As the title implies, Fairy Tail (the game) is inspired by the shonen manga of the same name. While manga and anime-inspired games are a dime a dozen, their quality often comes into question. For each Dragon Ball FighterZ and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, there has been countless shovelware. Developed by Gust, the studio best known for the Atelier series, Fairy Tail has the potential to be a worthwhile Role-Playing Game.
Can the Fairy Tail guild rise to stardom in a video game format?
Despite being Gust’s first time adapting Fairy Tail, the game does not start in the same place as the anime or manga. Instead, the Role-Playing Game begins during the final moments of the Tenrou Island arc. This segment serves as both a tutorial and a prelude to the main campaign. From here Fairy Tail mostly focuses on the Grand Magic Games and Tartaros arcs. For those unfamiliar with the source material, the Grand Magic Games arc takes place about halfway through the manga’s original run. Spoiler alert.
A Blast from the Past
Gust’s Fairy Tail begins with a bang. After defeating his followers off-screen, the Fairy Tail guild’s elite wizards come face to face with the former Guild Master. Now a master of the dark arts, Hades attempts to wipe out the guild he once held dear. This is all simply to gain the attention, and favor, of the greatest Dark Mage ever known: Zeref. Unbeknownst to Hades, “plot armor” and “the power of friendship” are two of shonen manga’s greatest tropes. After a vicious back and forth between both generations, it appears that Hades is the last man standing. Laxus Dreyer, the grandson of Fairy Tail’s current Guild Master, passes the last of his magic to one Natsu Dragneel. Natsu becomes a Lightning Fire Dragon Slayer and proceeds to knock Hades into next week.
On the subject of time travel, it’s not long before the Fairy Tail guild takes a trip of their own. A white-eyed black dragon known only as “Acnologia” descends into Tenrou Island. Barely able to walk, even the best the guild has to offer is unable to stand against the dragon. With a single Dragon’s Roar, Acnologia engulfs the island and its inhabitants in a blinding light. Despite initial appearances, the Fairy Tail guild does not fall victim to the attack. Instead, they are saved by one of the greatest spells in their arsenal: Fairy Sphere. The spell completely removes the island from time and space. Seven years later, the island magically returns. At that time, however, most have all but forgotten the once great guild.
Despite starting halfway into the manga’s narrative, Fairy Tail arguably covers one of the best periods for a Gust developed game. While not always an Adventuring Guild in name, the concept has been explored throughout the Atelier series. Dungeons and dragons aside, Fairy Tail revolves around restoring the reputation of the guild. Although this practice occurs throughout the anime, it is most prevalent following the seven-year time skip.
Luckily Fairy Tail succeeds at catering to not only series fans, but uninitiated as well. The game does a fantastic job of world-building. All of the prominent members of the Fairy Tail guild are fleshed out during the main narrative in addition to optional quests. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about other Player Characters. Former villains such as Lyon Vastia, Jellal Fernandes, and Ultear Milkovich come out of seemingly nowhere. Their importance to their past arcs is practically hidden within an in-game journal.
Fire & Ice
Fairy Tail‘s colorful cast has always been one of its greatest strengths. This remains true in video game form. The Celestial Wizard Lucy Heartfilia and Fire Dragon Slayer Natsu Dragneel fill the leading roles of female and male protagonists respectively. As the game goes on, each member of Team Natsu shares their moment in the sun. This would also include Ice Wizard Gray Fullbuster, S-Rank Wizard Erza Scarlet, and Sky Dragon Slayer Wendy Marvell.
In addition to the main story, Fairy Tail also features a plethora of character quests. These events often follow up from scenes in the anime. In one example, Lucy asks the Iron Dragon Slayer Gajeel Redfox about why Natsu wouldn’t eat his own flames. Disturbed by such a question, Gajeel replies by asking Lucy to never repeat herself to their youngest protégé, Wendy. While comedic gold, these character quests are more than a cheap laugh. They consistently flesh characters as well as the relationships between them.
Upon returning from their seven-year absence, the wizards of Fairy Tail are eager to get back to work. Luckily that is the name of the game. Outside of the major story arcs, much of the game is spent completing quests. Official D to A-Rank quests often entail hunting nearby monsters. Occasional exceptions include scavenger hunts or fighting a mid-boss. The more compelling quests are generally story-driven with a worthwhile cause. Something to sink your teeth into. Unfortunately, these are not the vast majority. True to the manga, only one job can be accepted at a time. While this makes sense narratively speaking, it will likely feel cumbersome to Atelier fans.
In addition to official quests, the Fairy Tail guild also requests tasks in-house. From pretty early on, Team Natsu is granted the ability to open and upgrade various facilities. Though not mandatory, officially speaking, slacking can lead to later difficulties. Unlike the alphabetically ranked quests, any number of these can be accepted at a time.
