Koei Tecmo have published a few games this generation which are based on an anime, Arslan, Berserk, Attack on Titan, and One Piece Pirate Warriors to name a few. These have all played similar to their own Dynasty and Samurai Warrior franchises, bar Attack on Titan, due to being developed by Omega Force and utilising the ‘Musou’ format within their gameplay. However, today we see the launch of Fairy Tail, a new JRPG from Gust based upon the anime, this game, unlike the others, looks and plays more like the developers ‘Atelier‘ franchise, one of the main reasons I was so excited to get my hands on it!
Full disclosure here, I’ve not seen a single episode of the anime so I may talk about spoilers within the show’s story without realising it. The game itself covers a few arcs within the anime as well as introducing new events which are unique to the game, similar to what they’ve done with pretty much all of their anime-based games. Also, as I am a newcomer to the franchise, I may get things wrong or not describe things as you would (if you’re a fan of the show), in which case, please bear with me as I’m here for the gameplay and story of this particular entry, not as a fan of the franchise.
With that out of the way, I hope you’re sitting comfortably as I say; Once upon a time, there was a guild of magicians known as Fairy Tail…
**Notice – all images were taken on a PS4 Pro with HDR enabled – that’s why they look washed out and with less detail. They looked much more vibrant and defined on the TV**
For those out there who have seen the show, the game runs through events which happen within the Tenrou Island arc through to the Tataros arc – if this means nothing to you, please read on…
I’m not going to lie, the story confused the hell out of me when I first played Fairy Tail as it begins at the end of the Tenrou Island Arc. You are facing Hades whilst attempting to earn your S-Rank, successfully putting down your foe but having the exam cancelled due to the events going on around you. For their protection, the guild members are placed in stasis for seven years by Mavis, The First Master of Fairy Tail, and our actual adventure begins upon their revival. They return to Magnolia, their home town, to find that nobody knows who Fairy Tail are anymore, despite their heroic actions previously, and it’s time to remind everyone.
The first half of the game is all about building up the reputation of the guild via completing requests, building up your social bonds, strengthening your characters, and taking part in the Grand Magic Games, a tournament for all the guilds to compete within to decide who the number one guild is. This seamlessly crosses into the Tataros storyline once completed (which I shouldn’t get into as it’ll be spoilers for the game as it’s about 20-hours into the story), followed by a third story during the epilogue which may or may not be canon to the show (I’m not sure). Overall, it’s a story of building yourself back up, facing formidable enemies and evil threats, then coming together and rebuilding yourself once more.
Basically, the main story will last you around 35-40 hours depending on how many side missions you participate within during the main storyline. It’s a very long story which never seemed to end, it always had a “but wait, there’s more” moment. Personally, I thought the story was a little ‘too long’ as by the time I got to the third storyline all my characters were OP and wiping the floor with the enemies, but in terms of value for money – you get a really long (around 50-60 hours) platinum for your money here!
As I mentioned above, rather than Koei Tecmo adapting the Fairy Tail anime to their Musou format (1v1000 hack ‘n slash combat), Gust has developed this game and created it similar to their Atelier games, turn-based classic JRPG format. So, if you’ve ever played an Atelier game before, especially the more recent ones, then Fairy Tail will be very familiar to you in terms of the gameplay.
Fairy Tail is all about building your reputation and becoming number one, aside from battling and exploring, so the main thing you’ll find yourself doing is helping people out via community and guild requests. The community requests are simply talking to a person in a town or on the field, being given a shopping list of items they want, then either delivering them or going out to find them before returning for your reward. The guild requests are similar but they’re usually a ‘shopping list’ of enemies to kill in a certain area or an actual mini-event with set members of the guild and fighting a unique enemy.
Combat takes place in one of a few locations (there isn’t a lot) which you can travel to via the map whenever you’ve unlocked them – there’s thankfully no time limits like we see in Atelier. Each encounter begins when you bump into or slash a stupid AI enemy who is bumbling around in the various locations (I say stupid because you can easily run right past every single one of them) – this is similar to not only Atelier but also the Trails of Cold Steel Series (I reviewed I, II and III). I’ll get into the combat more below but there are many different mechanics involved which makes the combat rather exciting and challenging at times.
I’d say the majority of your time spent within this 50-60 hour adventure will be reading and watching the cutscenes. There’s a lot of story within Fairy Tail, a lot. As you increase your social bonds with the 20ish characters, each one has three ‘character stories’ to participate within, a lot of the requests have a mini-story attached to them, the main storyline is full of cutscenes and exposition, and there are snippets from the anime (which I’ll talk about later) that are used in an unusual way for a Koei Tecmo game.
