The Asterisk War is an anime I’ve yet to watch but heard decent things about and Phoenix Festa, the dating sim and fighting game hybrid recently released for Vita, was my first experience with the series.
It’s not particularly an outstanding game but I had a lot of fun with it, repetition and all. You can choose to play as the series’ main character Ayato Amagiri or create your own character, but either way you’ll be training to compete in the Phoenix Festa with your aim being to win it – the story is pretty thin but the character interaction is nice, and it’ll be the dating element that might grab you more so than the action! You’ll grow closer to girls from the series such as Julis and Claudia and eventually pick one of the several girls to be your fighting partner in the tournament, and who you pick changes which ending you get. It really is repetitive with training being as simple as choosing which stat to level up and voila, it’s levelled up. This eats at your life bar so you need to rest to regain health and improve your character’s condition, and interspersed with training are duels and social events.
Other than the two differing story modes, there’s also a gallery where you can rewatch events and a battle mode where you can play as most of the characters seen in the story along with your own created characters. The combat itself is simple with the square button being your light attack and triangle being your strong attack, and you can guard and dash too. There are special moves but overall the combat is lacking, battles are brief but the repetition here really settles in quickly. You can either aim to destroy your opponent’s badge or wittle down their health bar, but going for the health bar is the easier option of the two as the badge requires your more powerful moves to not be blocked or dodged which happened a lot to me. The combat works, it’s just very simple and I can’t see myself going for the ‘fight 300 battles’ trophy!
Visually the 2D artwork is stunning and the CG images are equally as gorgeous, but the 3D models and battle arenas are barren and rough around the edges, and it’s clear that the visuals and dating elements got much more focus than the combat did in every aspect. I enjoy the character design and Claudia quickly became my favourite character in the game. The in-game gallery is odd in the way that if you want to view a specific piece of artwork, then you have to replay that entire scene to get there rather than just having the option to view images individually. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but the 3D visuals do leave much to be desired.
Unsurprisingly, there’s only a Japanese voice-over and no English dub which, as usual, I have no issue with and I tended to skip most voices as I would read the chunks of text so quickly. I have no problem with the quality of the voice-acting and, presumably, the anime voice cast reprise their roles here which should make fans happy. The soundtrack does the job by having more simple melodies playing for the dating and social aspect of the game, and more upbeat music for the combat although I can’t say I’ll find myself listening to any of these tracks outside of the game and I haven’t found any of them to be particularly memorable, although they’re completely fine and set the tone of the game well.
A.W: Phoenix Festa is something I’m happy to see come West and I’ll definitely check the anime out sometime as I’ve liked the characters and setting of the series, although the game is something I’d only recommend to fans. You can play this game without being a fan however as it seems to be a standalone story and, of course, you can create your own character which has nothing to do with the overall series. I’ve had fun with it and might return to it once I’ve watched the anime, but otherwise I’m not in a rush to pick it up again. A.W: Phoenix Festa is a game that’s neither great or awful, and happens to fall simply on average but fans will get more out of it than non-fans, of course.