Fairy Tail Hands-On Preview – Natsu and Crew At Your Command (PS4)

Fairy Tail is a popular Japanese manga series, which by now has expanded to include an anime series, and a few video game adaptations, as usually happens to most successful manga series. But the previous video game entries for Fairy Tail were limited to the PlayStation Portable system. Nothing quite beats seeing your favorite manga or anime characters on a big TV, though, so Gust (of Atelier fame) and Koei Tecmo have teamed up to release a brand-new, full home console release with 2020’s Fairy Tail. We went hands-on with a fresh build of the game just a few days ago, and have our impressions ready.

Guild Time

Fairy Tail will follow the events of the manga, beginning from when the Fairy Tail guild is tasked with running in the Grand Magic Games tournament. All the characters fans would hope to see were present even in this early stage of the game. Protagonist Natsu, sidekick/source of humor Happy, celestial wizard Lucy, no-nonsense knight Erza, and many more showed up within the first seconds of our demo. The few cutscenes we saw were fully voiced in Japanese, while being subbed in English. A town could be visited, where NPCs handed out quests. For the time being, these were very basic fetch quests, but hopefully as the game is developed further, those quests will become a bit more involved.

Combat in Fairy Tail is turn and grid-based. The turn-based nature of Fairy Tail keeps the gameplay accessible for those who are manga/anime fans first and video game players second, if at all. But the depth of traditional RPGs is there if one looks for it. It all starts with the two basic kinds of attacks. Both standard and magic attacks make use of a grid-based system, where each attack affects one or more adjacent squares, indicating where the attack will land, and which enemies will end up receiving damage. Characters can also opt to defend themselves from an incoming attack, which may come in handy if enemies can use attacks which take a turn or more to charge up (we did not see any of these in our demo session, but with the game not due for release until next year, such attacks may show up in the future).

Team Up

The player controls teams of three characters, whom they freely swap between while in a town. These characters can have an affinity for one another, and as that increases, their attacks can be combined at certain key points in battle to deal out much more damage than from a regular attack. It’s generally overkill for average enemies but definitely comes in handy during boss fights. Towards the end of the demo build we played, a new “Awakened” mode was unlocked once each character took enough damage. Their HP and MP were fully restored, and special, ultra-powerful moves were then available. These super moves dealt the most damage of any attack and seemed to exist to help the player turn the tide of any battle, though at a heavy MP cost.

Characters earn regular XP for winning battles, and that can level them up to increase their stats. They also have separate, much more slowly increasing bars that determines their Rank, which consists of a number of stars. Each new rank unlocks new abilities, unlike traditional levels where only stats increase. For instance, Rank 1 characters learn the Follow-up attack ability, thus immediately increasing their damage per attack.

Anime Brought to Life

The entire game has a nice cel-shaded look to it, with a decent (and unconfirmed) frame rate that had no problem staying consistent on the PS4 Pros that the demo build was running on. The grid-based combat system seems to imply that there will never be more than nine enemies on the screen at any one time, so it’s doubtful that things will slow down much, if at all. It’s basically a 3D version of the anime, which fans are sure to get a kick out of.

Fairy Tail seems to have found a fairly standard RPG template to fall into, and it feels like it will fit like a glove. Leveling up characters by both traditional levels and ranks adds a little something to look forward to as new abilities are unlocked, and mixing-and-matching three-player teams should provide for some variety in chaining attacks. The resulting game is unlikely to change the landscape of RPGs, but with something as inherently entertaining as Fairy Tail, simply producing a serviceable RPG should provide the entertainment fans of the series are looking for. Things are looking great in that regard, then! Fairy Tail is currently slated for a 2020 release on the PlayStation 4, Switch, and Steam.

Fairy Tale preview played at an event held by Koei Tecmo.