Fairy Tail (Switch) Review
Before I started playing Fairy Tail I had never read the manga or watched the anime. It’s the first game to come out on modern consoles, so I figured I would be playing the story from the beginning. I was wrong! I was jumping right into the deep end of a long-running series with no idea what’s going on, so I had to do some research. After checking out a few episodes and some extensive reading, I quickly found out I like this series. Although does this mean I’ll also enjoy the video game based on a point in the series I was a long way off from? Let’s find out together.
In Earth-land where all of this takes place, magic is commonplace. Wizards form guilds to carry out requests for money and fame. Fairy Tail is one of the most famous and powerful guilds in the Kingdom of Fiore. The main characters of the story are the powerful dragon slayer Natsu and his cat companion Happy, and Lucy, a celestial spirit mage who can summon spirits based on astrological signs. There’s also Gray, Natsu’s friendly rival and ice-make mage (he wields ice and is undressed often), and the rest of the Fairy Tail guild. Over the 20ish hours you’ll grow a sizeable group to select from as well as interacting with other guilds and notable characters from the series.
You’re really thrown into the thick of it in Fairy Tail. If you haven’t read or watched anything of this series you will feel pretty lost. The initial introduction and tutorial takes place during a big moment in the series with no context. It was a great motivator to check out the anime, I’m glad I did as I intend to watch plenty more of it. There’s no escaping that the game is inaccessible to people new to the series, unless you’re prepared to do your research going in. If you’re familiar with the manga or anime then you shouldn’t have any issues knowing what’s going on. I did manage to catch up on what was going on, at least to a point I knew who everyone was and the main story beats. There is an encyclopaedia in the game to help get you up to speed, but I recommend watching a few episodes of the anime at least. I feel you’ll get a lot more from this game if you’re already a fan.
The game begins with a boss fight – The Fairy Tail guild must fend off a devastating attack from a dragon called Acnologia. The guild is saved by a defensive spell that also places the group in suspended animation. This leads to a seven year gap, making the Fairy Tail guild the weakest amongst the guilds since the most powerful members were stuck suspended. Now you have to work together to climb back up the ranks, rebuild your tattered reputation and save the world along the way.
While there have been other Fairy Tail games, they haven’t been available unless you import them. The Grand Magic Games is a great leaping in point for a video game adaption. If you start from the beginning the guild is already popular and powerful, then what would the stakes be? This is like Samus losing all of her suit upgrades and starting over.
After playing a variety of manga/anime based games, I was surprised to find that Fairy Tail is a Turn-based RPG. No arena based brawlers for us this time! Every fight takes place on a grid, with enemies placed within their own squares on the grid. The physical attack button seems to have no purpose unless you run out of MP, magic is where it’s at. Each attack or stat buff has different ranges of impact. Some magical attacks hit one square, some hit two, some land in a pattern on the grid. Use the right moves if you want to inflict a status effect on an enemy, or you can knock them back or bring them forward if it makes it easier to land a bigger attack. You also have meters that build up, one allows you to unleash a powerful team chain attack that can make short work of any enemy that comes your way. You can also build characters up to unleash an Awakened status, which makes each of them powerful in different ways.
The way the guild operates in the series is they take on requests from the request board, and this carries over to the game easily. You go to the request board and select the job you want to take on. Essentially it’s picking up side quests to help build your experience, earn some cash and help restore the guilds rank. None of the requests are very long, the earlier ones are over pretty quickly. In fact the later higher rank ones don’t involve much more, they’re only longer because the last two areas are bigger to navigate.
As you work on restoring your guilds rank, there’s also plenty of story quests. You’ll also unlock character quests as the story progresses. Character quests are similar to the repetitive fetch quests, but at least you unlock the ability to rank up the relevant character further. The story quests are what propel the game forwards, they last much longer than the request board tasks. But just like in the requests you’re either running around in third person, collecting items or fighting enemies.
When trying to capture hundreds of episodes of a series, most games are limited by the genre of game. Arena brawlers are limited in retelling arcs whenever the fighting stops, and it turns out a turn-based RPG can suffer from the same. When the story doesn’t work in that turn-based battle setting, the story beats will be quickly skimmed over or summed up in text. It’s not like this is uncommon for anime games, it just feels particularly strange with this genre.
While a large amount of story does get covered, it is still disappointing after doing a heap of repetitive requests to have the next chunk of an arc told in still shots from the anime. Worst is when it looks like it would’ve been more fun than the fetch quests you’ve been doing to get to that point. I do understand that there may not have been room for that many arcs and some might not work in the game. The disjointed manner the story takes in the last five or so hours in the game makes for a weird conclusion.
With some of the anime games I’ve played over the last year or so, I’ve found a recurring issue with only providing the Japanese audio. While major dialogue is subtitled, frequently characters will say something that there aren’t any subtitles for. Fairy Tail isn’t alone in this, it was frustrating in other games and it’s still the case here. There’s every chance the dialogue isn’t important, but there’s no good reason it can’t be subtitled. Otherwise the audio is fine, the Fairy Tail theme never fails to get you ready for adventure. The Japanese voice cast is there too, with a lot of the conversations voiced.
Throughout the entirety of the game there is a consistently choppy frame rate. The visuals are nice and all, but they never feel like they’re pushing the system that hard. It’s manageable, but if a constant 20fps or less bothers you then you may want to steer clear. On the other hand the characters all look good, they translate well to 3D and they do try to get the look of the city of Magnolia right. Outside of those areas and even within the city, the world can be quite bland and slow to move around. The areas outside of the cities feel like generic outdoor RPG environments. The world feels surprisingly small for how long the story keeps going for.
Overall I came away disappointed by the Fairy Tail game, even more so because it actually got me into the series. The interesting turn-based combat and fun dynamics between the characters aren’t enough to ignore the bland request system, technical issues and truncated story arcs. If you’re a big Fairy Tail fan then it could just be enough to be playing a game of a series you enjoy. It’s much harder to recommend to anyone unfamiliar with the series, and I would recommend checking out the anime first at least.
+ Enjoyable turn-based combat
+ Captures the characters well
+ Characters translate well into 3D
- Repetitive quests
- Choppy frame rate
- Inaccessible to newcomers and not enough for fans