Festa or Famine
HIGH It will be enjoyable for people who liked The Asterisk War
LOW What fool would admit they liked The Asterisk War?
WTF If only Asterisk War fans would like this, why change its title?
When does a tie-in game try to not be a tie-in? When it’s A.W. Phoenix Festa, a game that connects to The Asterisk War—a novel and anime series that’s barely recognized outside Japan. It’s telling that Bandai Namco would try to hide the connection to its obscure source, ostensibly to attract the crowd that’ll buy anything with enough cute anime girls gracing the cover.
Speaking of cute anime girls, we immediately come to the reason Phoenix Festa Exists. Its primary draw is as a fan-fiction simulator that allows players to pair off with The Asterisk War‘s many female love interests, playing either as canonical protagonist Ayato Amagiri or a nameless, original cipher. Sure, there’s a fair amount of information about The Asterisk War‘s alternate world where super-powered high-schoolers duel each other with lightsaber-esque weapons against a background of competing mega-academies for the supernaturally gifted. As far as Young Adult fluff goes, The Asterisk War is more Divergent than Hunger Games, but it hits its beats reasonably well, providing enough to enjoy for certain segments of anime fandom.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the game that tries to avoid trading on its name. Though it follows an original story that’s separate from of the novels and anime, Phoenix Festa fails to go to interesting places with its plot, instead ginning up lackluster exposition and thin excuses to play meet-cute with the female cast. The proof is in the pandering, as each of the game’s multiple endings are defined by the player’s choice of romantic partner.
This already-weak substance is further diluted by the decision to add budget-grade 3D fighter elements into the mix. While it’s accurate to say that Phoenix Festa has more gameplay than the average visual novel, it might have been better without it. I was left with the feeling that a dedicated visual novel might at least try to take some risks with the story and characters, or at least convey the setting in a more engaging way. Instead, dull menu selections and management gameplay blend with challenge-free fights that fail to execute on what little promise the game held to begin with.
Even by the lowered standards of licensed tie-in titles, Phoenix Festa fails to impress, seemingly intent on undoing the redemptive work of other, better, tie-ins like the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series or even the various Sword Art Online adaptations. I generally consider myself an optimist at heart, and as such, dislike calling any game a cynical cash-grab. Unfortunately, that’s what A.W. Phoenix Festa feels like in virtually every respect, and only the hungriest fans of The Asterisk War should even consider giving this one their time or money.
Disclosures: This game was developed and published by Bandai Namco Games. It is currently available on PS Vita. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on the PS Vita. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game’s rating is T, and contains violence, suggestive themes, partial nudity, and language. The story involves characters fighting against each other in violent tournaments, using fantasy weapons and abilities. Most of the female characters, including ones portrayed in sexually suggestive poses or risqué situations, would be considered underage.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitle options, with voiceovers locked to Japanese. Gameplay is not dependent on sound.
Remappable Controls: There are no remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes in the game.
Today he continues to write for a living while trying to turn his fledgling knowledge of Japanese into a marketable skill. He is Managing Editor of Japanese culture site Japanator and is a Contributing Editor for Destructoid. He has written for The Escapist, The California Literary Review, Esquire Magazine, and proudly holds the badge as the premier apologist for Star Trek Online.