Fairy Tail is based on manga/anime of the same name. It promises to be a faithful adaptation of its source material and is promoted with a tag of Magic x Guilds x RPG. I am not very familiar with the license but after looking it up the game felt fairly similar. It also does have the feeling of that type of TV Show with a straightforward plot and quirky, endearing characters, that are always trying their best and are fighting for the sake of others. The game definitely manages to deliver on its promises of magic and guild experience however it struggles with the RPG part. There is little opportunity to be a character living in that setting, since all events are scripted and linear. However it has a robust character/party management system and tactical combat where each character needs to fulfil a role. Which are emblematic of the JRPG genre.
The game opens with the main characters, members of the titular Fairy Tail guild, facing off with a great villain at the end of their last adventure. The battle ends with heroes victorious but with an appearance of a greater threat that they can’t beat. Using the power of their bonds, they manage to cast a magic spell that protects them but at the cost of putting them in stasis for 7 years. When they awaken and return home they find that their guild fell upon bad times while they were absent.
While controlling various members of Fairy Tail the player follows a storyline involving restoring the guild to the strength and reputation it once had. The progress of the guild’s restoration is represented by its place in a ranking of magic guilds. The guild’s rank increases when the player completes various side quests. Reaching certain rank milestones unlocks quests in the main storyline. In turn completing main story quests unlocks more opportunities to upgrade the guild and the characters. This creates a nice loop of options for the player to progress the main story and experience the world of the game.
The plot of the game is pretty standard and there are moments in which I got invested and empathized with the characters. However it is not presented in an engaging way, most of the time it ends up getting in the way or dragging. There are several scripted story sequences that are poorly paced or interrupt gameplay without a good reason. A cutscene often leads into gameplay requiring the player to run a few meters in order to play another cutscene. At times story sequences contradict the gameplay for example requiring you to win a battle only to show that you lost it. There are also several cases worth mentioning where a character model and sometimes their voice were not in the game resulting in the character in question being off camera while still interacting with other characters.
Easily the most satisfying part of the game was doing various quests to level up the characters and the guild headquarters in order to take on more difficult quests. This classic gameplay loop is simple but fun. It allows you to quickly get into combat to try out different tactics and abilities while letting you get to know the characters by occasionally showing bite sized cutscenes and dialogue sequences.
The combat consists of the player picking a party of up to five characters. The game has a good roster of characters that grows over time via quest, each of them is relatively unique in what they can do. While the combat is mostly standard for the genre it is a little faster paced and has some extremely nice interactions between how your roster interacts with each other, adding a lot of room for players to experiment. It is also a good reason to switch up your party beyond the requirements of quests.
As character’s level up their stats increase and new abilities are unlocked. Some of the side quests are specific to characters allowing for unlocking of their passive abilities. Side quests requiring the use of a specific team increase those character’s bonds and make them work better together. Upgrading the guild headquarters further improves stats and passive abilities for all characters. Considering all this progression I never felt like I had to stop and grind in order to progress. The difficulty curve is quite smooth and the game remained challenging throughout.
Visually the game is mostly in line with other games using similar art style. The characters, environments and visual effects look very much like their anime counterparts when compared. Sometimes took me a moment to notice when what the game showed me was 2D artwork instead of in game graphics. The game shines the most during combat with all abilities having different, dynamic character animations and visual effects on top of great camera work. The game becomes a visual spectacle during those moments and is a joy to look at, especially when immersed in an especially difficult battle.
However in other aspects the visuals fall short. When out of combat, character animations are quite stiff and make the characters feel like dolls rather than living beings. Some of the comical expressions they use makes that even more noticeable since the expressions look like they were glued onto the character’s face. Character animations also lack fluid transitions with feet noticeably sliding into idle position when a character stops walking. Finally the game lacks some variety in terms of environments and enemy types outside of the main storyline, mostly consisting of the same assets.
Sound design in this game is consistent with the visuals. It is mostly good, enhancing all the exciting animations during combat with appropriate sound effects. The music too matches the action with several fast paced music tracks which sound like a mix of Rock and British Folk music. The more intense events during the main story are accompanied by more epic music tracks that feel like they are cheering the player on.
In terms of technical difficulties I found that there was a lot of shimmering on my screen and my screen appeared to be cut off at the edges, perhaps some issue with resolutions or scaling either way I wasn’t able to fix it. The frame rate also tends to drop when there are several objects/vfx on the screen. Surprising for a game without a lot of small visual details Other than those issues I didn’t find anything in visuals or otherwise.
To summarise, I mostly enjoyed Fairy Tail however some of the issues were impossible to ignore and often took me out of the game. The best thing I can say is that it is a competent and at times exciting JRPG. I would recommend it to someone who loves the anime and wants to get into this genre. You might want to wait for a sale though as the game is quite expensive.