It was a surprise to learn that Gust was developing a video game based on the popular shonen manga series, Fairy Tail. However, the developer which is well known as the creator of the Atelier and Ar Tonelico series, has managed to make a fun romp of a JRPG while still keeping faithful to the theme and setting of the series.
Despite the manga having ended in 2017, Fairy Tail remains as one of the most popular series in Japan. Having sold around 72 million copies of its collected tankōbon volumes, given a well received anime adaptation, 8 spin-off manga series, and inspired 2 animated film adaptations. The story, written by Hiro Mashima, follows Natsu Dragneel, a dragon slayer in a magical guild named Fairy Tail, as he searches for his adopted father, a dragon called Igneel.
Surprisingly enough, Gust chose to follow the story halfway through the series, where the game starts off with your characters squaring off against the main villain of the arc. While the start may be confusing at first for newcomers, the developers have included an encyclopedia in the game that can help to get gist of what has happened so far.
I had my misgivings at first with the approach, but in retrospect it is rather brilliant, one that worked very well with why your characters start with being broke and at the bottom of the ladder in terms of Guild rankings. It also frees up the story to focus on some of the more interesting parts of the series (and also that getting abilities would not get tied down with where it happens plotwise, rather through other means). The abundance of quests, from main story, to the plethora of side missions this game has to offer makes it a fairly dense JRPG, and can take you 30-50 hours to finish.
Special note also has to be given to Gust adding some QoL options into the game. Ending a quest for instance, can be over in a flash thanks to options that lead you straight to the Guild House, giving you more time to spend playing the best parts of the game than having some downtime going here and there.
The game will be very familiar to those that have played JRPGs developed by Gust, with a turn based story, crafting system, and levelling up your hub. The turn based battle system deserves the biggest shoutout, where the japanese sRPG influenced magic attack mechanic makes me treat battle encounters like a puzzle: do I have my magic attack two enemies in a row or should I use my magic that also hits an enemy at the back of its party?
You could also choose to use magic chains; think of these as something like Resonance of Fate’s Heroic Attacks where you and your party members’ attack all in one turn for bonus damage. There’s also another mechanic where your characters can be ‘Awakened’, where as your party members become damaged, they can enter a mode when they’ll recover some of their HP and their stats are boosted for a set period of turns. It’s all frankly fun, and rather stylish as the character’s attack with the same gusto you see in the anime.
You could see from the start that there was a lot of love and effort that was put into this game. From the Fairy Tail guild house to the town of Magnolia, the developers did some extensive work to make it as similar to the series as possible. This is also shown with the characters and enemies in the game, in which it retains that Hiro Mishima flair.
I also found myself loving the music of the game, especially the Celtic influenced main theme. While characters mostly use anime-style grunts in a lot of the dialogue, you also have them speak during the main cutscenes. Unfortunately, it is only available in Japanese with no English dubs available.
So while the visual style, art direction, and anime aesthetic are genuinely lovable and inspiring to anyone who is a fan of the anime- there are technical considerations for Switch owners: The game has inconsistent frame rates on both docked and handheld modes. It also looks noticeably less detailed than its Playstation 4 counterpart, although not by much. Being a JRPG though, I reckon that some might overlook these deficiencies for the ability to play it on the go.
I had a lot of fun playing Fairy Tail, with the game being charming at times with plenty for a Fairy Tail fan to delve into. Thanks to Gust, they have something that is much better than just a cheap cash grab of a game.
A Review code was provided by Koei Tecmo Europe
Developer: Gust / Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe
Release date: 31/07/2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Switch