Let’s talk about the fighting first, as this is the key ‘gameplay mechanic’ I guess. You can take up to five members of the guild into battle with you (as you progress within the game) and each member can be customised a little. The customisation is very basic as you can only give each member up to five pieces of ‘Lacrima’, a magical item which boosts or enhances their abilities and stats. There’s no additional weapons or gear like in your usual JRPGs, which I was a little disappointed with, but you don’t really need it as the guild is a ‘magician guild’, so you unlock new spells as you level up throughout the game.
The combat itself, once you’ve bumped into an enemy, is solid in my opinion. It’s all turn-based dependant on the speed of both your characters and the enemies (although there’s no time bar like in the Atelier and Trials series), and the spells are almost Tetris-like. Okay, the only similarity is the shape of the Area of Attack, but still! Basically, each spell has a Tetriminos-like shape and the enemies are always positioned within a 3×3 grid, so you have to either pick the spell which will attack the most enemies or the one which is strong against them (yet hits fewer enemies). It’s an interesting mechanic and can lead to some strategic moments later into the game.
There is a mechanic known as a ‘Chain’, which is exactly what you think it is. As your bonds with the various guild members grow, you can initiate a chain once you’ve hit the enemy a certain amount of time, allowing you to beat the crap out of whoever stands before you. Simply start it off then tap either Cross, Square or Triangle to chain together a basic, medium, or strong attack respectively. This uses magic but you’ll usually prematurely end the chain before you run out of magic due to the bonds you have with your members – the higher the bond, the more hits you can chain together.
However, the chain attacks make the game very easy when you have everyone at level 99 and proudly displaying their S-Rank badge. Some of the end-game bosses were defeated by me simply starting a chain and repeatedly pushing Triangle as they laid in over 30 chains and took off more than half the health of the 500k+ hit-point monsters.
On a side note, just like Persona and Trails, you can also get a bonus against the enemies, such as a speed increase or a boost to your attack, by slapping the enemies before you get into combat. Various characters will also provide an extra boost when you start a battle based upon how strong your bond is with them. There’s a lot of depth and fun in the combat system in my opinion. You can also enable ‘auto-battle’, which has you simply pushing one button to attack, and ‘fast battle’ which essentially disables all combat animations. Having this turned on will increase the pacing of the game as attacks are instantaneous, but you do miss out on the well-designed spell casting animations.
One thing I love in RPG games is a sense of progression, that and building things! Fairy Tail is all about restoring your guild to its former glory, as stated earlier, so there’s obviously going to be some form of ‘guild restoration process’. There are ten facilities within your guild (three initially but more unlock as you progress) and each of these has to be initially created and then upgraded four more times (so five in total). Each upgrade adds new features or boosts the effect it has. However, you can also ‘remodel’ each facility up to ten times, once again increasing the effect they have. For me, this was heaven as I love games with a rebuild and upgrade process within them.
For example, one of the first things you can buy and upgrade is the request board. Each upgrade unlocks a new tier of request (D – S) and each remodelling increases the number of Jewels (currency) and Fairy Points (manual experience) you earn per request you complete. I think it goes without saying that this is something you should focus on as soon as possible – more money and experience is always a good thing! Later on, you’ll get one of the most useful things I found, the Pool area.
The Pool basically gives you the ability to use the ‘Link Hunt’ during your exploration of the battlegrounds. This is a mechanic where you hold the L1 whilst outside of a battle and a counter will begin to climb. Once you hit Square, that many enemies will be pulled from the battleground into a single fight – this can rise up to 99 enemies in one fight once you’ve fully maxed out the facility. Why is this a good thing? Well, it not only means you can literally clean out the entire location of wandering enemies, so you can explore freely without any more fights, but you can use it to gather enemies so you can get an ‘overkill’ easily and destroy big objects.