Magic for Dummies
Not unlike the Atelier franchise, Gust’s Fairy Tail is a turn-based JRPG. The somewhat simplistic battle system has been spiced up to compliment the intensity of the Shonen series. While each character has the option to dish out a generic attack, they probably won’t throughout the entirety of the game. Fittingly for wizards, it’s all about the magic. Each character has an ever-growing selection of over-the-top spells. No two spells are the same, and a majority of characters specialize in a single element. Additionally, each spell has a specific power and range. Many of which also cause additional side effects such as status ailments, enemy movement, or even a Counter Stance.
Fairy Tail’s base game features a total of sixteen playable characters. Though uncommonly high for a story-driven JRPG, Fairy Tail finds a way to pull it off. Despite each character being a mage by trade, they offer differing playstyles. Look no further than Fairy Tail’s very own Dragon Slayers. Natsu, for example, focuses on offensive elemental spells. These cover wide terrain and can inflict a burn aliment. Gajeel’s toolset on the other hand is designed to lower the defense of enemy combatants. Then there’s Wendy who instead excels in raising stats and restoring health. There is a character for every occasion.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
As an anime adoption, it should come to the surprise of no one that Fairy Tail is a cel-shaded game. The practice has been used for years in an attempt to imitate an anime esthetic. Persona, Dragon Quest, and Atelier are just some of the major examples in recent years. Continuing the pattern, Fairy Tail features some of the better graphics on Nintendo Switch. Each character that appears does so in eye-popping color true to their animated roots. It’s only unfortunate that not every character received a proper invitation.
Key figures such as Lucy, Natsu, and Gray all come to life within the scripted scenes, hub cities, and battle screens. The same cannot be said for a handful of relevant characters. Ivan Dreyer of Raven Tail and Crime Sorcière’s Meredy only appear in the form of text bubbles. This causes an otherwise very polished game to look incomplete. This is perhaps most jarring when it comes to Lucy and her Celestial Spirits. The most prominent spirits such as Leo, Virgo, and Aquarius are fully animated. Most others, however, are only represented by a static cut-in and generic elemental attack animation.
The world of Fairy Tail is a magical one. Series fans should agree that Magnolia Town is just as memorable as the wizards that inhabit it. Magnolia is the home of not one, but two Guild Halls of the Fairy Tail guild. Kardia Cathedral which once served as the battleground between Natsu and Gajeel vs Laxus towers above the remaining cityscape. Luckily iconic locations such as these have been faithfully recreated within the game. The game also features perhaps the most memorable location of all: Lucy’s House. Players can even reenact their favorite gags by strolling into Lucy’s house whenever they see fit. Natsu might not be Lucy’s only uninvited guest.
Outside of Magnolia Town, Fairy Tail features a myriad of familiar locations. Such locations range from a magic forest, vanishing island, and even an upscale colosseum. Did we mention the tournament arc? Levels overall are quite inconsistent in scale. The Boundry Forest especially is surprisingly short and gives a bad impression of what’s to come. Akane Beach and Tenrou Island are much more enjoyable to explore as they become available. Regardless of layout or population, each area looks like it was stripped right out of the anime.
Recently even the most prestigious anime-inspired titles will remove the licensed music and lock it behind a payroll. Here’s looking at you Dragon Ball FighterZ. Luckily this is not the case for the Fairy Tail game. Most fans of the anime will agree that it featured a beautiful soundtrack throughout the entirety of its three series run. As early as the opening menu, music ripped straight from the anime’s Original Soundtrack can be heard. The tracks evoke feelings of nostalgia and quality assurance. Not every developer would invest in including iconic anime tracks at no additional cost to the player.
Games developed by Gust are somewhat infamous for their inconsistent audio. This is most likely due to their changing in publishers a few years back. Unfortunately for some, the game’s audio is only available in Japanese. While this probably won’t break too many deals, it is worth mentioning for the strictest of dub-only purists. Fans of the Fairy Tail sub will vouch that it has always offered a stellar cast. Luckily a majority of the characters have been voiced by their original actors. This brings us to the elephant in the room. Much like with the strangely unrendered characters, there are some characters who are not even voiced. While this would normally pass in an unvoiced skit, it is certainly strange when they are instead the only ones silent in their respective conversations. No wonder Sabertooth needed a new Guild Master.
Overall Gust’s Fairy Tail is one of the best anime-inspired games released in recent years. From the ground up, Fairy Tail plays like a proper RPG through and through. The graphics are great, the music is memorable, and the gameplay is surprisingly solid. The story is faithful to the original story and covers almost everything from the adapted arcs. Here’s hoping that Gust continues the story in the form of an expansion or a stand-alone sequel.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives Fairy Tail 8.5 Lacrima out of 10.