Manga/Anime to Video Game adaption done right?
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release date: 30 Jul, 2020
Fairy Tail from the Atelier Series Developer GUST
Adaptions from one media into another have always been wildly inconsistent when it comes to their quality/quantity. Many of them are flying under our radar. What makes Fairy Tail so much different is the fact that it’s being developed GUST. While they are not known to go big, they still have a very good reputation with small cult classics like Ar Tonelico and the long running Atelier Series with the recently very successful Atelier Ryza.
Are they able to pull it off?
Special Note: I’m not familiar with the Fairy Tail series so this is going to be from a perspective of somebody trying to get into Fairy Tail via the game.
Fairy Tail starts guns blazing with, supposedly the ending of a story arc, the fight against Hades. In a steady back and forth of Hades toying with the Fairy Tail Guild, the latter manages to edge it out with twists such as the main character Natsu eating the lightning energy of guild colleague Laxus and thus powering up with improved strength.
After defeating Hades, the crew returns to Tenrou Island as it was originally their testing ground to become an S-Rank Mage before being interrupted by Hades and co.
Unfortunately, the bad news didn’t stop. Acnologia, a world-ending Dragon, is targeting the island for destruction. Facing the desperate situation the Fairy Tail Guild manages to pool together their power and fend of the island destroying attack but it came at a heavy price…
7 years. That’s the price for survival. Everybody on the Island vanished for 7 years. Coming back to their Headquarters in Magnolia Magnolia Town only to find out that they went bankrupt and are now at a different location at the edge of the town. The quest in returning the former glory of Fairy Tail has begun once again starting with the Grand Magic Games. A big tournament for all guilds to prove themselves as the strongest of all and the story…
The choice of beginning the story in the middle rather than the beginning is quite daring and unique because it makes it harder as an entry point. Some characters have already gone through their character arcs and many references will be lost for Fairy Tail newcomers. But it also makes sense as many stories tend to have rather slow beginnings and choosing one of the more exciting ones that make for compelling gameplay that fits within the lore.
There is an Encyclopedia with 8 Story entries that recount the story so far, 80 entries for characters and 64 Terminology entries, though nothing too detailed and would profit from something more enticing than simple text.
As for the story itself, this topic is two-fold. One is the actual story and second the adaption into an RPG.
The kickoff point isn’t too bad because it should count as a soft reboot due to Fairy Tail having to restart from rags and working their way up to riches. The initial quests are a good way to mix gameplay and restoring the guild.
The real meat of the story begins at the Grand Magic Games, also known as a tournament arc. Overall, it still manages to capture enough interests with unexpected twists and turns, likable characters, and villains that rile you up.
Some nice interactions in optional content slightly deepen the understanding of the characters.
Now about the adaption. There’s no doubt that there are some severe cuts to the story resulting in an abbreviated playable form. Other guilds are either completely missing or are represented by 2 characters at most. In comparison, the Fairy Tail Guild has about 10, which is huge in contrast. Some story parts are even skipped with short summaries.
A lot of characters are also particularly limited to a few scenes but that’s something we’re saving up for when we’re talking about the graphics.
In summary, it doesn’t substitute the more elaborate and detailed source material but offers a different interactive take instead. When it comes to who the game is for, it’s certainly targeting fans more than newcomers due to the before mentioned points. However, even fans could find specific characters or moments getting not enough screen time.
It can be put into 3 major segments that put everything into a simple but entertaining gameplay loop.
The Guild and upgrades
Despite how it seems at the beginning, your main hub of the action is your Guild HQ. In there you will do everything going from shopping, crafting Lacrimas (Equipment), and signing up for quests.
The guild itself is a multifaceted system that consists of ranking, upgrading, and remodeling. The ranking is pretty simple, you finish quests and upgrade your guild interior. For each rank, you get guild points to spend on unlocking character-specific things such as buffs or alternative colors.
The guild upgrades are for beefing up the shops and other things that give you big benefits like having better items on sale or higher crafting levels. It costs money and requires you to find special items every time and is best be done by having them active and do it on the side while being on a quest.
