A.W. Phoenix Festa is a PlayStation Vita game based on a light novel, manga, and anime series. Naturally, this means you could be following the plot of the story as you play. You either go through it as Ayato Amagiri, the hero, or an original hero you create. Interestingly enough, your decision greatly influences how you play.
I went with Ayato, because it felt like the natural way to play A.W. Phoenix Festa. Going through this route has tons of benefits. Your character starts out incredibly strong, with 255 attack, defense, insight, and speed stats all around. You end up being given the Ser-Veresta Lux a few days after joining Seidoukan Academy, an immediately powerful sword. Your proficiency level with it is high, so you can immediately use Meteor Arts. It almost feels like you’re getting to play the game on easy mode. The key word here is almost.
In addition to being a battling game with dating sim elements, A.W. Phoenix Festa is a life simulator. You manage your character’s day-to-day life and schedule. You decide what sort of training he undergoes, if he takes on part-time jobs for money to buy new Luxes, Lux modifications, and gifts for potential partners, when he makes date and duel appointments, and appropriate times to rest to restore life and demeanor. When you pick Ayato as your main character, it gives you less time to get a partner for the Phoenix Festa. You’re strong and capable, but you’re also on a much tighter deadline.
This means it can be very easy to falter on your first playthrough. Character appearances are random and the very first question you answer when you begin A.W. Phoenix Festa determines which character you’re going to have as a partner. The game doesn’t tell you this, so you only learn through trial and error. In order, the first answer puts you on Julis’ route, the second on Saya’s, the third on Claudia’s, and the last on Kirin’s. You’ll still be able to gain affection points with the other girls, but it will be pretty much impossible to get them as your partner. In addition, the events that can result in them showing up for date and gift-giving opportunities are random.
My first, failed playthrough offered a number of chances to check in with characters, perhaps because I wasn’t doing well. Saya and Claudia both repeatedly rejected my attempts to work with them, with the former saying she wasn’t entering the Phoenix Festa and the latter saying she was preparing for the Gryps Festa. I ended up without a partner after those two weeks, which meant my game was over. My second run, I ended up seeing fewer scenes and ending up on a date with Kirin. Time is of the essence.
Meanwhile, the create-a-character option allows you an original character. This person is generic, without the same sort of background as Ayato. A.W. Phoenix Festa doesn’t give you the chance to explore much of a backstory with him. It also keeps you from pursuing romance with one of the heroines. Instead, the original character is locked into more generic friendships with them. This character is also much weaker with low starting stats and can choose from a variety of weapons to use. The story is much weaker as well.
However, going with an original character in A.W. Phoenix Festa has its perks. Instead of two weeks, you get three months to prepare for the Phoenix Festa and find a partner. You aren’t “locked” into one weapon, so you can choose what you want. You have a greater opportunity to customize the character’s build. That means there’s also more of a chance to get more skills and max out each training option. In general, a run with this character will take longer and offers the added bonus of importing this new hero into the battle mode.
Sadly, there is one downside to this otherwise interesting mean of allowing people to explore A.W. Phoenix Festa’s story. You only get one save file. That means when you start a campaign, you have to complete it to pursue another story. Part of that is designed to make your decisions matter, but it can be quite frustrating when you start down one route, find that you’d rather go into the other, and have to wait to play it. Still, it’s an interesting mechanic that offers a reason to go through both stories. I recommend going through Ayato’s story first, to get a feel for the game, then move onto your own hero once you have an idea of what sort of build you’d like to explore.
A.W. Phoenix Festa is immediately available for the PlayStation Vita.