Koei Tecmo and Gust have finally debuted the very first console game outing for Hiro Mashima's massively popular Fairy Tail manga and anime franchise, so fans of the series have been keeping a very close eye on how it has been shaping up since it was first announced. Initially slated to debut earlier this spring before being delayed a couple of months for extra polish, how has this debut game outing stood up to the pressure? FAIRY TAIL is a successful capture of everything that makes this franchise special that fans really do not want to miss out on.
FAIRY TAIL is a role-playing game that especially caters to fans of the franchise with a wide variety of characters to choose from. There are plenty of smaller moments throughout that fans will want to re-experience or get a peek into brand-new kinds of character interactions there might not have been time for in the original run of the manga and anime. If there is one major flaw, unfortunately, it is the fact that FAIRY TAIL caters to fans so much that it might not be easy for newcomers to jump in.
There is a semblance of knowledge needed to fully enjoy the game's story because of where in the series it takes place. In a brave move, FAIRY TAIL neither recaps all of the events of the series nor does it start from the very beginning. It instead finds a fun new square one place to start everything over. As a litmus test of how much you'll fully enjoy what the game has to offer, here is a brief description of where the game's story takes place.
Following Grimmoire Heart's attack on Tenrou Island and many of Fairy Tail's major players are presumed killed by Acnologia, seven years later Natsu Dragneel, Lucy Heartfilia, and the other major players in the guild return to the world and work to get Fairy Tail back to the prestige it once held. Without giving too much more away about how far the story goes, suffice it to say that a more experienced fan will better appreciate some of the later cutscenes and special animations.
Part of the game's catering to experienced fans also comes into the ease of the gameplay itself. FAIRY TAIL is a role-playing game where you can explore smaller spaces throughout a map and can take on (or avoid) monsters that show up in your way. Battles are turn-based with each of the player's characters using magic, basic attacks, or items against enemies that are placed on a three-by-three grid. Certain magic attacks hit certain spaces, and can also deal out more damage by exploiting a series of weaknesses and resistances.
Much of the fun in these battles comes with upgrades that you can make to your characters. Along with the story missions, there are a ton of side missions to help upgrade every part of the experience. To make money for the guild and for yourself, you take on missions (much like characters would do in the anime) that either involve going to grab an item and delivering it to an NPC or taking out a set of monsters in an area. Each successful mission earns not only money, but renown for the guild that leads to several fun upgrades.
Taking on missions makes your guild better, and thus makes the missions more fruitful. At the same time, you'll earn money and parts to expand places in the guild (such as Library or Laboratory) that offer up smaller other buffs such as increasing the amount of EXP characters who aren't in your party earn. Doing all of this naturally increases individual character stats such as Bonds (which allow for follow-up chain-attack chances), Ranks (which buffs characters in specific ways), and more. It's all built in a way that scratches that completionist itch. There are tons of rewards and upgrades that come with completing these (sometimes required) missions, and you really feel that in the heat of battle.
Just like in the series, characters can feel super powerful with many of these upgrades going at a single time. That's on top of other character boosts like Awakening (which is a gauge that can be sacrificed for an additional follow up strike or even used to save yourself from a hard hit) and the Fairy Meter, which unleashes a powerful team attack that itself can be upgraded. There's just so much to develop, and so much to make yourself stronger, that you'll want to jump into battles to upgrade further. If you don't, and just want to upgrade everything as fast as possible, there are even options to turn off battle animations and have characters on auto-mode through battles.
Traveling around between areas is a breeze with quick travel options right off the bat, you can skip through basically any cutscene or prompt, characters are all animated well and retain their anime looks (with some extra fan service details established fans of the work will be sure to recognize), and each playable character comes with a variety of attacks. It's all in the service of capturing what makes Fairy Tail such a great experience. FAIRY TAIL is bombastic, breezy, and full of fun to watch characters, except, this time, it's us making it all happen.
Rating: 5 out of 5
FAIRY TAIL is now available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. This review was based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher, and it was played on a base model PlayStation 4.