Remodeling is simple general buffs like stats but requires ample materials found across the world of Fairy Tail.
Crafting is nothing too complex. Defeating enemies or finding materials on the ground will give you ample supply. Just in case you’ve too many Lacrima duplicates, you can recycle 5 into a superior one. While you can find Lacrimas while adventuring, you can also craft character tied ones that are stronger than normal ones but require unique materials.
Field, Quests, Affinity and Fast Travel
Everything outside of your HQ is a Field. Even towns with the exception that no enemies are running around. As your guild is already fully equipped, there is nothing to interact with except a rare talk with citizens. There are not even shops. Instead, you can find a bigger amount of special requests that are asking for specific materials that reward you with various things.
The other fields are filled with supplies, treasure chests, and more than enough enemies. There’s one notable thing and that’s the over damage spots. They are blockades that you can break by reaching specific amount damage done so if it says 5000 you need to do at least that much for it to be removed. This is a homage to the accidental destructive nature of the Fairy Tail guild that is mentioned multiple times in the game.
The Quests can be summed up as fetch quests. You’ll be tasked to find things, defeat specific enemies, or go to specific places to continue the mission. They are simple, easy, and frictionless. Some are repeatable while others can only be completed one time that comes with small story events.
Take note of who you’re taking on a mission with you as with every finished mission their affinity rises. Each character is linked like a web up to level 3 affinity. Get it up and sometimes you even get to see some small interactions between them in towns.
Another nifty thing worth mentioning is the well done Fast Travel. At mostly any time you can press up on the D-Pad and it calls the world map ready to fast travel. The towns even have multiple fast travel spots, making it much easier to navigate efficiently.
It’s a turn-based 3×3 grid type of battle system with up to 5 characters (starting with 3). What does it mean? Your characters take turns depending on your Speed value and your enemies are on a 3×3 grid that adds a strategic layer in how you apply your attacks. That’s because every single attack covers different spots.
Buffs, debuffs and healing are obviously part of the gampelay and part of your Magic Arsenal.
It’s worth noting that you can decide to skip the attack animations for a faster-paced battle. All characters gain EXP, though those outside of battle are getting a reduction of 50%.
But beware your attacks cost MP and once you run out it’s pretty much a wrap if you don’t have recovery items at hand. Aside from your formidable palette of attacks you have some further options and mechanics available:
A raw weak physical attack that costs 1 MP.
Reduce incoming damage by a lot.
Take enough damage and fill your Awakening Gauge. Once it’s full you can either activate it or use it to intercept an attack, the latter will reduce your turns in awakening. It also comes with HP and MP regeneration and is guaranteed to fill before your character reaches 0 HP. Unless it’s a big-hitting move that kills you in one shot.
Let one of your characters follow up an attack but costs 1 Awakening Gauge part.
On the bottom right you can see the Magic Chain Gauge that fills up with every attack. Once it’s full you can use the devastating Magic Chain to attack all enemies on the field. The higher your Guild Rank the more attacks you can dish out. It consists of the characters rotating their attacks but it’s always RNG of whether you get to reach the maximum combo or not. You can also finish them earlier with a Finish attack but that’s rarely useful. Later on, you’ll unlock Extreme Mode that are special finishers that are also RNG based when it comes to when they appear.
This is what you’ll mainly use to achieve Over Damage.
All characters have their set elements and therefore weaknesses. Natsu has increased resistance against the fire element but takes more damage from ice. Fairy Tail and their friends are a colorful bunch with individual innate elements. Setting up a team for specific enemies will make your life easier, for sure.
For reference, I didn’t take it into account on my playthrough on normal and still had no problems due to being at high levels due to questing.
16 Playable Characters
That’s the official number but they aren’t going to be with you from the beginning. It starts with fellow guild members and then friends from rival guilds such as light element Sting from the Sabertooth guild. You have to pick them up first with small quests and events.
The loop of going to quests and upgrading your guild is surprisingly fun. There are a few good things worth pointing out. Most of the time you can choose your team composition in missions, even if there are fixed members. They don’t play a role in the story itself but it’s nice to have them come along for battles.