The aforementioned Fairy Points are used in the ‘Character Rank Up’ process. This is not the same as the levelling up of your characters and isn’t used as we saw in Warriors Orochi 4, where you use excess points to increase the ‘levels’. Each character can increase their rank ten times, with each step unlocking new spells, abilities, boosting stats, unlocking new Lacrima slots, or even new costumes. That’s right, just like older Koei Tecmo games, you actually get some new costumes for actually playing the game, rather than having to buy them all for silly money! Each character has at least one alternative coloured or designed costume as well as their swimsuits once you’ve progressed so far. I, obviously, placed all the girls in their swimsuits as soon as possible…
The social part of the game is just as important as everything else in my opinion. This mechanic has become the norm these days, with titles such as Persona 5, The Caligula Effect, Trails of Cold Steel, and even Attack on Titan all having a similar focus. For fans of the series, this will be one of the main reasons you may want to pick up the game as there’s a lot of social interactions between the characters to unlock and witness. There are multiple ways these unique events can occur, but this is a few which I noticed…
Your bond with each character increases as you battle alongside them. Although the main protagonist is Natsu, you have full control over every character in your team (16 with the base game), so the relationships actually increase between everyone independently – similar to what we saw in Warriors Orochi 4. As the bond increases, you can talk to the other characters and unlock up to three unique interactions, each one boosting your chain duration as mentioned above. In total, there are 173 combinations, each with up to three interactions in each – that’s a lot of chit-chat!
As your bonds increase via the above, various team members will appear in the guild and ask for help, unlocking their character stories. Again, these are up to three mini-events which will either require you to go out and do a request for the character you’re about to bond with, or they’ll tag along as you go deal with something that’s bothering them. These stories are required to ‘unlock’ the character and make them playable in some instances, mainly for characters which are outside of your guild and not canon with the story. However, there are a few characters you meet who won’t ask for help, that’s because they’ve been placed behind a paywall – which I’ll come to later…
Another set of random short encounters, although not ones which boost the relationship, are within Lucy’s house. I found all of these to be rather hilarious and very silly. You’ll be dancing in the mirror in your underwear (I was wearing my bikini so I imagine that’s what she would wear whilst doing so), yet Natsu will be at the door, staring with a comical “wowzer” look on his face! There are others like Natsu casually pinned to the ceiling, staring at her, and other characters just lying in her bed for no apparent reason. It’s all very silly.
One thing I feel I have to mention is the constant mocking of Wendy’s small breasts. Now, I know it’s most likely part of the main anime, as all the other girls, including another one of the same age, have massive boobies, but I know some people ‘may’ get offended by some of the comments made. Everything is meant to be taken in a non-serious way, just like within AI: The Somnium files, but there are quite a few instances where Wendy will get upset because her boobs aren’t as big as the others, other girls accidentally making fun of her, and casual comments about her size. It’s a game, don’t take it seriously – although I know some sites will.
Exploration and locations
One thing I initially didn’t like that much was the number of locations you can ‘explore’ and battle within. There are only nine locations to scout, so the requests you get, and the major battles, all take place in the same handful of locations. This can get a little repetitive and boring, in my opinion. There are a few battles that take place in the city and the arena, but I’m talking about the locations you can go to anytime you want once you’ve unlocked them. However, the locations are kind of diverse, with snow, swaps, forests, and country lanes, but they’re all very simple in design and very similar to, once again, the Atelier and smaller Trails of Cold Steel areas – almost Tokyo Xanadu eX+ style.
One thing I found quite funny is that you have the ability to jump, yet there’s not even one occasion where you have to jump as you can’t manoeuvre over anything and the areas are all flat, aside from the odd ramp and stairs. So why do we have the ability to jump? It just seems like wasted time animating each character!
There are two major towns within Fairy Tail, Magnolia and Crocus. Both of these are full of life, yet they’re very dead at the same time. Sure, you’ll see people walking around and chatting to each other, but they feel like animatronics as there’s no ‘life’ within them. I can’t complain though, as this is the same in almost every JRPG for non-essential characters. The thing which disappointed me though was that outside of your guild, there’s not much to do within these areas. There are no shops, no facilities, nothing, as that’s all done via your guild. The only buildings you can enter are Lucy’s house and the Arena (at set points in the game).
However, there is one reason for exploring the towns and the unlocked locations – crates and… barrels!!! Yeah, the infamous barrel returns with each character giving they own take on the reaction to looking at one. These have a purpose though, each crate (in the battlegrounds) and barrel (in the town) holds a piece of candy. There are 50 to find and they are fed to a strange creature within Lucy’s house in order to unlock unique Lacrima and bonus items – you also need all 50 to grab a trophy. Not going to lie – these annoyed me as I spent about six hours looking for the final one as there’s no indication on the map or overworld if you’ve not collected them or where they are. However, it was quite satisfying to find them all on my own without the help of a guide.
