After a meteor crashes to earth in an event known as ‘The Invertia’ which causes horrendous damage to the population centres of the world, individual countries join together to form the Integrated Enterprise Foundation (IEF). As it turns out, the meteor also causes children with powers to appear that become known as Genestella.
The city of Asterisk, so-called because from above it looks like a hexagon with its spoke-like design, is home to 6 schools that participate in this world’s main form of entertainment. That being the Star Warrior Festival battle tournaments known as the Festa where these powered children fight it out.
The Asterisk War world has, like a lot of manga and anime, some very off the wall worldbuilding, but this is the unique universe A.W. Phoenix Festa is spun-off from. The game is a hybrid of a dating sim, visual novel and a fighting game, with the fighting portions feeling a little like a simplified version of the Dissidia Final Fantasy titles.
The game has two modes, Story Mode or Battle Mode, in Story Mode you can choose to start as either Ayato Amagiri, the series’ protagonist, or create an original male character, this in a roundabout way functions as an easy or hard option because if you choose the latter you enroll much earlier to give your character time to increase their statistics as they start way below Ayato’s premade stats.
The game then jumps straight into Visual Novel territory as it essentially retells the story from the first few episodes of the anime with a few tweaks, the gameplay loop is almost like a Persona title where school things happen and then you get to decide how to fill morning and afternoon slots.
You can try to arrange appointments with fellow students for dueling (to raise your ranking on the Named Charts) or for dating (to raise your Intimacy stat to raise your partner’s level in combat). As well as appointments you can also use each time slot to train specific character attributes (like Attack, Defence, Health etc.) or to shop for items and buy or upgrade weapons (or Luxes as they are called in the game).
Initially you have a target of finding a partner before the Phoenix Festa begins, this essentially involves deciding which of the four female characters you want to assist you and showering them with gifts and selecting appropriate answers during various visual novel scenes. Once you’ve attained your partner the game shifts to a focus on training and dueling where you are both trying to raise your statistics as well as rising up the rankings.
The game's battle system becomes a major part of the game here as well. You square off in 1vs1 or 2vs2 arenas and utilise a basic combo system that consists of light and heavy attacks mixed in with dashes and a special attack. You can issue basic commands to your partner so they focus on your target or be defensive, adding a light tactical element. Dashing around the arenas waiting for the perfect time to start a combo feels rewarding to begin with and it starts off feeling quite fun due to the solid controls but there isn’t a lot of depth that quickly starts feeling very button-mashy.
The graphics are okay, with the 2D art looking fantastic, the 3D art however is a bit generic looking with bland, empty arenas with very few objects in them. They do the job but aren’t very inspiring.
The Battle Mode basically has two game types within it, single battles against the AI or a local opponent and a survival mode which pits you against 100 battles, raising the stakes as you go. There isn’t much to add about the mode as it’s pretty basic and it’s a huge shame there is no online multiplayer functionality as that could’ve been a lot of fun.
A.W. Phoenix Festa also doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the world or the characters or even why any of this is even happening, I caught up on the anime as I was playing this (Thanks Crunchyroll) and it’s a good job I did else I’d be lost. For a fan, following what is happening isn’t a problem but if this is your first introduction to the property then it won’t really do anything to get you invested and seek out the show or manga. And honestly that’s a shame as the premise of the show is interesting, the game just doesn’t really tell you anything about it.
The visual novel and dating aspects are fine as far as they go but a lot of the character writing is abysmal, the characters never reach beyond the expected stereotypes. The same characters on the show don’t feel this two-dimensional so it’s disappointing that more attention wasn’t given to the script in the game.
As a complete package it’s an okay game that could’ve been great with some more depth to the combat system and more care with the overall script. If you are a fan of the series it will definitely be more enjoyable just due to knowledge of the setting but for a newcomer just wanting to play the game it’s likely to be a little obtuse as so little of the game and its world is explained to you.
A.W.: Phoenix Festa (Reviewed on PlayStation Vita)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
A.W. Phoenix Festa does a decent enough job at transferring the characters and setting of the anime to the Vita but does a terrible job of explaining those things for newcomers. The combination of dating sim and battling works well but no individual part excels.