If you have even a passing interest in manga or anime, you’ve probably heard of Fairy Tail. Set in the magical world of Earth-land, it follows the adventures of Natsu Dragneel and his fellow members of the guild Fairy Tail. It’s known for massive bombastic abilities, plenty of battles, and more than bit of the ‘power of friendship’. It’s filled with plenty of anime tropes, but it’s also an incredibly engaging story that I’ve followed for years. Now, Gust have developed a turn-based RPG set in the world of Fairy Tail and modelled off their Atelier franchise. What results is a game that never sets the world on fire (unlike Natsu, who frequently does), but is still easily the best Fairy Tail game to date.
Gust’s Fairy Tail tales place during the manga’s Grand Magic Games and Tartarus arcs. Prior events have caused the strongest members of Fairy Tail to be locked in a dimensional stasis for seven years. Coming out the other side, they find that their Guild still exists, but has quickly become the lowest ranked in the world, while debts have also been racking up in their absence. It’s up to them to rebuild the guild and restore their reputation, with the Grand Magic Games (and its massive prize) being the perfect opportunity to do it. Early on, it becomes clear that something nefarious is going on behind the scenes, and the games quickly begin to fall apart. Overall, the game nearly perfectly follows the narrative of the manga, albeit with a few key moments shifted around slightly. With that said, even the source material didn’t spend as much time with camera shots focused in on the female characters’ chests and waists as the game does. I understand that there is definitely a market for this, but the minutes-long pool sequence that included shots where the camera was deliberately placed to include views of characters’ breasts that weren’t even part of the conversation happening on screen just left me feeling dirty.
As far as Fairy Tail arcs go, it’s probably the perfect one to set a game in without starting all the way at the beginning. You’re starting from scratch, building up from the bottom, and not coming into something already established. It fits perfectly with levelling up your characters, upgrading facilities and unlocking new abilities. With that said, however, it won’t necessarily be too friendly for newcomers to the IP, as there’s a whole lot of extremely important backstory referenced that is totally unexplained in the game. Presented through cutscenes and visual novel-esque conversation sequences, the writing won’t win any awards, but it also isn’t actively bad. However, the fact that there are sometimes story-relevant characters without models or voices interjected into conversations where everybody else is visually represented as a 3D model and fully voiced can be pretty darn jarring.
The main crux of Fairy Tail is growing stronger through whatever means are available to you. In this instance, that means battling enemies to level up, completing Requests to raise the guild’s reputation, and collecting materials to upgrade the guild’s facilities. Battling is done via turn-based battles, with enemies positioned on a grid. Your different spells target a certain configuration of grid spots, meaning that you’ll need to constantly strategise and find the best way to work through a battle. Your spells also have additional effects like forcefully repositioning enemies, inflicting status conditions or altering stats, giving you even more things to considering in battle. Add a constantly utilisable Awakened meter that can be spent for follow-up attacks or banked for a state change, and a Chain Attack that wipes out most anyone, and battles can get quite complex at points. It can also be pretty difficult at points, but overall feels varied and rewarding.
Outside of combat, Requests will make up the majority of your time with Fairy Tail. While there can be a bit of variety to them, all Requests largely boil down to one thing: Murder these enemies and maybe collect some items from under their corpses. Even the ones that are presented as ‘Go and collect these items’ generally end up including an element of ‘go murder this enemy’. There can be some good story beats to some of them, but after being forced to repeatedly complete a good handful of them in a row to increase my Guild’s rank, they got pretty repetitive and boring. Upgrading the Guild itself fell into a similar hole as well, but the permanent rewards granted from doing so and the less frequent need to upgrade helped make that side a little more engaging.
Fairy Tail is known for its colourful style and bombastic spells, and that has totally come over to the game. Characters are fantastic representation of their source material, with plenty of detail and animation to their models. There’s also plenty of costumes to unlock as you progress, giving you a great range of outfits the character’s have worn in their lifetime. Spells are also decidedly bombastic and flashy in battle, with plenty of big effects to them that make them fantastic to use. The game’s environments are much more basic, with some downright terrible textures at points, while there is little variety to the NPC models in the game, leading to frequent repetition. There are also some performance issues, with the game’s more open areas having some pretty frequent framerate drops, although it never got to the point of feeling particularly experience impacting.
Overall, Fairy Tail is a fantastic and faithful representation of its source material, while also being a wholly competent game as well. Its characters are fun, its story is engaging (if not particularly well written), while the flashy and interesting battle system is fun. Repetition in Requests and some performance issues drag down the game, as do its insistence on fan-service elements. In the end though, if you’re a fan of Fairy Tail or just want a new turn-based RPG to play, you’ll get some enjoyment here.
Fairy Tail was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch with a review copy provided by the developer. The game releases on Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation 4 on July 30th. For more information, check out the official website.
- Great representation of the source material - Battles are fun and strategic - Story is engaging, if not particularly well written
- Performance issues - Requests are extremely repetitive - Fan service, while not overly frequent, is pretty gratuitous when present