So, with this being a Koei Tecmo title, we have to take a look at the paid (and free) content which is out now, on day one, and coming soon. I’ve not been too impressed with the publisher recently as they tend to focus more on their additional DLC then giving the fans more content for their money – just look at Dead or Alive 6 with the ‘pay to change your hair colour’ fiasco! Also, don’t get me started on the THREE Season Passes for Atelier Lulua and the fact every Season Pass lately has cost MORE than the actual game…
So, let’s start with the good news. Today, as the game launches, you can download the ‘Miss Fairy Tail’ costume, for Erza, for free on all platforms. You only have until the 12th of August to grab this (so do it quick), but it’s free. Also, don’t forget that each of the 16 characters has at least one other unlockable alternative coloured or designed costume within the game as well as a swimsuit – again, for free. Another freebie arriving on the 6th of August, which should have been here day one if I’m being honest, is the photo mode. It’s going to have filters, time of day alterations, frames, and options to hide or show various characters – similar to the photo mode we saw in Dynasty Warriors 9.
Now we get to the paid options. On the 6th August, there is going to be three character-unlock DLC packs. One unlocks both Elfman and Lisanna Straus, another gives you Levy McGarden, and the final one is Lyon Vastia. These characters all appear within the game, but if you want to play as them (on top of the in-game 16 you unlock), you’re gonna have to pay, although I’m unsure on the price at this moment. On the same day, there are three costume packs launching as well, the ‘Anime Final Season’, ‘Variety’, and ‘Special Swimsuit’ sets, each with sixteen costumes – one for each playable character.
I’m not too bothered by the DLC in this game as it’s all cosmetic and doesn’t affect the game (unless you really want to play as one of the paywalled characters). However, this is a game I would actually LOVE to see a Season Pass for, not for cosmetic items but for a new arc or an original diversion post-game. Why? Because I love the gameplay and the overall feel of the game and even after playing it for around 58 hours, I want more now that I’ve got the platinum.
Does it use the anime?
I need to address something I mentioned earlier – the use of the anime within the game. Koei Tecmo and other publishers usually incorporate the anime within the games if they feel the need to. You may have some in-game cutscenes and others will be the anime seamlessly inserted to hold the story together without having to reenact the events. Fairy Tail is probably the worst game I’ve played when it comes to utilising the source material – seriously. There are a few scenes which use the anime, not a lot, but it’s simply a STILL image – there’s literally no use of the anime in motion. I’m not sure why this is, but it looks very jarring and questions why they didn’t just recreate it in-engine if they couldn’t use the anime?
Another thing I noticed was that there are certain characters who just don’t appear. I mean, your characters are talking to them, as you can see the 2D avatar image of the person talking to your team, but there’s no in-game model. This is so strange and I don’t get it, they’re all standing around talking to an invisible NPC. I don’t mean a standard run-of-the-mill NPC either, I mean a named and clearly ‘major’ character from the anime. It seems a little lazy or possibly something they’ve overlooked? I have, however, heard a patch came out today which fixed certain camera angles in scenes, so it could be that when I played it the camera just never faced them? But, my experience was two or three missing character models.
On a similar note of saving time and budget – there are massive chunks of the story missing. Now, this annoyed me, but also didn’t at the same time. After each chapter you get a storybook explanation of what happened next, again using still images from the anime. At first, I thought this was a catch-up, reminding me of what I just did. But, I then realised that it’s explaining what happened next in the anime, thus removing the process of us actually playing that part of the story by skipping over it casually. Not to run into spoilers but there’s one point where it glossed over the whole process of going out to find someone, seeing them currently working for another guild, we recruited them, and now we’re back in our guild with them as a member again. Why couldn’t we play this out or get an actual in-game cutscene rather than a storybook with narration?
The reason I said it didn’t annoy me at the same time as it did is that I personally think the story is very long – running at around 35-40 hours for the main storyline. So by the time I actually realised it was skipping large chunks of the anime rather than just summarising what I just did, I was quite thankful it was reducing the time to finish the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game and I think it’s one of the better JRPGs Gust has made recently, but I’d put in around 35 hours non-stop without a break over the course of two days, so I personally wanted to get to the end – if you spread out the gameplay then I imagine you’ll feel differently about the watered-down plot points.
