Game Reviewby Myles Gibbs,
Fairy Tail, created by GUST Studios in close association with its mangaka, Hiro Mashima, sees the namesake anime skillfully translated into a turn-based JRPG that far exceeded my expectations. Set right at the head of the series' seven-year time skip, you'll venture across Earth Land as Natsu, Lucy, Gray, Erza, Wendy, and others in order revive the name of the Fairy Tail guild. While it has its ups and downs, Fairy Tail proves to be a solid JRPG and a spectacular way to experience the latter half of the anime it hails from.
I went into Fairy Tail with the low expectations I've been accustomed to when dealing with many anime-adapted games, but I must say, this title blew them away. It's been a good while since I've seen an anime-based game so well realized – not just in its adherence to the plot, but also in the quality of its gameplay and the realization of its world. Within the first 15 minutes, it had already pulled me well enough into its universe to keep me going for the rest of my playthrough. I knew very little about Fairy Tail going into this game – my only knowledge of the series was some reading I'd done to get myself up to snuff with the plot up to the end of the Tenrou Island Arc, but after playing this game, I'd definitely consider myself something of a fan.
This game provides a fantastic medium through which to partake in Fairy Tail. In fact, if you ask me, this franchise was in some ways always meant to be a game. The in-universe existence of guilds that manage requests, magical power meters that are filled by interacting with elements, and a Final Fantasy-esque society where magic is infused with day-to-day life just scream JRPG and make for great gameplay. You'll see yourself managing your guild alongside upgrading certain amenities, ranking up its members, and most importantly, completing requests to increase its standing. In your pursuit of this goal you'll see yourself dealing with the citizens of the Kingdom of Fiore and fighting foes across Earth Land.
Combat is set to a Mega-Man: Battle Network premise, where enemies are laid out in a grid and different attacks hit certain spaces and move enemies in different ways. All attacks expend MP, but defeating enemies can restore it. The combat is deep and provides a lot of room for strategy and customization. Random encounters have no place here, since GUST took a Dragon Quest XI approach to the overworld, scattering enemies across the map and leaving it up to the player to aggravate, attack, or sneak around them. They brought over the Irish-Rock music from the show for battles and I was constantly bobbing my head to it. Outside of combat, the music still managed to never get stale, as there was enough variety from location to location to keep it fresh. The only aspect I felt was truly lacking was in the low variety of overworld enemies, which began to get repetitive, but were still certainly bearable. I found combat not just technically appealing, but also visually stunning. Each character has their own wide set of colorful moves and spunky win-screens that are a joy to watch thanks to the faithful realization of the manga's style.
Hiro Mashima's art, which appears to be a fusion of Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) and Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), is well-adapted here. While there are certainly some graphical weaknesses, the game still manages to look stunning at best and inoffensive at worst. The character designs are striking and the consistent voice acting throughout does so much to bring the characters to life. There was no dub, but I certainly didn't mind, as the Japanese voice actors do an excellent job realizing their characters, and subtitles are constantly present – even during combat. This game was developed in close quarters with Mashima, and his vision certainly manages to shine through. Even the placement in the plot seems well planned, as all of the key characters are introduced but significantly powered-down – everything is set up for the perfect underdog story. And who can say no to that?
Of course, this title is by no means perfect. Most notable are its graphical weaknesses. While the character models are well done, the quality of the overworld is lacking. In spite of this, I'm glad as I much prefer a fleshed out game with bland graphics than vice-versa. Another aspect that could use some work, other than the aforementioned lack of variety in enemies, is pacing. I certainly experienced some low points in my playthrough as the hours lulled together in a pattern of accepting a request, reading a snippet of dialogue, fighting a couple of enemies I'd already seen too much of, and then reading through another cutscene. Luckily for Fairy Tail, the combat itself kept me interested enough to continue, but the padding in-between certainly didn't to help.
Fairy Tail is a perfect example of what shonen-adapted JRPGs should look like, and I hope that with Fairy Tail, GUST has cemented itself as a capable studio for making games of this breed. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future. This game turned me into a Fairy Tail fan, and if you already consider yourself among those numbers, I'm certain you'll have a blast.
Overall : B
Graphics : C+
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : A-
Presentation : B
+ This take on Mashima's art style can be a treat to the eyes. Fleshed out combat and a well-realized plot make for a thrilling way to partake in the Fairy Tail story. Consistent voice acting bring the characters to life. While it may have been on an indie game budget, it manages to deliver on some Triple-A qualities.
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