An anime series converted to a game that’s actually good?
- Developer: Gust
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Genre: JRPG
- Release Date: 30th July 2020
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC
- Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Will I have needed to watch the show?
When GUST started development of Fairy Tail they must have known it can be a little intimidating for a player to jump into an anime based game without any prior knowledge of the nearly 400 anime episodes in the series. Would that player be overwhelmed with backstory and history of what has occurred in the shows if we just jump right into it in the middle somewhere? That sense of concern would rise too, if the player knew the game does indeed pick up the series roughly around episode 125 of the anime. However, there are 8 brief and concise descriptions of the story arcs that have preceded the game in the in-game encyclopedia, so that even someone with no previous knowledge of the Fairy Tail universe can dive right into this game and enjoy it, and what a great game it is.
The game starts at the end of a story arc, where the guild of Fairy Tail has been put in suspended animation for seven years by a blue dragon. Upon their return, they discover their once-powerful guild is now but a passing memory, so they task themselves to build it back up to be the best, once again.
GUST do it again!
If you have never heard of the developer GUST, they are quickly becoming one of the rising stars of JRPG development, as the company to go to, to make a game look stunning. Case in point would be one of the previous games, Atelier Ryza, and they have created the same gorgeous visuals here in Fairy Tail.
It’s not so much that there is high graphical fidelity, or stunning particle effects and earth-shattering rendering in the game (even though at times there is). It’s more that GUST has managed to capture in the artwork not just a faithful recreation of the anime series artwork, they have also created a magical fantasy world that is achingly beautiful to gaze upon and immerse yourself in. The power of the current consoles and the skill of the developers is such that the line between a moving interactive anime and game are now so close it’s hard to know where one begins and the other stops.
Character designs are excellent, and with the guidance of the original author of the manga, Hiro Mashima, they have been faithfully recreated in the characters’ look, feel and movement. Equally pleasing are the character animations in cutscenes, combat, and general movement around the world of Fiore. Although there is an occasional drop in frame rate as you explore around the town of Magnolia, the rest of the game worked with silky-smooth efficiency, especially in the over the top combat spell launching animations where there was a lot of energy and action on screen.
As you take on quests of ever-increasing difficulty and progress the story, the world map opens up to new areas, each as gorgeous to look at as the last. Lush environments of fantasy quality fill the screen wherever the team go.
It’s all in the action
But all this beauty wouldn’t be worth the effort if the core gameplay was mediocre. With Fairy Tail’s grid and turn-based stylish combat, it most certainly is not. Indeed, combat is one of the best aspects of the game.
As you progress the game you unlock and sometimes have to play as one of 16 different characters. Some missions are locked with characters, others can be chosen. However, each character has their own unique move set, abilities, and magic spells. The more you use the character the more move sets will also be unlocked. For example, the character Wendy is a great person to use for healing or team stat buffs. The character Erza, is a bit of an overpowered tank and deals heavy damage in her attacks too.
The game positively rewards players for using different combinations of team members for their preferred playstyles.
So each player of up to 4 in a team, has either a basic attack, magic attack, use item, or defend option. Magic attacks use MP points, and the higher the value the more potent the attack. Each attack will cover a certain amount of squares on the attacking grid where the enemies are, again with the higher value magic attacks covering larger spaces.
The battle commences with each taking their turn to defeat their foes. If however, you wish to just watch there is even an automatic mode, where you can sit back and watch the action unfold automatically.
In addition to these attacks, players can build up a combo meter that, when full, can be used for a powerful, all member of your team, high damage attack with an amazing, highly energetic, bombastic wind-up and deliver cut scenes. There are also other player buffs, that are collected and learnt the further in the game you play.
What was addictive about the combat was that, although simple in design, it is balanced very well, and even battles on normal difficulty with general enemies require thought and tactics, not just in the elaborate boss fights.
