By Jason Quinn / September 1st, 2020
|Release Date||July 29th, 2020|
|Platform||PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
Fairy Tail is an RPG based on the manga and anime of the same name. I should note that I’m writing this review from the perspective of someone that doesn’t really have much knowledge of Fairy Tail in general. The game starts off rather confusingly if you’re like me and haven’t watched or read the series, as you’re fighting a villain with no context as to who they are, or what they’re after. After some events that are there mostly to teach you how the combat system works, the story finally settles in after a time skip. Or rather, time has passed for the rest of the world, but the main characters have stayed the same. In this new world, the Fairy Tail guild, a sort of collection of wizards that help the populace with various tasks and fight other wizards, has fallen from grace. So it’s your job to salvage its reputation.
Its a pretty appropriate set up for a game, but I’m not sure how smart of a move it is to start your video game more than halfway through the series. As someone that’s unfamiliar, I think I would’ve appreciated a more gradual introduction to the cast rather than essentially everyone being introduced immediately. I’m sure plenty of fans enjoy earlier arcs, and for someone like me, it just makes it hard to be invested in anything going on. The game sort of expects you to know who these characters are. However, I don’t think this is an example of a game that’s mostly just for fans. I feel like even fans will grow frustrated with the game.
In terms of story, many characters from the original series are just non-existent. Many events of the series are simply told to the player in quick summaries. You’d find better descriptions of some of the events on a wiki page. So while it does have scenes from the anime/manga, they’re heavily truncated versions of them. Oftentimes without voice acting, without key characters, and the briefest of summaries for events that can’t be portrayed with a turn based RPG battle. For example, there’s a magic tournament at some point in the game, and part of the qualifier is a race through a labyrinth. You don’t participate in the race at all. You’re just told how arduous the race was as the game basically just fast forwards to whatever the next story beat is that can allow you to have a RPG fight.
This happens very often throughout the game. Parts that are more faithfully adapted end up being heavily truncated with details seemingly left out and characters missing. Some characters are there, but only sort of there. By that I mean, they have no character model, and you never actually see them on screen, except for text boxes with a portrait of them. This confused me a lot until I realized that the game was more or less implying that some of these characters are just always conveniently off screen.
To call this game cheap feeling would be an understatement. I’ve never seen a licensed game that was so obviously impacted by either lack of budget or lack of time. To newcomers, the narrative seems rather boring and characters very one note, and I imagine fans would be frustrated at how poorly this adapts the source material.
In terms of gameplay, it fares a little bit better. It’s all pretty solid and competent stuff. Battles are generally fun and not overly long, and each mechanic feels meaningful. I do feel like the game leans more towards the simple side, presumably to accommodate the younger crowd that this series targets. I don’t have any real complaints about it, but not much here that’s praise worthy either. It’s all pretty bog standard stuff. One thing I appreciate is you can tell which enemies are going to attack which of your characters. Its a very nice thing for a RPG to have.
The combat system is about as typical turn based as you can get, with a few little extras here and there. Enemies occupy a 3×3 grid of squares, and your special moves have area of effects. So battles more or less become figuring out which moves can most efficiently take out the enemies based on where they’re positioned. You also have moves that can knock enemies back to alter their position, though I found this to not always be useful.
As you attack enemies and take damage, you’ll slowly build up the magic chain meter. When this is full, this allows you to fire off a series of attacks, the number of which is based on the level of your characters. This allows you to do a lot of damage at once. Another mechanic is the awakening meter that each character has. This is just something that boosts the stats of your character and refills their health and magic points, and for some characters, allows access to new attacks. This meter builds up the same way as the magic chain meter.
Overall, Fairy Tail works perfectly fine. There’s nothing bad about the battle system, and you get to see characters doing their big attacks from the source material. To speed things up though, you can turn the animations off. The main way you progress through the game are quests. Some have story behind them, some don’t, but ultimately they all kinda boil down to fighting enemies. Your guild headquarters serves as a sort of hub where you can buy items, upgrade characters, or upgrade the services your guild offers. The services you get include an item shop, a crafting system, and buying food that can give you passive buffs for a certain length of time. Upgrading these services just makes them offer more things. These are all done with resources you get from defeating enemies. It’s a pretty satisfying gameplay loop, and I’d say its the strongest aspect of the game. It’s very well paced, you’ll almost always be able to upgrade something after a quest or two.
There’s decent quality of life features to go along with this as well. If you need specific items for something, its very easy to look up what each enemy drops when you defeat it. If they’re quest items, you’ll have quest markers on the maps where they’re located. So you’ll never be running around looking for something for very long. The developers behind this game have been making RPGs for quite some time, and these sorts of features are where their expertise shines through.
That said, another point of frustration is just how few locations there are in the game, and how small they are. It won’t take you but 5-10 minutes to explore the entirety of a brand new location. You’ll also be going back to them very frequently for quests or upgrade materials. Each location also feels pretty generic. I don’t know if they’re pulled from the source material, but there’s very little that feels unique about them. Just your garden variety RPG locales. Forests, beaches, mountains, very safe locations.
The game visually looks pretty nice. Nothing to really complain about in that regard, though I found character animations to be a bit lacking. The battle animations look really nice, but when they have to move and act outside of that, it just looks really awkward and stiff. I don’t normally comment on a game’s performance, however I couldn’t help but notice some massive framerate dips during some attack animations. It kinda takes some of the cool factor out of these attacks when the game suddenly starts dipping below 20 frames per second. The music fares a lot better, it’s quite good. As far as I can tell, the game doesn’t use any music from the show, but the tracks here all fit the mood of the game perfectly.
I don’t think I can recommend this adaptation of Fairy Tail. For people that aren’t fans of Fairy Tail, there’s not much here other than a mostly competent RPG. For people that are fans, there’s just heavily truncated and compromised versions of the things they like. There’s some fun character interactions in the side quests, but I don’t think it justifies a $60 price tag. It’s a fairly lengthy game at around 40 hours, but most of this time is spent just being disappointed. If you’re a real diehard fan, and you just have to play this, then I’d at least recommend waiting for the price to drop.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.
Fairy TailGust Co.Koei TecmoRPG