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Game Title: Fernz Gate
Company: EXE Create, KEMCO
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PS Vita/PSTV)
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 5 – 7 hours
Download: 132 MB

EXE Create and KEMCO have been putting RPGs out for handhelds for a good amount of time now. I enjoyed them on the Vita and now with the Switch, they are still a-going. After Asdivine Hearts and Antiquia Lost, I’m ready for them to put more of their games on Nintendo’s new handheld.

And that, they have. Not too long ago, another of their games popped up on the eShop and I inquired about it right away. Having played through yet another RPG this month, here is my review of Fernz Gate for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

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The plot of this game revolves around Fernland, a “nexus” world where many people from different worlds wander into and become lost in, unable to return to their homes without the help of the local deity, known as the Goddess.

This world is thrown into chaos when a wanderer known as “The Overlord” comes to Fernz Gate and steals the Mana and Power of the Goddess for himself. With no one left to defend the people, he takes over Fernz Gate and plans to conquer it and absorb more Mana and Power from everyone to make himself even stronger.

You play as Alex, a wanderer from a world like modern-day Earth who finds himself in a world full of fantasy and monsters and fighting in the rebellion to reclaim The Goddess and find a way back home, to his own world.

I liked the story because of how serious and relatable it was. I don’t see many JRPGs with MCs that are from modern-day like us players are. On top of that are some big twists on the game’s plot towards the end that really shocked and surprised me. This is an RPG with a much different kind of tone than most of its type.

Gameplay

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Fernz Gate is a turn-based retro RPG like all of the other Switch games from EXE Create and KEMCO I’ve reviewed. In this game, you’ll be traveling through towns and dungeons and fighting off monsters and bosses as you progress through this game’s plot, gaining experience and levels as you fight.

Like other KEMCO RPGs, there’s not much of a difference here between the Switch and other versions of the game. Because the PS Vita version is compatible with the PSTV, it’s not an exclusive version for TV and handheld play.

The way this game progresses is a little different than previous games, though. Unlike most retro RPGs of this style, there is no Overworld for you to explore to be similar to the SNES Final Fantasy games. Instead, you have a point-to-point map so you just select the destination you wish to visit and it loads you right at the entrance of that dungeon or town.

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That’s not all this game changes to the formula used in past console EXE/KEMCO games. It also uses a “Buddy” system, letting you acquire monsters and NPCs as recruits that can be either used in the Battle Party or kept behind to give you extra battle effects. This also ties into the ract that each slot in the battle party is taken up by 2 characters instead of just one, giving you combined HP totals and more overall turns to dish out damage to the enemy.

The Shop and Seeds systems also return from Antiquia Lost, letting you use Gems and Tickets you obtain from battle (or IAPs) to obtain powerful weapons from an RNG game as well as getting special QoL key items like the ability to double experience gained in battle. Unlike Antiquia Lost, high-tier weapons are kept for the late-game areas, so the difficulty cannot be broken and this feature is far more balanced. Gems/Premium Currency also is extremely common to obtain from random battles, making the In-App Purchases unnecessary.

The thing I really enjoyed that they added, though, was the ability to manipulate random encounters in dungeons. In strategic locations in each dungeon are objects that allow you to manipulate battles, such as doing 3 straight battles if you want to grind for levels as well as increasing/decreasing the random encounter rate of that dungeon, depending on how much fighting you want to do. It’s extremely convenient when you revisit dungeons and don’t want to fight outside of the boss.

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This definitely gives you plenty to do, but we should talk about the time you’ll be spending here. You’ll get more time out of this than Antiquia Lost, but not as much as Asdivine Hearts. On the Normal Difficulty, it took me around 13 hours to get the Normal Ending, plus another couple hours to go the True Ending route once it unlocks with Clear Data.

Do note that there are many optional areas you can explore and some side-quests, which I did about half of on my file. If you want to go for a 100% run, you could probably add a few more hours onto those numbers, but for most people, it’ll be a 12-15 hour journey.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t too hard. There is no touchscreen use, so everything is on the buttons.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick or the Arrow Buttons / D-Pad. ZL and ZR are not used, but the R trigger is used for pulling up Encounter Manipulation once you buy the feature from the Shop.

Then the face buttons. A is used for interacting with NPCs and selecting items in the menu and B lets you cancel menu options. X is used for pulling up the menu and Y is used for using the Escape feature in dungeons.

Presentation

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Graphically, the game looks pretty crisp when you’re wandering around dungeons. When you’re in battle, though, things look a little strange. I never noticed this in Docked Mode, but in Handheld Mode, the moving character sprites have a strange “grain” effect on them. If you recall the strange grass flickering in Ys VIII, it’s similar to that.

Performance, though, is wonderful. While the game does have a bit of a lengthy sequence going to the title screen, it runs at an extremely smooth frame-rate in combat. While frame-rate isn’t really a huge factor in turn-based RPGs, the animations run buttery-smoothn that looks to be at 60 fps.

Battery Life

Just like my last RPG Review, this game gets lots of Battery Life. Here are my readings:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 04 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 28 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 24 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 50 minutes

As expected of these devs, but it’s still great to see games go up near the 7 hour range.

In conclusion, Fernz Gate is an RPG that retains a lot of its genre’s qualities, but has a story with a surprisingly-serious tone. Though the game is held back a bit by its strangely-grainy battle sprites and odd booting sequence, it should certainly be on the list for people who enjoy Retro RPGs. This is a good one.

Final Score: 9/10