Grinding isn’t necessary as you can just opt to go for the extra mini-story quests and you’re well prepared to continue the main story.
Enemies on the field can be dodged easily. This helps a lot in speeding up your fetch quests as you don’t get interrupted.
When you’re looking for a quick level up you can use the Hunting Link mechanic that is available later on to clean up everything in one go. Just prepare your Magic Chain beforehand or you are likely to face annihilation due to their stacking into high levels.
While it does a lot right, there are a few nitpicks There are only a handful of areas with some more getting unlocked post main story but you will feel the repetition setting in very quick. There’s also the weird decision that they have animated the character picking up things because it takes about 1 or 2 seconds and the frequency of picking up things is very high. It doesn’t seem like a big thing but it piles up.
Suffice to say, the gameplay is one of the main points that make the game and there’s, even more, I haven’t mentioned such as small skits in Lucy’s home, Guild Quests that give you a goal to achieve with bountiful rewards, and even separate character quests.
Graphics, Sound and Performance
Phew, this is a tough one. Coming at you with a modest size of about 7 GB you can probably already see what to expect. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be: Inconsistency. The game is most likely created for the lowest common denominator and you can see it.
While the characters are visually a good adaption including exaggerated expressions, you can see some heavy aliasing in close up shots. Then there are the low-resolution textures all over the place.
The various attack animations are praiseworthy and you can see that they tried their best when putting them to life.
They are so well done that they are also used in story cutscenes… giving it a canned feeling. The story scenes don’t have a lot of animation which is why there are in-engine prerendered videos to supplement it. In the prerendered cutscenes you can see animation specifically made for them and are much more dynamic.
Clones and palette swaps
This is something I’m not sure about whether it’s some kind of Fairy Tail homage or simply a design decision. While the towns are quite lively and always bustling with life, there’s one thing that sticks out… They look all the same! There are about 10 different character models and you can see them used over and over again. I once even managed to get 5 of the same character model in one screen! You could consider it nitpicky but I never noticed something like this in other games.
Then we have to talk about the enemies because it’s a similar case. You get a basic enemy type like wolf, bird, humanoid monsters and they are getting reused with small edits.
A lot of characters don’t have character models. What does it mean? Though they are in the story, you only get to see character portraits. It’s extremely weird seeing characters talking to somebody who isn’t there physically in-game space and frankly speaking it was quite confusing in the beginning until I finally noticed what was going on.
Another tool that is sometimes used to circumvent the need for models is the use of screenshots from the Anime and some aren’t even high res…
Another point of inconsistency is the voice acting (Japanese only). Only select characters and scenes are voiced. I even experienced a scene in the main story, where one character was talking and the one they are talking to only has their dialogue in text only.
These are some wild inconsistencies in presentation and not small ones at that.
Professional original voices and a good soundtrack
As mentioned before, the game comes with the original Japanese voice acting and you can nothing else but quality in this regard. The soundtrack is also very good with a sort of a lighthearted medieval-ish style of music and a battle soundtrack that gets you pumping. You can expect about over 40 different songs with all of them ready to play at your leisure in Lucy’s house.
Everything was ok except that there was a lot of tearing, considering the fact that the game isn’t one to push big it should be a bug. According to the steam forums it’s already being looked at.
Loading times are close to non-existent with an SSD. It’s at least fast enough to not being able to play the loading screen mini-game.
Fairy Tail is a competent game with a good set of characters, interesting story, and a fun gameplay loop but it also has its fair share of issues most of them not gameplay related but still hampers the experience. It’s not a short game either. You can expect about 20 hours for the main story and many hours more if you’re going past the endgame with extra content.
Considering the current above-average pricing (you might even say next-gen pricing) of 70$/€, it’s a very tall order. While I’d love to gives this game a Save, there’s no conceivable way to justify it unless you’re a huge Fairy Tail fan.
For others, it easily falls into the Save for Later category and if you’re looking for an RPG you might want to take a look at Atelier Ryza.