|Developer||Gust Co Ltd|
|Platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)|
|Release Date||July 30, 2020 (Steam)
July 31, 2020 (PS4, Switch)
When it comes to anime games, the standard is an arena brawler with the license tacked on for easy sales. It takes something special to make a true great that not only delivers on the namesake but also expands upon the source material. One of my favorite examples is Naruto: The Broken Bond on Xbox 360. It understood what was great about the manga and anime to make a great game for fans and newcomers. Now it is time to see if Gust can breathe new life into the anime game genre with FAIRY TAIL, or if it will be stagnant even longer.
Violence: Combat is turn-based where everyone uses a variety of magic and physical attacks. Magic can consist of fire, ice, holy, demon, light, dark, and non-elemental. Physical attacks are carried out using various weapons like swords, spears, kicks, and punches which are sometimes combined with magic for more damage. Erza is tortured for information in the latter half of the story; screams of pain are heard, but no actual torture is depicted. One character uses his posterior to attack; I’m not sure if this is considered sexual content or not. Speaking of which. . .
Sexual Content: A majority of the female characters are buxom and usually show off ample cleavage, midriff, and leg in their outfits. Many events within quests and conversations have mention of underwear which is never actually seen. Members of the guild go to the beach for training, and bikinis and shirtlessness abounds. Kanna goes around in basically a bra and pants everywhere she goes. Kanna tells Gildarts that she is his daughter, and he responds with a list of about a dozen women he has been with to figure out who her mother is. Juvia makes VERY forward romantic advances—sometimes suggesting sex—towards Gray, which he easily brushes off. Gray has a bad habit of randomly stripping as a result of cold endurance training, and this increases his speed in combat. Wendy feels down about her figure compared to other female members of the guild, which she brings up a few times. When asked about love, Lucy accidentally lends Wendy and Sherria a book that contains sexual illustrations. Nothing is seen, only mentioned. Alternate costumes involve swimwear, so most characters are either shirtless or in bikinis.
Language/Crude Humor: D*mn, a*s, holy h*ll, and b*stard are used in dialogue on occasion. Monster excrement is gathered for a quest, which is allegedly delicious when fermented. Gray’s stripping is a running joke.
Alcohol/Dug Content: Kanna is a raging alcoholic; other characters consume alcohol as well, but not as much as her. This is all only referenced in dialogue, though, and not shown. A bar is an available facility to upgrade, which the alcoholic runs. Two characters are drugged during a double-crossing.
Spiritual Content: Lucy’s magic is based around the Zodiac. She summons spirits from the Celestial World to aid her in combat. Her most powerful attack, Urano Metria, sounds a prayer for power to the heavenly bodies of her magic. Kanna’s magic involves fortune telling and tarot cards.
Positive Elements: Fairy Tail, the guild, is all about family. Everyone treats each other as if they are their own kin, and are not afraid to speak up and call out other guilds when they do not treat their own the same. They may be a rambunctious lot who bicker often, but they never hold grudges against each other or act with malice. The magic in this game and in the show is intrinsically tied to the user’s emotions. Specifically, if one fights for their friends and noble causes, their magic will be more powerful than any group who fights selfishly. Gildarts begs Kanna to let him be a real father to her after she reveals to him her parentage. Despite her strained relationship with her father, Lucy mourns him and states that she loves him after learning he passed away a month before she returned from a seven year long coma in the prologue. Lucy views her celestial spirits as her friends and equals instead of slaves. The Crime Sorciere guild is comprised of criminal wizards who seek to reform themselves by being vigilantes.
Do fairies have tails? It is an eternal mystery, meaning eternal adventure. These are the words for which the guild Fairy Tail is named. Fairy Tail is the titular guild from the popular manga and anime series by Hiro Mashima. A story spanning 545 chapters of manga, and 328 anime episodes, FAIRY TAIL is no small story. This story of friendship and magic has touched the lives of many fans over the years, including this one writing to you now. But is this new game worth the asking price? The answer to that question is fraught with as much conflict as the game itself.
