A.W. Phoenix Festa is an odd sort of game. It’s primarily a life simulator, where players follow Asterisk Wars’ Ayato or an original character through their school life as they train and prepare for the Phoenix Festa. Dating simulation elements are tossed in, since you can bond with your chosen partner as you attempt to climb the duelist ranks and prove yourself in battles. But, it’s also a fighting game that relies on beat’em up battles against one or two opponents to see who’s best. While this is an important part of the game, it often doesn’t feel as though it comes to the forefront. In fact, the game’s Battle mode feels more like a means of training for fights during the Story.
The Battle mode in A.W. Phoenix Festa is incredibly straightforward. You can engage in a battle versus the computer, an ad-hoc fight against another player, or try to survive through 100 battles in Survival mode. Three difficulty levels are available, allowing you to go from Normal to Strong or Tenacious. You determine everything, ranging from opponents, partners, arenas, and even background music. The only thing hidden away are additional characters, which open up as you go through the campaign.
It works well as a means of experimenting with the controls, testing characters, and seeing what you can accomplish within the game. While there are moments and matches in A.W. Phoenix Festa’s Story that allow you to decide which person you’ll use in a fight, it’s safer and more practical to try them out in a more controlled environment. Ayato and the original character tend to be more direct fighters, and the Battle mode lets you work with ranged characters like Saya and RM-C to get a better feel for their capabilities. It has a definite merit and purpose.
But, it doesn’t have the other incentives to encourage play outside of these experimental sessions. There is no arcade option in the Battle mode. There are no specific challenges to complete or goals to accomplish, as there are in Story’s jobs or missions. You set up a specific match and beat it. That’s it. It’s far more rudimentary, which is good for learning, but bad for longevity.
This is compounded by a battle system that isn’t exactly complicated. You have two standard sorts of attacks, triggered by the square and triangle buttons. Each character has a Meteo Art that can be used by pressing the left trigger and square at the same time. It’s also possible to use a Hyper Meteo Art if your health falls below 25%, but in the over 15 hours I’ve spent playing A.W. Phoenix Festa, I’ve never really had cause to use it. It plays like a more basic Dynasty Warriors game in terms of controls and fights, only against one opponent instead of many, and with a nearly-brainless targeting system that practically guarantees you hits as long as you lock-on with the circle button.
This all means Battle’s Survival option is one of the least challenging parts of A.W. Phoenix Festa. You can’t select difficulty here, as you do in the battles versus the computer. Instead, you choose one fighter and go through matches one after another, hoping you’ll succeed in the end. Each of the early matches can be over in a matter of seconds, especially if you use a Meteo Art, and a set amount of health is restored after every win. I went through 30 matches in Survival without seeing my health drop below half. The only reason I quit was the loading screen that appeared between each of these matches occasionally felt as long as the match itself.
Granted, the Battle mode doesn’t have to be substantial. It feels more like a supplement to aid the overall experience, and it does do that. This option gives you a chance to test out other characters in the game, especially ones you wouldn’t normally get to use throughout the course of A.W. Phoenix Festa. It’s more like a reward, in the same way the Gallery is. You don’t have to use it. It’s there to enjoy outside of the more meaty portion of the adventure.
All told, A.W. Phoenix Festa’s Battle mode is something I’d suggest testing, even with its flaws. Especially if you’re going with an original character. This gives you a chance to see what is possible with other partners, without having to completely restart the game. You can experiment with new experiences, seeing how other people might play. It certainly isn’t too daunting or challenging, but it’s a diversion that isn’t entirely without merit.
A.W. Phoenix Festa is immediately available for the PlayStation Vita.