You might shy away from Fairy Tail, the newest JRPG from Gust and Koei Tecmo, if you haven’t seen the anime it’s based on. But that would be a mistake.
Engaging from the start, Fairy Tail puts you in control of members of the titular magical guild. Once the most famous and revered guild in the lands, its members were missing for seven years and so they’ve fallen down the rankings. But now back in their home town, Fairy Tail must work their way back up, proving to people that they’re still the most formidable force of good around.
As you start your adventure, you’ll work your way through various requests, gaining rank and improving the status of the guild. These are pretty straightforward tasks; kill X amount of monsters, or talk to people around town to gather information. But you have control over what missions you want to complete. Choosing from a notice board, you can take or leave whatever you’d like, with your only goal often being to raise the guild’s rank.
“You’re never short of something to do”
It’s a simple gameplay loop, but one that’s very rewarding. Being in control feels good, even if it is largely superfluous. Along with working through requests, you’ll also complete tasks to upgrade the guild, interact with other guild members to increase their bonds, and level up characters individually. Basically, you’re never short of something to do.
Of course, you’re not always left to your own devices. There are often more pressing matters to deal with than simply raising the rank of your guild. Fairy Tail packs in a robust and interesting narrative that sees the guild face off against a terrible evil that’s threatening to destroy everything. You know, the usual stuff. But this time, that threat is an all-powerful dragon that wants to take over the world. Handy, then, that a number of Fairy Tail’s members are Dragon Slayers.
Of course, if you’re familiar with the Fairy Tail anime, you’ll likely get more out of the game than a newcomer. You’ll already be familiar with the characters, their relationships with each other, and you’ll have a greater knowledge of the world around them. But approaching the game with no prior knowledge, I’ve never felt lost. Characters and concepts are introduced well enough that it never feels like a deep, alien world. It also helps that it’s so well-written and well-presented; it’s a world that’s a pleasure to be a part of, regardless of if you already know it or not.
“It’s a world that’s a pleasure to be a part of, regardless of if you already know it or not”
There’s a total of 16 playable characters in Fairy Tail, who’ll gradually be introduced to you over the course of the game. You’ll undoubtedly get to know a few key characters better than others, but for the most part, you can choose who to take control of. Certain missions and tasks will require a particular character – or group of characters – to be used, but there’s also plenty of opportunity to change up your party and primary character. It also pays to switch who you control once in a while; each character has missions that only they can complete.
If you’ve watched Fairy Tail with English dubs, you might find it slightly jarring that only Japanese dialogue is present in the game. But it’s excellently delivered, with many scenes fully voiced. The written translations are excellent too. There’s a lot of humour packed into the game, and although there’s a fair bit of fan service, you’ll still find yourself chuckling regularly as a newcomer.
Fairy Tail looks beautiful, too. Characters are your typical, over-the-top anime models, brought to life with wonderfully comical facial animations and – ahem – shall we say, extravagant, physiques on the ladies. But it’s a JRPG; whaddaya expect? The environments are a little more realistic, however. They pop with detail and colour, and every area is a pleasure to explore.
“Fairy Tail looks beautiful, too… Environments pop with detail and colour, and every area is a pleasure to explore”
Rather than being one huge, open world, Fairy Tail is broken up into smaller, interconnected areas. More areas open up as you play, and each one has its own personality. There’s a number of towns, bustling with NPCs, but also a lot of areas of wilderness which are populated with enemies. Thankfully, enemies are always visible, so you’ll know when you’re able to engage in battle, and they’re easier to avoid if you simply want to get from A to B without being disrupted.
But you’ll probably be happy to engage in combat, because Fairy Tail‘s turn-based battle system is a lot of fun. Being a guild of magic-users, you’ll primarily use magic attacks with each of your characters. That means you’ll forever need to monitor your MP bar, but in return you’ll get a dazzling display of spectacular attacks. Each character has their own speciality, but no matter who is in your party, the attack sequences are a joy to watch; an explosion of colour and chaos.
There’s an element of strategy involved in planning your attacks, too. Each member of Fairy Tail has a roster of attacks that will expand as they level up. Some attacks target only one enemy, but many can target multiple. Each attack has a grid pattern showing where it will cause damage. Perhaps it will damage three enemies in a horizontal line, or four enemies in a square. You’ll need to select attacks that will cause the most effective amount of damage while also balancing your MP use. Naturally, the more powerful and wider spreading an attack is, the more MP it will use, so sometimes it makes more sense to use smaller, more focused attacks.
“Fairy Tail is over-the-top, comical and captivating – and it’s one of the most enjoyable JRPGs I’ve sank my teeth into in some time”
Each attack a party member carries out increases a ‘limit break’ type meter which, when filled, allows your party to join forces to carry out super-powerful attack. It typically fills quickly, and using it will see your team chain together their own attacks. There’s often also the opportunity to carry out special, randomly occurring attacks as part of this too, which adds to the thrill.
There’s very little downtime in Fairy Tail. It’s the type of RPG that wants you to be enjoying yourself every step of the way. Whether you’re watching a well-animated cutscene, making your way through missions to upgrade your rank, or engaging in a high-octane boss fight, you’re unlikely to find yourself bored. Thanks to its beautifully designed world and characters you can’t help but love, it does a valiant job of welcoming newcomers to the series, too. Fairy Tail is over-the-top, comical and captivating – and it’s one of the most enjoyable JRPGs I’ve sank my teeth into in some time.