FAIRY TAIL is a turn-based RPG where attacks affect various areas in a 3×3 grid that the enemies occupy. While Natsu’s Fire Dragon Iron Fist affects one square, his Fire Dragon Wing Attack will affect two squares on both sides and draws opponents closer. Lucy, on the other hand, uses her Celestial Spirits to affect the same size area, but one will push affected enemies back with Scorpio and Capricorn respectively. Every character has some form of element they are aligned with, but using their Awakened state can sometimes add another element to the mix.
This is the first time I have seen a turn-based system like this that is not chess, if you can call chess “combat.” It works incredibly well, and I never would have thought about how this makes a lot more sense than doing a generic brawler, Dynasty Warriors, or arena fighter. In all honesty, any one of these kinds of games would work perfectly with this source material. The problem is that it all depends on where in the story is being chosen for adaptation. The earlier arcs would be best as an arena fighter, and even a few moments in this game too. A Dynasty Warriors approach would be absolutely the best method adapting the Tartaros to ending arcs. Doing things the way Gust did took a lot of guts, and I applaud them for it. As odd and out of place it looks at first glance, it is second nature in the second battle.
There is one issue outside of combat that I do have a bone to pick with though. In the field, hitting an enemy with Y would give me a Speed advantage and earlier attacks. It is one of the most clunkiest in the game. Instead of being a smooth transition from moving to striking like in Persona, the characters on screen would stop dead in their tracks to swipe with little range. Sometimes this would more often than not lead to the enemy getting the advantage.
When it comes to the aforementioned story, the game essentially covers the Grand Magic Games to Avatar arcs of the anime/manga and this leads to some mixed results. While the bones are mostly intact, lots of breaking and bending was done to cut as many side characters and plots as possible. For those familiar with FAIRY TAIL from other media, this leads to unsettling situations when experiencing the story. Characters and story beats that played an important role in the manga are stripped out or relegated to a mere character portrait and sometimes they are just still photos or anime screenshots in the middle of cut-scenes. Whether these changes were made to ensure a lower rating due to their sometimes intense content, for budgetary or technological restraints, or for some other reason, these elements—some of great importance—are missing, and the whole of the story feels more hollow for it. Another note on characters is that some names like Cana in the English translations is now Kanna like it is said in Japanese even though Carla is Charle in the original Japanese, but retains Carla here like in the English dubbed translations. FAIRY TAIL is about the importance of the people in our lives and the bonds we share with them, and it is disappointing that that point is missed.
Even so, the spirit of the relationships between all present is retained through their interactions in cutscenes in side quests. Taking any combination of characters on jobs will build their bonds that grow to three levels, and each level gained increases benefits in combat when using Magic Chain. Magic Chain is, for all intents and purposes, an all-out attack on the field. The chain meter builds with each turn, and the rate it builds at is upgradeable from the Guild Hall. Using Awakening before Magic Chain allows the use of Unison Raids, an incredibly strong magic used when two wizards are in total sync with each other. And using these is paramount in opening secrets around the various areas with Over Damage, requiring loads of power to them to open up. I love this mechanic as Fairy Tail is notorious throughout the land for breaking and damaging public property everywhere they go, making for a nice nod to what they are known for. There are also Character Levels that go up to ten which grant various unique bonuses, and cut down on how much magic power is used when in combat.
When it comes to performance, FAIRY TAIL ran surprisingly well on my Switch. I was expecting tons of bugs, glitches, and frame dips but these did not come up often. Oftentimes the audio would be noticeably worse in some battles and places in the world, but was good about half the time. The only time that I found my Switch heavily chugging during gameplay was when I would have multiple upgrade items I needed to find in the wild. After collecting all of them, the game went back to normal.
Whether I would recommend FAIRY TAIL to anyone is a tough call. For fellow fans of the anime and manga, it does enough right that I see no reason not to play it. But if you had no idea what I meant when I asked if fairies had tails or not, I would say no. With as much fun as I have had with this game, a lot of it came from an appreciation and knowledge of the source material. Not enough of the story is presented to make a newcomer feel welcome in the guild hall, even though they should. Sadly, being a fun game is not enough grounds for me to tell a newcomer to rush out and play this game. Even seasoned fans may not like it as much as I do, and that says something.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to anime games, FAIRY TAIL soars above most and delivers a mostly faithful tale of fun and friendship.