Trying to adapt a game from source material like Fairy Tail can be a difficult process. There's a balancing act to find that perfect mix of themes while making compelling gameplay. Already this year we've seen anime adaptations that try to become too faithful to their source and it ends up damaging the overall experience. While most Shonen lends itself well to the fighting genre Koei Tecmo and Gust has taken a different approach with Fairy Tail. It doesn't shy away from large battles but instead chooses turn-based combat to promote teamwork that is so often shown in Fairy Tail.
Explore Fior in Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail picks up the long-running story at the very end of the Tenrou Island arc. While skipping a lot of fantastic arcs from earlier in the series players this start allows players to jump into the action faster. They'll immediately run into the dragon Acnologia and time skip seven years into the future. Natsu and the rest of the members of Fairy Tail return to find the guild in tatters, lowest in rankings, and struggling to survive. Players get to experience the Grand Magic Games and Tartaros arcs, with the Avatar arc as an epilogue. The decision to begin the game with Acnologia and focus on arcs that continue to present him as the 'big bad' does well to keep a loose tie across each in-game arc. Even when fighting other sorcerors he's always in the back of your mind.
With each arc Gust is able to get the most out of the content. Characters travel to new locations and get introduced a large cast of characters. It's a great way to progress the story, but also naturally unlocks more withing the game itself. It's a shame that Fairy Tail encapsulates all the post-time-skip arcs EXCEPT for the final one. This seems to be getting held back for additional content down the road, but what story is there is still a good adaptation. With only a brief appearance by Zeref though, the game's story is more focused on Acnologia.
Fairy Tail turn-based combat with a twist
Combat strays away from the usual anime arena fighter genre and instead Fairy Tail does its best in turn-based combat. Create a team of up to five characters and complete story missions or guild quests. Gust has done well to elaborate on the basic turn-based combat formula. Not only making it more interesting but highlighting those themes of camaraderie. The first big change is that while the players team of wizards are all lined up your opponents get laid out in a 3x3 grid. Each magic spell that you cast will display the shape that the spell will hit. You can use this to pick your spells to maximize damage. This not only gives more reason to plan your attack but promotes using a variety of spells in different situations. You won't just spam the same ultimate move over and over and over again.
Even in a battle with four monsters if you happen to have a spell that matches the pattern you can attack them all. There is also a basic attack you can use, but for such minimal damage, it's often not worth it. As you play through the story or embark on quests characters in your teams will continually build up their relationship with one another. This translates into battles by allowing them to jump in with follow up attacks to block your enemies from having a chance to attack. You'll also be able to combo together to output some terrifying damage. Fairy Tail does a good job of allowing you to build a party and work as a team in combat, but there's still a level of 'wow' that just doesn't come across from turn-based combat. It's great to see Erza build-up for a big cinematic attack, but in turn-based combat, something is definitely lost on presentation.
Guilds are important in Fairy Tail
Not just in battle but this focus on guild members and building up the guild itself takes an even larger focus in the overworld. The time skip is a great reset to zero points. There's story reason behind being low level, without money, and having the guild in the worst shape it's ever been. You'll go on missions to improve your guild rank, go on character-specific quests, and earn money and materials. These rewarding side quests allow players to craft powerful equipment and improve the guild itself. These guild upgrades give benefits like flat increases of health to all characters. Each of these upgrade paths can get layered on top of one another. While you're progressing towards one goal you'll find yourself closer to others. There are so many "ooh, a piece of candy" type moments, you'll find yourself focusing more on the upgrades than progressing through the story. This won't be out of necessity but because it's so seamless. If you do choose to upgrade everything though don't be surprised to find yourself quickly overpowering foes.
The game itself runs fantastically and most importantly looks great. Getting from location to location through quick travel is a near-instantaneous process which is amazing to see. Even if you do head back to the guild without getting everything you wanted you can get back there in a matter of seconds. This fast loading also helps with so many of the smaller quests. In battles, you'll get to see all kinds of great effects and voice efforts as characters scream and hurl magic at one another. You can tell how much effort was put in each of the attacks looking as flash as possible, even more so when characters are powered up or doing their combo attacks.
Unleash magical attacks in Fairy Tail
There are a few moments in cutscenes that we saw 2D character portraits but the 3D counterpart was nowhere to be seen on the screen. It does seem a bit odd once you notice an entire character missing, but normally this only happened to characters that would only ever be seen in a single shot so it's also understandable why the effort wasn't put into creating that model. One aspect that Gust completely nailed was the feel and energy behind the music of Fairy Tail. Keeping the Celtic elements and pairing fast guitar with the violin will be recognizable to those familiar with the anime's musical score.
Gust took a shot taking an anime like Fairy Tail, with so much about fighting, and didn't do the expected thing of turning it into a fighting game. I feel that this gamble, while taking some time to warm up to, paid off. Doubling down so heavily on the Guild itself being such a big character of the manga meant that so many elements were able to be added. At any point, you can build your team out of whoever you'd most like to play as working on not just the character but towards being the number one guild of Fiore. It is a bit of a shame that by participating in all that the game has to offer you'll likely find yourself overleveld but just because the end might not be the big tough battle doesn't change that the journey is a pretty fun one.
- Enjoyable story...
- Interesting turn-based twist...
- Plenty of additional content
- Music and Character Design
- ...Missing the final arc
- ...But missing oomph