Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A.W.: Phoenix Festa (PS Vita) Review

A.W.: Phoenix Festa involves the characters and backstory from the anime/light novel, but now adds an ability to play as a hero of your creation.  Half of the game is the training/sim portion.  You will train to raise your stats, take jobs for money, schedule duels, go on dates, and shop, each taking half a day.

To train, you just select an option from the menu, and it will give you some randomly determined increases to the indicated stat (Atk, Def, Speed, etc).  It takes HP to train, so training your HP first/early is very much advised.  If you train enough, the level of training will increase, which increases the amount gained.  There is also a condition icon that will go down as you train, so you will have to rest every so often to keep yourself in peak shape.  Resting will also restore about half of your max HP.  It's the same HP you use in fights, so you don't want it too low for any planned encounters.

You can shop for new weapons, recovery items and presents to give the girls.  No matter how much you buy, it takes half a day, so buy as much as you can in one trip.  It's the same deal for visiting the lab to upgrade your weapon.  Most weapons can be upgraded (to increase damage) twice, and refined up to five times to reduce prana consumption.  It also costs a rare material called manadite to do either of these things, but you can instead spend an arm and a leg (or 1 million, whatever) to buy it direct from the lab.  You get some pieces of manadite through events, so try to use those instead of buying it directly.

If you need more money, you can take one of the jobs from the list for some quick cash.  The more difficult the job, the more money you earn.  Any time you complete the level of a job, it goes up by one to make it harder the next time.  The monetary reward will increase as well.  The other way to earn money is to wait until payday (Friday).  The higher your rank, the more money you get.  So if you have a chance to duel and increase your rank, go for it!

Fighting is the other half of the game.  Fights are in third person, and are pretty much an action game.  You can lock on to your opponent, run around, attack, jump and block.  The in-game tutorial covers basics about HP and Prana (think of it like stamina), but not the actual buttons.  Square is your normal attack string, and triangle gives you a special attack.  Once your weapon mastery has gained a level, you can unleash super moves by holding L (block) and pressing Square.  Your different attacks are based on the weapon type you currently have equipped.  You can also dash after opponents, or away from their attacks, by using the R Button.  Guarding is very useful against some opponents, but it does take prana for every hit blocked.  Be very aware of this, as you will need some to counterattack.

Battles come in a few flavors, but most are one on one or two on two.  They aren't too hard once you get the hang of what to do, unless the enemy has much higher stats.  Since there isn't any level indicator, or even any way to tell the relative strength of an opponent before a fight, I tended to either win easily, or get squashed.

When the game starts, it lets you pick between the main character of the story, or make a created character.  Me being me, I choose to make a character.  I mean, why not?  It doesn't say there is any difference other than starting point, so I jumped right in after making my own guy.

It was actually pretty hard.  Not really the combat (when fighting appropriate enemies), just everything else.  I thought it would be easy to choose one of the girls and start to increase intimacy, but it isn't.  You can only really deal with them if the game randomly chooses them to talk to you.  If they do, you can either ask to fight them, go on a date, give them a present, ask to team up, or send them away.  Presents cost money, and if their intimacy isn't high enough, they don't want to duel or date you.  There's no free way to increase intimacy except for random events.  I don't much like that way of doing things.

You can schedule dates ahead of time, but again, if your intimacy isn't high enough, you will get rejected and waste half a day.  Same deal with duels, but there are set times where opponents cannot reject a duel.  This is a good way to increase your rank, but the opponents you can choose from are, you guessed it, random.  When the deadline for choosing a partner arrived, I had to make a last ditch effort to grab one of the girls as my partner.  It wasn't the one I wanted most (or even second), but I picked the one that I had the highest intimacy with, and... she barely accepted.  I was actually shocked to have almost failed right then and there.  It was quite a wake-up call.

So after that, I saved and quit, then rolled another save file with the main character Ayato.  Wow, it makes a huge difference.  Yes, he starts closer to the Festa deadline, but his stats are jacked up to where he is clearly stronger than your create-a-character.  They also quickly give him a powerful weapon (an Ogre Lux) and the girls trip over themselves to give him intimacy points (even if you already have a partner).  He is much easier to get through the game with... they should have mentioned that somewhere.  Definitely start with Ayato, it helps a lot.

Also, start by watching the anime.  Since the story places you at a school, there are tests to take.  Seriously.  At set points, you have to answer questions correctly, or be forced to take a makeup test a few weeks later.  Problem is, the answers aren't found or told to you in the game.  I checked the digital instruction booklet and they aren't there either.  I had to go to the Wikipedia article for the game to find them.  If you watched the show you may know the correct answers, but it seems ridiculous that they aren't in the game for people that haven't seen the show yet.  Maybe it isn't a big of a problem as I think it is, but it just seems like a bad decision.

One run through the game takes a few hours, based off your reading speed (or if you are skipping text) and activities chosen.  The fights aren't really the most difficult part of the game.  I found the random luck with getting skills and intimacy with the girls to be a much bigger factor in how far I could advance in the game.  Since there are multiple girls, there are multiple endings, giving the game some very good replay value.  There is a new game+, but you only keep your titles and skills.  The skills can help you a lot, but I do wish more stuff could carry over.  They even threw in a battle mode, where you can fight with a lot more characters that just the heroes and heroines.  You can also test your skills in a survival mode.

I would say A.W.: Phoenix Festa combines its two halves very well.  The battles are fun, and stat training is straight forward and enjoyable.  The dates and intimacy system is where the game needs some balancing.  It's too random, and not being able to choose a girl in any obvious way is kind of annoying.  It's still a pretty fun game, but I didn't end up enjoying as much as I thought I would when starting out.  That said, I still had fun.  I am interested in seeing the anime, though, so I may still gain a new appreciation for the game after seeing some of the show.  At the very least, I should be able to pass the tests without "cheating"...

The Good:
Combines action and simulation portions of the game very well.  Plus, there is a lot of good replay value in choosing which girl will be your partner.

The Bad:
Getting useful skills and intimacy with the girls is either too random or costly.

The SaHD:
After looking up some stuff for the game, it seems the created character is considered "hard mode".  I had to learn that the hard way.

(Review code for A.W. Phoenix Festa was provided by the publisher)


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