The Chinese RPG (CRPG) genre doesn’t get much love in the West. Only a couple of CRPGs find their way over here, whereas a slew of JRPGs is easy to pick up without a problem. With that said, the latest entry in the long-running Sword and Fairy RPG series (also known as Chinese Paladin) has surprisingly landed on PS4 in the West — with the help of publisher Eastasiasoft.
The new title is Sword and Fairy 6, developed by Softstar Entertainment. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the series before, however, after learning about the recent entry, it intrigued me due to its distinct emphasis on ancient Chinese mythology alone. While Sword and Fairy 6’s world and narrative are rich and deep, its frustrating and sloppy performance issues completely damper what could’ve been a great and original CRPG.
Similar to that of Chinese folk tales, the story in Sword and Fairy 6 is a beautifully crafted and told tale with a focus on heroism, struggle, and self-fulfillment. While the beginning cutscene will undoubtedly rub players the wrong way since it’s pretty poorly localized, it still conveys what Sword and Fairy 6 is all about. Players embark on a journey to uncover ancient secrets and slumbering beasts in a world torn by warring factions and deception. During their epic quest, players follow two warriors, Yue Jinzhao and Yue Qi, who are on the search to find something they lost but actually end up discovering ancient secrets as they explore the world and its towns.
What makes Sword and Fairy 6’s story so great is how the main characters and even the plethora of supporting characters have distinct personalities and immense character development. All the characters have their own struggles, strengths, and ambitions that just make them easy to connect with. At first, I simply thought the characters looked cool, like Yue Jinzhao with his double swords and eye patch bandana, but then once I started to play the game and dive deep into the game’s world, I soon realized that there’s more to the characters than just looks alone. With no prior experience with the Sword and Fairy series, I was concerned that I’d go in not having a clue who the characters were at all, however, thanks to in-depth dialogue (even though the localization quality is decent at best) and backstory retellings, anyone that’s new to the series will truly be able to enjoy all of Sword and Fairy 6’s characters.
The delivery of the narrative, however, can be exhausting and cumbersome for most players — bringing them back to the days of long-winded PS2 RPGs. This is predominately due to the narrative being told through very long, frequent cutscenes that have extensive strings of dialogue in Sword and Fairy 6. While these scenes do add to the game’s character development, they can drag on for a good while. I feel that a majority of the cutscenes didn’t actually need to be cutscenes — they could’ve been just normal character interactions that gave the player to option to skip lines of dialogue if they so choose. It’s also important to note that cutscenes are only skippable at the very beginning as there’s a countdown of sorts that’s displayed at the top to let players know how much time they have to decide to skip the particular scene. This mechanic furthers adds to Sword and Fairy 6’s slow and steady narrative, which may be annoying. For players that can muster up the patience, however, they’ll find that these scenes offer excellent character development that will ultimately either capture your attention or have you wishing that you skipped the scene when you had the chance.
While the epic story is what will draw most players in, Sword and Fairy 6’s performance issues are downright terrible and will push players away. Here’s the thing, I’ve been through the framerate mess that was Blightown in the original Dark Souls and didn’t complain once (okay, I complained a few times), but that’s just one part of a rather massive game. With Sword and Fairy 6, though, all parts of the game — even parts that aren’t busy like casually walking through towns — bring inconsistent framerate issues — hitting well around the 10 – 20 FPS mark. This, unfortunately, hurt my experience with the game so significantly that I got frustrated playing because of having to deal with the framerate dropping every single minute. Not to sound overly dramatic, but playing Sword and Fairy 6 can potentially be headache-inducing, especially during battles.
Just like the performance of Sword and Fairy 6, the game’s combat is bizarre and messy. The combat system is similar to that of the one in Final Fantasy XIII as its a real-time and turn-based fusion. In battles, players take control of one character and choose from a set of commands like skill attacks and items, all the while assigning a set strategy (for example: focusing on attacking only) for the other characters in the party. There’s a turn bar to keep track of for the player-controlled character and once it’s completely full, the player can then choose what actions they’d like to happen, some actions require less time, while others, like a powerful skill, take up a good chunk of time. Combat does take a bit to get a hang of, and unfortunately, the tutorials aren’t all that great making combat more of a trial-and-error experience at first. With how disjointed and laggy battles, especially because the camera goes all over the place, players will most likely resort to using the auto-battle feature — or change the default, real-time battle system mode to the alternative, turn-based mode instead. With all this said, I did like how the attacks are nice and flashy, resembling that of special attacks seen in an anime or manga — it’s just a shame that they can’t be fully appreciated because of the game’s technical issues.
Outside of battles, players can explore Sword and Fairy 6’s vast open-world light platforming puzzles to solve, side quests to complete, and a slew of character systems and customization options to dive deep into. When exploring, players can and need to use their character’s special skills to overcome challenges. For instance, early on in the game, I had to use Yue Qi’s special power “Mind Over Matter” that allowed me to pick up a plank of wood that I needed to use to as a bridge to get from one platform to another. These platforming puzzles aren’t anything to write home about but do mix things up a bit when in dungeons. Furthermore, when exploring, hidden spots and paths can be uncovered and interesting items can be found that can be used to increase a character’s reputation, and also be used to get costumes and titles.
The reputation system is tied in with completing quests from NPCs that are in different factions, and basically, if you complete quests, your reputation with that group increases which can lead to getting faction-specific items. The system itself works well, and thankfully, not all the quests are the usual fetch quests found in other RPGs. In addition, there are multiple fashion-focused features for players to enjoy. Not only can players get new costumes, but they can also change the look of their weapon to their heart’s content. Since I’m a sucker for character customization options, I particularly enjoyed the options in Sword and Fairy 6, but I wasn’t a fan of the Meridian System, at first, due to it being so poorly explained.
Now, I’m not one that thinks games need to have superior quality visuals to be considered “good”, but it’s clear that Sword and Fairy 6 looks very outdated — almost like a PS3 game rather a current PS4 game. It’s not a big issue for me, but some players may be put off by the game’s low-quality looks, especially when it comes to its environments and animations. The soundtrack, though, deserves praise as it’s absolutely beautiful and features excellent orchestrated and original tracks that complement what’s happening in the game. Also, the inclusion of a music playback menu is a nice little touch. However, the audio design, just like many other parts of the game, is full of ups and downs.
With its multiple issues that are hard to ignore, Sword and Fairy 6 is, unfortunately, a major disappointment that could’ve been so much more. Sword and Fairy 6 does have a well-crafted story and a glorious soundtrack, but sadly, every other element of the game is messy and leaves much to be desired. Overall, Sword and Fairy 6, the first Sword and Fairy game to come West, doesn’t leave a good first impression, which is a shame because I know how much it’s loved in the East. Perhaps with a huge patch or update, the game will be worth playing through, but in its current state, it isn’t worth the trouble.
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