The only real disappointment of the combat was that the basic melee attack was so weak and ineffectual compared to even the most basic magic attack, it was to the point of being an utterly useless addition. When you consider that there is no means in which to upgrade your basic melee attack, one can start to wonder why it was even part of the game.
An area the game absolutely excelled at though, was in the explanation of all the gameplay mechanics. It is a HUGE bugbear for some gamers when games literally throw everything the game can do at them within the first few minutes with no real explanation other than to read some basic instructions and get on with it. Some games don’t explain anything at all! Not so here in Fairy Tail.
Each mechanic was beautifully explained when it arrived. Players are literally forced to do nothing other than use and understand the new mechanic in the next mission, to the point that the only buttons you can press are the required ones. Along with brilliantly clear text, interesting visuals and a guide you by the hand attitude, the game really encouraged players to feel comfortable with mechanics.
What about the RPG part of the JRPG?
To expand the experience there is a whole host of upgrading, building and role-playing to be done to make the team and guild itself more expansive.
The guild, as in the actual building you are in, can be upgraded. To do this requires items to be collected on missions, for example, wood to upgrade the notice board. When the Notice board is then upgraded then better and more rewarding requests will now start arriving. Upgrade the shop and, more items will be available to purchase in your shop, and better stat buff measures in your lab.
Each team member also has their own story to tell, that can be accessed and played through as side missions. These increase the character stats, up to level ten, and also bonding points for greater team dynamics in battle and development.
With 16 playable characters and a lot of depth for stat building there was always an eye on increasing the potency of the team as well as progressing the story during gameplay.
The inhabitants of the local areas can also be interacted with if they have an icon over their head for community missions, but these are unfortunately mostly just basic fetch quests, and they are frankly quite boring.
How does it sound?
Much like the visuals, the audio of exploring and combat was outstanding. When walking through forests, for example, the chirp of birds in the trees, the dull thwack of footsteps over a wooden bridge or the trickling of a nearby stream all draws the player into the experience.
The voice acting is equally impressive but is only in Japanese, so any English players will have a lot of text to read. However, be that as it may, even though I am unable to understand a word of Japanese, it was still highly entertaining to listen to. There were at times moments of hilarity, where it was hard to not laugh out loud. That was balanced out with occasions of touching melancholy, like when some characters find out the fate of their loved ones. Everything was voice acted with aplomb.
However, one of the worst aspects of the game, thankfully something that could be altered in the settings, was the highly annoying and very repetitive sea shanty music that follows the team around, whenever they are in their guild or local town. As you are in these areas a lot, it soon gets very annoying to hear the same awful few bars repeated over and over. A mechanic to change the background music would have been most welcome, otherwise, just turn it down……or off! The music does change in different areas you explore, just not in the one where you spend most of the gameplay.
For the fans.
There has been some negativity towards the game, from the very fans the game is trying to capture. Players who have watched all the anime series will at some point be disappointed in some of the game’s details. For example, the character Gray has clothing from the start that was only given to him after a later event. There are also quite a few side characters not present in the game. Move sets again were playable but shouldn’t be available were they strictly following the anime timeline.
Also, fans might also query where in the series this game begins, as the game picks up at the end of one of the best story arcs. Be that as it may, as a player who knew nothing of the anime series, I never felt that I was missing out, and I wasn’t disappointed with any aspect of the game.
In many ways, Fairy Tail is quite unremarkable. It’s a paint by numbers, jolly, colourful, jaunt of a JRPG, that goes by the normal JRPG rules and doesn’t really expand the box. However, it does faithfully recreate the Fairy Tail experience and it’s also remarkable in that the things it does do are of the highest, most entertaining quality.
The game wouldn’t have benefited from a more in-depth battle mechanic, or new story arc, as what is here is a love letter to the current series. Even though some long term fans may squirm at a few minor details not being 100% accurate, for the most part, this is one of the best, most entertaining and visually stunning anime/game creations ever made.