Anime and manga-based games have a lot of advantages, but they come with a lot of disadvantages. No matter what developers do, it’s hard to capture the same experience of reading or watching a series. Shorter series handle this far better than longer ones and extremely popular series like Naruto benefit from multiple attempts at telling the same core story. Fairy Tail doesn’t have that benefit but it has plenty of great experiences to pull from. With so much to cover, a new direction and some friends, will that be enough to overcome the problems, or is this one-time friendship isn’t the solution?
Perhaps the most interesting choice in Fairy Tail was the decision to start the story at the end of the Tenrou Island arc, allowing players to seamlessly pass into the X791 arc. The reason for skipping roughly 250 chapters of action and friendship is due to the time skip that occurs at this point in the story. With the guild out of commission, for the most part, for seven years, it allows for seamless integration of tutorials, weak quests, pointless side missions and gives players a sense of progression without needing to change much.
Of course, there is a downside, and a lot of this deals with the nature of starting a new adventure. After spending a couple of hours killing the same five or six enemies you could easily move up 60 to 100 ranks, ultimately taking away from the whole idea of these guilds being a big deal. Thankfully, the story is still represented, it’s just done in a really weird and abridged way.
As someone who actually read every chapter of Fairy Tail way back when it was still releasing weekly, I remember a lot of what is supposed to happen, key moments, and huge plot points. The same holds true for the RPG, though it’s presented as if every player knows what happened in the previous 250 chapters not present in the game. Like, Ultear has a great redemption arc and whole history with Grey due to her mother, yet you don’t get much of a sense of Ur’s (her mother) importance, nor does it have much of an impact because of how abridged the actual adventure is.
Most of the time stories are summed up to their most important events or just a series of extremely important fights. Not all of them are represented, an unfortunate downside to trying to cover more content, often leaving players with an oddly abridged version of the story. In a general sense, you get an idea of what the story is supposed to be, though some of the finer points are lost. For all these reasons and more, it makes it impossible for a newcomer to really enjoy the experience and gameplay makes it rough to progress through it.
Unsurprisingly, Fairy Tail spends a lot of time focusing on what stories it needs to tell and forgets about the experience along the way. People often joke about repetitive quests or pointless time sinks, yet that is basically all early progression actually is. You’ll go from one quest that involves defeating 10 of one enemy, only to get one immediately after where you need to defeat 12 of the same enemy. Often times it feels so tedious because everything is related to doing the same handful of tasks it isn’t long before you’re just checking boxes.
There are a shockingly high number of side quests in town where you need to grab this or that item. Most times, though very casual collecting, I was able to have 30 or 40 of whatever they needed, and even then they wanted like two. Other times character quests are little more than talking to a character or going to the same location and grabbing a new item. It’s a long string of repetitive tasks, likely motivated more by budget than anything else, making much of the experience underwhelming, a concept that seeps into combat too.
To engage in battle you need to first walk up to an enemy and either move close enough or land an attack. Hitting it will give you a speed boost, whereas missing offers no negatives. As for the actual battles, since Fairy Tail is a magic-based series, everything is centered around magic, to the point where normal attacks are basically pointless. So, everything just becomes a big game of positioning and maximizing damage. When attacks hit two, three, six spaces in a single go, it makes more sense to damage everything than focus on one or two enemies. Repeat it a couple of times, possibly get a chain attack to further increase damage and before long you defeat most enemies before they even have a chance to consider attacking you. Before long it becomes as mindless and simple as Neptunia can be, without much to push players to be better.
Sure, there is a crafting system and a lot of ways to augment your team, stats, or what have you, these just rarely mean much outside of specific boss battles. And, with abundant resources, oftentimes I just made things as needed and it rarely caused a problem. At most it made me rethink some things or spend some time leveling and that was often due more to who I used than anything else.
Fairy Tail Review – Verdict
The unfortunate thing about Fairy Tail isn’t that it’s a rather bland and forgettable gameplay experience, it’s that it feels like it was made by people who understand what an RPG is but not why players enjoy them. Cool movies and strong characters aside, you’ll end up spending most of your time going down the same small maps, killing a small handful of enemies, all for resources you have in excess. This forces the story to make up the difference and super fans might find it engaging enough to pursue but anyone without fond memories of the series will likely be lost and bored.
[Editor’s Note: Fairy Tail was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]