Fairy Tail has the potential to be a fantastic RPG.
You can see glimmers of something amazing in the game’s combat and quest systems. This is to be expected of the team behind the Atelier series, but Fairy Tail is hindered by its source material. It leaves out too many key moments from the original series and leaves the show’s essence on the cutting room floor.
Fairy Tail feels like it wants to focus on the series’ RPG compatible elements and take characters in an original direction, but it’s stymied by a scattershot adaptation of the source material that won't satisfy longtime fans or newcomers. This might've been a better game if Gust didn’t have to deal with the Fairy Tail brand.
Fairy Tail in name only
If you’re watching a popular anime, odds are there’s an accompanying arena fighter out there. You can see this with Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, and Dragon Ball Z, to name a few. Surprisingly, the massively popular Fairy Tail hadn’t been adapted into a console game, until now. The adaptation of the high fantasy series bucks the trend of anime brawlers with a turn-based RPG by vaunted developer Gust.
Most anime adaptations struggle to condense 200+ episode experiences down to a 30-hour game, opting to instead showcase iconic battles in chronological order. Fairy Tail lets down die-hards by omitting important arcs in the series, but it makes little attempt to endear these characters to newcomers.
When Fairy Tail begins, you’re immediately thrust into the closing act of the series’ Tenrou Island arc with no context. This occurs around 118 episodes into the series (Chapter 245, if you’re reading the manga). You’re starting at the halfway point. You can try making sense of what happened given using eight easily-missed summaries tucked behind various menus, but who actually reads menus?
This attempt at focused storytelling is undermined by Fairy Tail’s frequent references to minute character developments from these absent arcs. Entire relationships are built on these arcs. I’ve watched the anime, so I could fill in the gaps, but series newcomers will likely be left baffled. Imagine diving into Lord of the Rings with Return of the King. There’s a lot of big moments, but they won’t mean much without understanding the journey that led there.
The arcs that are adapted are often stripped of context, leaving only the fights and the inciting incidents for said squabbles. While not an especially popular story, the Sun Village arc, which focuses more on character development than conflict shows where Fairy Tail’s attention was directed. The five-episode arc is reduced to a seven-picture slideshow.
These adjustments make Fairy Tail’s story feel hollow, highlighting the source material’s narrative faults more than its successes. For better or worse, Gust also stripped away elements that I consider synonymous with Fairy Tail. For example, salacious fanservice Fairy Tail is known for is basically nonexistent. While I don’t miss fanservice specifically, It’s one of the many reasons that Fairy Tail the game feels little like its counterparts.
Fairy Tail feels like a game that’s actively avoiding its roots. It’s a solid RPG by any other name, but a poor way to experience Fairy Tail.
A lackluster adaptation with solid mechanics
Outside of the failure to replicate Fairy Tail’s atmosphere and narrative properly — which is a big deal — this game actually slaps. It simplifies traditional turn-based gameplay in an intuitive way, using elemental interactions in a way that requires strategy and planning but still feels simple enough that anyone can understand when to use a dark-based attack.
Unlike in Pokémon, where you’ll need to have a long-term strategy in mind for leveling up, Fairy Tail makes it simple. You’ll automatically learn all-new moves as you grow. When you stop learning techniques, your attacks will begin to scale with your level. If you learned Iron Dragon Breath Blow at level 16, it’ll automatically upgrade into Mega Iron Dragon Breath Blow when you hit level 56.
While some might find this simplification limiting, it allowed me to better direct my focus to figuring out a character’s strengths and weaknesses. I was able to make a balanced team for just about any occasion.
The side-missions feel refreshingly self-effacing. You might be tasked with several similar fetch quests. Starting the second time, the title will add a “...again” after the item you need to collect. Sure, it would be better to have more varied side-quests, but this approach underscores that these are optional activities while keeping the mood lighthearted.
Fairy Tail strips away far too much of what’s great about popular anime and manga franchise to feel like a worthy adaptation. Even so, it’s an enjoyable RPG in its own right if you’re not married to the Fairy Tail name and premise. 7/10
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