Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord Review

Game: Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Genre: Tactical RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (also PS4/PS5 and on Steam from May 23rd)
Developer|Publisher: Idea Factory | Compile Heart | Sting
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price:  US $13.99 | UK £44.99 | EU € 49,99
Release Date: April 25th, on Steam May 23rd, 2023

Review code used, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment.

If you are, like me, new to the Fairy Fencer F games, then let’s start with a bit of background. The games are set in a magical and fantastical world where two mighty gods, the Goddess and the Vile God, after fighting a terrible battle against each other. The conflict left them both sealed away in an unknown place. Many years have passed since then, and the weapons that were once used in their war, known as Furies, are now scattered throughout the world. These are being sought after by warriors called Fencer. Fang, a young fighter, unexpectedly becomes a Fencer and teams up with the Fairy Eryn and a young woman named Tiara. Together, they set out on a journey while Fang’s fate gets intertwined with the conflict of the gods.

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
The friend, all Fairized ready for battle

Tactical Turn-Based Battle and Visual Novel Elements

Where the game before this one, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, had turn-based combat at its core, the new Refrain Chord is a tactical JRPG. Battles are still turn-based but now take place on a grid, and your strategic decisions regarding the position of each player, along with their equipment and skills, will determine the fate of the battle.

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Sherman would definitely have been my choice for a leader

Though the battles are most important, in Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord, the storyline and the interactions between characters are just as important. The friendship you build between the party members can lead to several possible endings. 

Fury collecting is of course a part of the game, like in Advent Dark Force. These can be used to change the stats of the party members, but they can also be used in Location Stabbing. You use your collected Furies by stabbing them in various locations on the world map. Doing so can unlock items, hidden locations, or even Fairies. There really is a lot to do in the game; aside from following the main storyline, looking for furies usually means a battle. Your party members are quite a chatty bunch if you want to follow all the chats too. 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Stabbin furies in the map gives treasure!

Colourful Characters and Strange Conversations 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord starts with Fang being in prison for not paying for the food he ate at an eating contest and not being able to pay when he lost. His Fairy, Eryn, is the one who busts him out of jail, and together they rejoin their group of friends. Fang is their leader, as are all Fencers and their Fairies. 

Fang is not a very likeable young man as far as I’m concerned. He is the leader of our team, but of the kind that would colour any engagement scan in the real world, to see how a team is inspired by their manager, deep dark red. He has an inflated ego, is childish, can hardly see beyond where the next party will take place, and it seems to me he isn’t overly concerned with what happens to the world. 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Colourful characters in abundance

Somehow they all accept him as the leader though, so I read some info about the first game. I can see how gamers who played that one, too, would see this second game as a welcome chance to spend time with old friends. Maybe then you can smile at the character’s obvious flaws in their personality. But getting to know them all for the first time, I didn’t get those warm feelings.

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
I totally agree with you, A.J.

I must say, the personalities are very varied. Further in the gameplay, other characters join, and they aren’t all humanoid or Fairykind either. They are all obviously over the top, and their quirks are, at times, just plain weird. Coupled with the innuendo in the game, I was surprised at its age rating. I guess that would be Japanese comedic humour, and of course, the skimpy outfits for the ladies were present too. 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Surprising, the age rating for this game

Arias Change the Battle

Having mentioned the chatter that I often didn’t like, the storyline of Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord is interesting. At times, chilling even. And the battles are good. A lot of thought can go into planning how to reach your victory.  A muse, Fleur, joins the party and changes the battle entirely. When she sings her Aria, your team members can perform more powerful moves. But then, so does her counterpart for the enemy, Glace. When their Arias meet on the battlefield, the effects change again. It works well and is interesting to factor into the strategy. The downside, visually, is that the glare from the Arias is very annoying. You really can’t see your characters anymore; it’s hard to see where their attacks will land.

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Interlocking Aria’s in full effect

Aside from normal attacks, you can use different skills for each character. Using them will fill up their Fairize bar, allowing them to fairize. Their stats rise drastically, and some special skills can be used. On top of that, your Avalanche bar will fill up, allowing the entire team to attack full-on which is called Avalanche Rush. And if Fleur is singing her Aria and your characters are in range, they use Avalance Harmonics, even more powerful. And if all of that isn’t enough yet, there is an abundance of adjustments you can make to stats by equipping your furies too. 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Interesting enemies, big too!

To make sure you can play in a way that best suits you, you have the option to play in three difficulty settings. By choosing the easy mode, the battles are a breeze. Though it still takes a lot of time to whittle away at the enemy’s stats to come out as the victor. It will allow you to focus on the storyline this way. If you want more beef to your battle, you can also go for the normal or hard mode. 

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord

Overall, the idea of using music and the terrain to influence the battles is a good one. Somehow though, playing Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord made me want to dive into Fire Emblem!

Excellent Aria Music

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord functions well on the Switch. While the story is told and during the chats in your party, you see a static background and the characters appearing up front. A world map shows the location you need to go to for the main story and your side quests. On the battle grid, you have three steps to zoom in, but still, the glaring caused by the Aria’s effects is too much.

The soundtrack for the game is one of the highlights of the game. The background music fits with the lightheartedness or the somberness of the story told. The Aria’s are lovely, like the song Notes of Faith by Yui Ishikawa or Frozen Polar Nights by Yoko Hikasa.  And when the Aria’s of Fleur and Glace clash on the battlefield, they have merged the songs together in an unusual way. 

Conclusion

To be honest, I had a hard time coming to a conclusion for Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord. I liked the battles, loved the music and disliked the banter between the characters. I mean, I really don’t want to read all about Harley wanting to do a body check to research the Fairies, about Eryn losing her panties during the night and if Fang found them and so on. It might be comedy to some, but not my kind of humour and I even found it off-putting.

Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord
Really….?

The story was interesting, however, and the battles made up for it. I liked the turn-based strategic battles and all the special stat-raising possibilities there are to make the battles as interesting as possible. The glittering colours on the battlefield from Aria’s songs weren’t to my liking; I found it hard to discern the characters and where to place their attack. But the idea of adding music as a tactic is nice.

Final Verdict: I Like ItI like it

6 comments

  1. I agree as well. I love tactical RPGs but I think there are more negatives for me anyhow.
    But – I really loved the honest review. Always top notch work here!

  2. Im enjoying the tactical strategy gameplay mechanics, i just wish they would have had speed up battles. They have an option for speeding up the flow of battles but it still seems rather slow. I feel like they could have implemented auto battles and auto repeat like Disgaea 6 has and just let the a.i play.

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