First of all, Fairy Tail actually uses HDR, which is nice. However, if you’re looking to take pictures or videos as you play, disable it in the PS4 system menu (as you can’t in-game). Why? Look at the images in the review, they all look washed out and a bit naff – that’s because of the HDR as the PS4 doesn’t revert to SDR when capturing images. I can assure you though, playing the game on my 4K TV looked nothing like the images here, the colours are much more vibrant and the overall game looks cleaner and higher quality. That being said, The game looked like it was 1080p for some reason, although it could be 1440p or 1620p, it just wasn’t as sharp as a native 4K image.
Despite the resolution though, Fairy Tail has performance issues – boo! I’m playing on a PS4 Pro and there are framerate issues all over the place. None of them interfered with my enjoyment, and I never felt any within the battles themselves, but wandering around the town and various locations felt a little sluggish and jerky at times. Again, there has been a patch released today which may have resolved some of these issues, as I believe there’s a performance issue on PC as well (which could be related), but it’s something to be aware of – I have no idea what the Switch version will play like.
Similarly, I encountered shadows turning the screen black, missing textures, characters with no expressions and strange camera angles, but these have all been listed as ‘fixed’ in today’s day one patch. If you pick up the game on PC, before a patch is delivered, Koei Tecmo has advised you can do the following to help resolve unusual FPS drops and crashes:
(1) Start the NVIDIA Control Panel.
(2) Open “3D Settings” in “Select Task” and select “Manage 3D Settings”.
(3) Change the “Preferred Graphics Processor” setting to “High-Performance NVIDIA Processor” on the “Global Settings” tab and click Apply.
(4) Restart the game.
Visually, the game looks like a Gust game. I know, it IS a Gust game, but they all have a certain ‘feeling’ to them which I got with Fairy Tail. I love the 2D-look to the 3D models, with the black outlines, and the look of the game is very aesthetically pleasing with its anime combined with realistic visuals. On a side note, no, I didn’t notice any censorship or adjusted scenes. Nobody will know for sure until the Japanese version has been compared by those obsessed with finding slight differences, but it never felt like anything was removed or covered up for the sake of it. There are lots of massive boobs and even a whole host of ‘vagina bones’.
In terms of the audio, I loved the music and the voice acting. Doing a random search for a few of the voice actors, it appears the game has been voiced by the actual cast members who voiced the anime, so fans fo the show will be happy with this. However, there is no English dub, it’s all Japanese voices with the option for either English or French subtitles (in the EU version). This personally doesn’t bother me as I’ve played a shed-load of games with no English voices, but I know some people may not like the amount of reading you’ll have to do as you play the game.
I just wanted to mention the road to the Platinum – it’s easy but long. There are no missable trophies, a bunch are story-related, there are a few long grinding ones such as completing all the requests, and the sweets are a pain in the arse to find. However, the game isn’t that difficult – especially when it recommends you play the game on Easy when you first start it. However, if you want a challenge, DON’T play it on easy as the game becomes very, very easy. You’ll be taking down enemies with one or two hits and the level 99 version of your characters will one-shot almost every enemy. But, if you’re just in it for the story, there are no difficulty-related trophies so don’t feel penalised for wanting an easier experience.
As someone who hasn’t seen a single episode of Fairy Tail, I bloody loved this game! It felt like a re-skinned Atelier game, minus the synthesising, with enhanced combat and a whole host of addictive mechanics, such as the rebuilding of the guild. I wasn’t impressed with how they used the source material (the anime), but the expanded interactions, character stories, and unique game-only events made up for the lack of animated anime segments and chunks of the game reduced to the storybook-like narration. Fans of the franchise will enjoy playing as their favourite characters and reenacting various arcs from the series, and newcomers will enjoy the interesting stories and solid gameplay mechanics.
I honestly can’t praise Fairy Tail enough for how much fun it’s brought me over the last week.
If you decide to pick up the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game, you’ll also receive the below DLC costumes as part of the bundle – as well as five ‘Growth Lacrima’. As of now, this is the only way to obtain these costumes but they may go on sale at a later date (I presume they probably will do).
- - Very interesting story which covers a lot of the anime and new events and interactions
- - The combat system is solid with a lot of fun mechanics and spells to use
- - Upgrading and remodelling the guild was fun, granting you boosts and rewards each step of the way
- - Sixteen playable characters, each with their own spells, stories and personalities
- - The music and voice acting were great, using the original voice artists from the anime
- - The requests and community 'shopping lists' can get a little repetitive if you decide to do them all at the same time
- - There were some performance issues (outside of battles) on the PS4 Pro
- - Some characters have been clearly 'pay-walled' which should really have been included within the game
- - I personally felt like the story was a little 'too long', but others may see this as more value for your money!