Before the Fairy Tail game was announced, I knew nothing about Fairy Tail. I knew a lot about Rave Master, Hiro Mashima’s earlier series, but this was all new territory and I gradually started building up my knowledge. I’d still say I’m a beginner, but perhaps that puts me in an even better position when I say Gust’s adaptation of the series is incredibly entertaining.
That isn’t to say it won’t be intimidating. The Fairy Tail game fully expects people coming in to know things. It picks up right before a major time skip with the sort of boss fight that, in any other game, would be the last one. Once it is over, you are briefly introduced to important members of the guild with boxes that only offer their names and title or role. It very much feels like, “Okay, you know these people, you we don’t need to spend any time on introductions.” Which is a bit off-putting.
But once you overcome that hurdle (and maybe visit the in-game encyclopedia to help you get your bearings), it honestly feels like a good place to start. Thanks to a seven-year time-skip, Fairy Tail has to reestablish itself as a guild and rebuild its reputation in Magnolia. This also provides an excuse to explain why extraordinary talented magicians have to face level one enemies again and provide players with an excuse to improve and make a name for themselves as they go through part of the series’ Tenrou Island arc and the Grand Magic Games, Tartaros, and Avatar arcs.
A lot of the Fairy Tail RPG’s focus is on rebuilding. You’re getting the guild to climb the ranks again, achieving certain milestones to complete chapters and regain your rep. You’re building up facilities within the guild, to help with crafting Lacrima characters could equip, improving the shop, and getting a better request board. You put points toward improving playable characters’ ranks, to increase things like Magic Chain combos or add special abilities to their repertoire. You form bonds between characters by taking requests together to earn Magic Chain benefits. Maybe you take on Character Stories to find more friends and see more storylines.
The drive to do all this pushes you to take on requests. Which, honestly, feature some rather fun storylines and some great localization work. Both the translations here and in the Character Stories are rather fun, even if you’re engaging in purely supplemental activities, because of clever wording, character reactions, and the general ambiance. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go out and fight. Which you’ll want to do, because the battle system is kind of great. (Though, unfortunately, the load times in the Switch version are not.)
I’m pretty in love with how fights work in Fairy Tail and hope the system gets reused in future Gust games. Every character has the standard attacks, but the the magic attacks are where things get fun. First, you might be concerned about MP and characters magic. When you defeat enemies, they scatter different sorts of Ethernano particles that can restore certain characters. Which makes sense for a game about wizards where you don’t want to not use magic.
But what’s even better is how satisfying it is to use both ordinary and elaborate spells. Fairy Tail is a traditional, turn-based JRPG. However, enemies are positioned on a 3×3 grid. You characters’ spells could target specific spots on the grid, with certain areas taking more or less damage. They could have supplemental attacks. You might even have characters whose attacks could push enemies around the grid to force them into better positions so allies attacks can hit them.
It all ends up being way more strategic than you might expect. This isn’t to say the more elaborate special attacks aren’t fun. But I found the the core mechanics so enjoyable that things like Magic Chains, Unison Attacks, and Awakenings are just bonuses.
But I suppose what it all really comes down to is how Fairy Tail treats its characters. There are so many people who matter in this series, and it is clear Gust understood that and took care to make all of these folks the focus. You have a lot of people who can join as playable party members or show up as guests. You get to see characters grow closer and be better at working together because… they were working together. There are the side stories that let you see people you know and love play off of each other. It’s rather great.
Gust’s Fairy Tail game is one of those adaptations where it feels like the developer really understood what people love about the series. The team clearly worked with that to ensure the characters stood out and some of the major plot points were covered. And you can tell the developer was trying to put together a battle system that feels satisfying, but also makes all of the magic make sense. The only real downside I can see is that barrier of entry. It expects you to know what’s going on in the series’ world, with even the in-game documentation not really offering up enough to make it all make sense. (Not that it really could, given how detailed it all is.) Still, for those who do get it, Fairy Tail is a fun time.
Fairy Tail is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC. It will eventually get a photo mode update.