see coming. There was one point where it looked like I was approaching the end but I knew it couldn’t be because there was just too much untouched content in the game. I knew something was going to happen, but I was expecting a pretty standard ‘bad guys win’ style twist where your attempt gets foiled and then you have to build up and try again… but what I got was not like that at all. I won’t spoil the actual details but suffice it to say it plays with your expectations in a fascinating way. It was at this point that I really fell in love with the game. Here is where the characters started to become the most interesting, where the story had me hooked, and where the mechanics all started to come together in a great way.
I’m not going to say a lot about this, but this game’s soundtrack deserves a mention. The game features a lot of really suitable tracks. Tiara’s theme, which only plays at a few points through the game, is absolutely gorgeous… and the song that plays during Fury Form is really catchy. The music does a fantastic job of keeping the mood appropriate, and you even get a music box to allow you to listen to it at any time you want.
The ability animations are incredibly satisfying. Even though I played for dozens of hours, I never got sick of watching certain animations. I won’t say I never skipped them, because sometimes you’re just in a rush… but I was always excited to watch most of them. Particularly Tiara’s spells and Harley’s ultimate attack. But additionally, the game’s character models and animations in general were just really clean.
If I had to pick a downside, it’d be the difficulty of finding certain materials… especially those required for some of the quests. The game really gives no hints at all about where to find things, and I sometimes found myself literally just going through every zone and checking every hidden treasure chest to see if this zone contained a certain item. I’m not implying the game should just tell you, but it would’ve been nice if the quests offered some hint as to where to go to complete them. Ambiguity is good when used in moderation, but not as a constant.
Also worth noting is the game’s difficulty overall. If you make good use of the World Shaping system, you’ll level extremely fast and the enemies will soon prove to be little more than speedbumps on your journey. I was frequently finishing normal fights with a single attack, and not having that attack cost me anything due to certain passive abilities. It got really easy, and the boss fights soon reflected that ease as well.
I was extremely pleasantly surprised with this game. So much so that I really wish I’d played it when it first came out as the developer deserves my money for this. I’m sorry I bought this on sale, and I wish I hadn’t waited. The combat was satisfying and exciting, the animations and music were great, the story intrigued me, and the characters actually grew over time. It isn’t perfect, and it is easy… but damn was it fun.