In recent years, video games based on anime have fallen into a bit of a rut. Many of them stick to the arena fighting game genre and rely on simple control schemes, allowing players to pick whichever character they want and pull off their best moves, regardless of the player’s skill level. With how successful this formula has proven to be, I would’ve expected a game based on Fairy Tail to fall right in with the pile of nearly identical anime titles. Fortunately, Fairy Tail takes things in a different direction and though I wouldn’t call it perfect by any means, it does come off as a refreshing entry in the realm of anime video game adaptations.
Developed by the makers of the Atelier game series, Fairy Tail is a turn-based JRPG based on the successful manga and anime of the same name. Players control Natsu along with other core members of the Fairy Tail guild, taking on jobs to earn money and restore their guild’s lost fame. Fans of Fairy Tail will most likely enjoy the expanded dive into the daily lives of the Fairy Tail cast in-between some of the series’ major arcs. Anyone unfamiliar with the source material however may find themselves completely lost as Fairy Tail makes no effort to introduce its characters, lore or terminology. I can understand wanting to start off at a point where all of the fan favourites have been introduced so that they can become playable right away, but starting the game off at the tail end of a major story arc with no context instead using the seven year time-skip that immediately follows as a way to introduce players to the world of Fairy Tail felt like a strange decision.
Fairy Tail won’t win any awards for its appearance. Outside of battles, characters feel incredibly stiff in their animations and stand almost perfectly still during cutscenes, with even their mouth movements looking limited. This unfortunately hurts Fairly Tail’s ability to properly retell the original’s story without making a few tweaks and edits. Thankfully, characters become a lot livelier during combat, with a large amount of the techniques seen in the anime being presented in all their over-the-top glory. Considering how often you need to use these techniques, some animations do eventually start to lose their appeal, but never so much that battles feel like a drag. Fairy Tail’s voice acting is often inconsistent. Minor characters tend to get no voice acting at all, making conversations with the main cast members who generally receive fully voiced lines a bit jarring. Fairy Tail only features a Japanese dub, so fans of the English dub may be slightly disappointed.
While I would not consider it to be anything unique, next to its fan service, Fairy Tail’s gameplay is its greatest appeal. Forming a party of three characters of their choosing, players can move around the series’ main town, Magnolia, accept quests from the townspeople and take on jobs that are sent to the Fairy Tail Guild. Most of these quests are boiled down to fetch quests that end with a battle to collect the key item. While these quests can basically be looked at as filler stories, fans of the series will enjoy some of the humorous dialogue between characters along with some fun references to previous arcs from the series. Many of these jobs will send players to new locations where monsters and other types of enemies roam freely. Once a battle begins, enemies are positioned in grid formation, with magic attacks having their own range to hit single or multiple targets. A small detail that I like about Fairy Tail is that it expects players to rely on magic attacks as opposed to the standard attack option which really only exists as a means to charge magic points, a fitting choice in a world fully based around wizards and magic. Fairy Tail never felt difficult enough to truly require it, but the potentials for party customization and battle strategies are high. Players can increase bonds between characters to unlock new abilities and team attacks, dealing massive amounts of damage.
This unfortunately isn’t the game that will fix the bad reputation anime titles have earned over this, but it is a big step in the right direction. If nothing else, I hope that Fairy Tail at least gives developers the confidence to explore more options outside of the arena fighting genre as in some ways, Fairy Tail’s core RPG gameplay does an even better job of displaying each character’s strengths in ways that other genres can’t. Fairy Tail likely won’t amaze anyone who isn’t already deeply invested in the series, but it could mark a new beginning for future anime-based titles.