Most of the gang is here, as well as a wide section of the plotline, making this adaption of Fairy Tail a dream come true for fans of the manga and anime. Sure, there’s some corner-cutting and redundancy along the way, but there’s also the kind of plucky spirit that drove the source material for years.
Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail is a modern epic, with the manga spanning 545 chapters and an anime adaptation filled nine seasons. Beyond these works, there have been nine OVAs and two theatrical films. Given the abundance of source material, turning Natsu Dragneel and the guild’s adventure into an interactive form is undoubtedly a challenge. Efforts like Fairy Tail Portable Guild and Fairy Tail Gekitou! Madoushi Kessen interpreted the property as action and fighting games, respectively. Unfortunately, both Japan-only titles were rather mediocre and seemed built to appease dedicated fans.
The latest adaptation of Fairy Tail re-imagines the beloved shōnen as a role-playing game. Given publisher Koei Tecmo’s reliance on musou-style mechanics for many of its manga and anime tie-ins, the decision to use a more deliberate, turn-based genre is remarkable. Wisely, developmental duties were given to Gust, the studio behind Blue Reflection and Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. As such, there’s experience behind many of the key design decisions. Although Fairy Tail isn’t perfect, it’s undoubtedly the property’s best adaptation and a worthy consideration for any fan.
A Storyline Culled from Several Arcs
Fairy Tail packs an abundance of plot into its thirty-hour trek. However, instead of starting at the beginning of the story, the game picks up after the Tenrou Island time-skip and continues through the Grand Magic Games, Tartaros, and Avatar arcs. On the upside, there is little time spent on the world-building, heading right into the intrigue as Fairy Tail losses their status and falls to the bottom of the Kindgom’s guild standings. Despite some efforts to make things accessible to those with a fleeting familiarity, the game covers a lot of narrative breadth rather quickly. If this is your first interaction with the property, expect key moments to be spoiled if you ever opt to follow the guild’s exploits in another medium.
For veterans, trying to summarize a wealth of storytelling has its drawbacks. This is most evident in the recycling on NPCs, and the lack of voice work for many subordinate characters. Condensing a prolonged plotline is a thankless task, and habitually, Fairy Tail does it best to encapsulate key events. But corners were inevitably cut, must evidently when the game displays text boxes over stills from the anime. Fans will follow the conversations, but some might wish the same amount of care that went into rendering magic got put into the expositional elements. Gust works wonders with a shoestring, but here it seems, the team was forced to conjure up miracles.
Forging Tight-knit Bonds
Fortunately, effort was poured into the game’s combat system, which gradually adds elements across the title’s playtime to offset tedium. Initially, you be limited to two team members who join as guests. Later, the headcount grows, and if you invest effort into the game’s social component, a quintet of seasoned heroes will fulfill missions from a quest board. Building rapport doesn’t just provide access to advanced abilities for characters. It also feels rather heartwarming, with conversations about trust, loyalty, and many of the other property’s core themes. Expanding the guild is whole separate endeavor, and as your rank increases, so do the number of options and level of adversity. Pleasingly, Gust gets the balance right and there are few frustrating difficulty spikes.
In staying true to the source material, characters use magic in battle. In execution, this allows Fairy Tail to flaunt much of the visual spectacle of the anime. Instead of generic interpretations of elements like spirit summons, the game strives to render each caster and holder magic, providing for some sumptuous visuals. But like any animation, these can grow tiresome when viewed for the hundredth time. Smart, Gust provides players a way to bypass these sequences. That said, monotony takes root in the abbreviated inventory of enemies. At several points in the plot, the game weas duplicating a scene where guild members tackled specific foes. Occasionally, you’ll find that stand-issue foes fight in their place.
But even with adversary recycling, Fairy Tail’s battle system is quite enjoyable. Enemies are placed on 3×3 grids, require vigilant use of your magic. Not only will you want to maximize efficiency by hitting as many opponents as possible, you’ll also want to exploit your most powerful attack fields. Once elemental qualities and link magic are added in, battles feel substantial, and you’ll need to carefully consider your actions on every turn.
Aesthetically, Fairy Tail is quite successful when rendering its main playables, with lighting and cell shading which evokes the look of the manga and anime. Pleasingly, there’s an ample amount of fan-service, putting characters like Lucy and Mirajane in bikinis and close-fitting tops whenever possible. A long-running element of Mashima’s work, it’s consistently playful and doesn’t feel like it’s pandering. Look past the core cast, and corners were cut with some characters lacking voice work. At least the core guild members are voiced by the original Japanese voice actors, with English subtitles. Musically, the game takes few liberties, recreating the vaguely Celtic instrumentalization of the anime.
Fairy Tail fans will undoubtedly appreciate the game’s ambitions to cover a wide swath of storyline and as well as the recreation of battles in a turn-based, tactical style. Gust’s latest does an excellent job at capturing the spirit of its source material, even with a budget that’s not quite up to the task. But for those unfamiliar with Natsu, Lucy, Happy and the gang: do yourself a favor and read or watch Fairy Tail before approaching this adept adaptation. By that time, you might even be looking at the prospect of a price drop, amplifying your enjoyment and familiarity.
Fairy Tail was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.