I like to jokingly refer to games like Fernz Gate as “new old". I've been playing every type of roleplaying game I could get my hands on (Western, Japanese, tabletop) since the early 90’s, so I've been lucky enough to get to experience all the greats during their prime, in all their innovative, pixelated glory. With its turn-based battle system and slick 32bit style pixel graphics, Fernz Gate is a game that would have felt right at home on PlayStation 1. So even though it's technically a new title, it possesses the old soul of a past generation. I can almost envision this game in CD format, sitting in a hard plastic jewel case with a colorful, artwork-laden instructional booklet nestled comfortably in the front. New old: it's a lot more fun than saying “retro-style" all the time haha.
I will say this about the characters: it takes a bit of time to get used to them, but as the game progressed and it started to delve into their backstories I found myself getting attached to them. There are a few stereotypical cliches (Alex is one of those reluctant hero types) that can feel a little dated, but the way they interact with each other is pleasant. Due to the publisher's request, that's all I'm going to say about the plot and character growth at this time.
Also worth mentioning is that characters don’t use mp for their skills, as is the trend in most JRPGs. Instead, each skill has a cooldown period in which you must wait before being able to use the skills again. This goes for both magic and physical skills. The way you learn new magic is interesting as well. By equipping an elemental ring, you can start earning SP after battles to level up that specific element, which then provides you with more powerful spells. Once the ring is unequipped, though, you lose access to that spell set until the appropriate ring is re-equipped. Most of the spells and skills you learn can be leveled up by repeated use, increasing their potency. You can also unleash hidden powerful spells by using certain magic combinations with your buddy during battles. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys grinding and maxing out things, then you got a lot of work to do here.
Another cool mechanic is the secret house that you gain access to later on. It can be accessed at any time through the menu and it allows you to put your extra buddies to work! You have six rooms that can be converted into three different options: planters, doors, and stands. You can take the stat enhancing seeds you find and plant them in the planters to receive fruit after a certain amount of game time passes. You gain multiple fruits per seed, plus they offer bigger stat increases than a regular seed would. If you assign a buddy to a door, they go out on a mission and return with maid coins that can then be traded into the maid co-op for special items and equipment. If you assign a buddy to a stand, they offer special bonuses to your party in battle and they also earn experience. As long as a room is not in use, you can convert it to any type of room you need, so it’s quite a convenient thing to use.
My one major complaint with Fernz Gate is the framerate. While moving around on the field you’ll see an occasional stutter, but when you move diagonally or near certain areas of town, prepare to see a huge drop. After a while, you get used to seeing it and you can avoid the worst of it just by avoiding diagonal movement, but really, it’s a shame to have framerate issues in a title like this. If you are looking for a good JRPG to play, however, I wouldn’t let that put you off. With all it has going on for it, Fernz Gate is well worth the price for those looking for their JRPG fix, and it helps to fill a void in the Xbox One store’s lacking department for the genre.
Xbox Store Page
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
+Nice retro-style graphics
+Decent variety of gameplay mechanics