Sword & Fairy 6 is an interesting Swordplay game, but that depends on your expectations.
Sword & Fairy a game series originating in Taiwan from 1995 up to now, commonly known as the English title Chinese Paladin or The Legend of Sword and Fairy. This set has 8 main games and loads of spin-offs. However, because most of them were directed towards Chinese-speaking martial arts comrades, most of them were not converted to English and distributed internationally. Sword & Fairy 6 is the first game in the game to be officially translated and released internationally. Unfortunately, the game has a huge problem with English translation and technical elements.
A long-running roleplaying game series Chinese Paladin is such a big franchise in the mainland China that it was even made into two TV series. There have been unofficial fan translations available from the series’ games but its latest entry, Sword & Fairy 6, saw an official Western release on PC a couple of years ago. Lo and behold, the game suddenly made an appearance on PS4 and my world was made complete!
In the martial world many factions compete for supreme power. Notorious Risen Soul Cult attracts people with false premises of Nether Lord granting them an ever-lasting happiness. That won’t hold well with people with more common sense, though. Sword & Fairy 6 jumps straight into middle of a scene where seeming siblings, right-minded swordsman Yue Jinzhao and his protégée, a childlike fighter Yue Qi, face off a martial arts master Luo Zhaoyan they have sought out.
A short, staged fight later the threesome ventures off to the nearby cult stronghold. It’s just a first, tentative step in a long journey ahead of them. Jinzhao ponders over Zhaoyan’s clean features and girly voice but for the most part, the young master of house of Luo passes for a man. It’s a common, even amusing theme in the wuxia genre that no matter how beautiful the leading lady might be (and Zhaoyan is very beautiful), by donning manly clothes and hairdo everyone thinks she is a he!
During the adventure, the gang is rounded up by a mechanist Ju Shifang, strict spirit healer Ming Xiu and the laid-back but insightful demon Xian Qinq whose non-human form is a white wolf (not unlike Amaterasu in Ōkami). With the exception of Ju Shifang, all heroes and heroines are capable martial artists in their respected disciplines. I have never seen a game character as touchingly sincere and kind as Yue Qi with her naive delivery and big, gentle eyes but she’s the best fighter of the bunch with her spirit weapons. The plot takes twists and turns as the ambiguous bad guys weave their plots but much of the issues revolve around nine springs of Jiuquan, holy sanctuaries between heaven and earth that can make wishes true and predict fate. Can a supposedly pre-determined destiny be changed is the big question in the game’s story.
There’s no singular lead character in Sword & Fairy 6 as the game gives room for everyone to reflect their innermost thoughts, including the intriguing antagonists. As the story unfolds, the party make-up shifts wildly according to whom the current scene involves. The party leader who jogs through various surroundings can be changed at any time and there are even some occasions that require certain characters to use their special ability to make further progress. For example, Qi can telepathically move large objects like boulders and Jinzhao can traverse vertically through air in select, tight spaces.
All in all, such occurrences are few and far between as most of the time in the field consists of hurrying from one narrative scene to another in-between fighting monsters and doing business in towns and cities. Halfway through the adventure, a fast travel between visited places is made available through Cloud Ark, a floating stone platform Ming XIu can control. Still, the story moves through a pre-determined course and the fast travel is just a convenient means of passing to the next scene.
Uncharacteristically to an RPG genre, new gear – armors and weapons – are not crafted or gained from battle loots and treasure chests. Instead, they are bought from vendors. Whenever you move to a new area, it’s best to visit its weaponsmith and clothing store to keep up the equipment with the rising challenge.
There are also dying and transmogrification available to retain previous item looks but I was fine with what was offered in each case. Also, several support and recovery items can be combined together from various materials but there was rarely a need to craft more of them as they kept dropping in volumes. Likewise, I didn’t bother with engraving runes to enhance character abilities as their effects felt marginal at best.
When I played Sword & Fairy 6, I entered a place and time of its own and suddenly, the lack of fluidity in the gameplay became secondary. Initially, the game has an obvious curiosity value as there are no other titles like it available in the west. However, the game goes easily beyond that. It’s this story and these characters that make the rocky trip worthwhile. I was sucked into a wuxia drama that is at least equal to the movies of the genre and intently watched through even the longest dialogue scenes. Even though the graphics are technically nothing to shout about, the art, costume and character designs are beautiful.
The heroes and the heroines look pure and strikingly attractive and their limited but expressive facial animations are enough to portray their surging emotions. More than that, though, the Chinese voice actors are phenomenal in their range and delivery. Together with the exquisite looks and the impassioned voices the characters are made complete. And what about those technical problems, like lock-ups and crashes? Make it a point to save often and to different save slots and there’s nothing left in the game that would hinder its course.
It’s a beautiful thought that genders are equal, that one can take another’s role without anyone taking notice. It’s but one example of the game’s wisdom in dealing with its many big key themes, befitting the cultural heritage behind the genre. The story builds intrigue by layers upon layers of secrets and hidden meanings. The only one avoid of them is ever-so whole-hearted Qi, the one with the biggest secret of them all but unbeknownst to herself. She, and the rest of the cast, are the reason why I fell in love with the game. Sword & Fairy 6 felt like I had binge-watched 64 half an hour-long episodes of a Chinese fantasy drama TV series. Productions values may have been low and effects cheesy but the actors and actresses were beautiful and the story so gripping that I couldn’t stop myself.
In the end, Sword & Fairy 6 offers a pretty engaging first-half role-playing experience. Indeed, if the game does not have technical problems and poor translation quality. This is something developers need to diligently address. In addition to the new storyline and context, along with the interesting swordplay systems, it is hard to deny the game itself makes a difference between a forest of games of the same genre on the market. Unfortunately, many seemingly small but not small problems made it lose its own strengths.
However, if you love the first half genre, do not mind poor performance and have the ability to read Chinese, this is really a remarkable game to change the wind. Although the English version is still at a comprehensible level, it will be difficult for you to feel the soul in terms of the content that is the highlight of the game.