I’ve never read any of the light novels or watched the anime for Asterisk War, but high school teens with magical powers fighting in tournament seems interesting to me. A.W Phoenix Festa is a PlayStation Vita game based on the Asterisk War anime, with gameplay that takes elements of dating sims and blends it together with third-person action. Unfortunately, the balance between these two styles of gameplay is not as even as you would think. But is the fighting any good at least? Not as much as I hoped it would be.
The biggest problem with Phoenix Festa is that most of your time is spent going through menus, rather than playing an action game. You increase stats, build relationships, and schedule dates with girls on the calendar through menus; all in preparation for a tournament that happens at the end of the school year.
Setting up and winning scheduled fights leads to increasing your status in the story, which helps with building relationships and obtaining items. In-between all of this drawn out menu navigation is a bland story, with small sections of fights against characters in single or tag-team battles. It gets boring selecting options in the menus for a long period of time in order to progress the plot.
The worst part of it all is the stiff and uninspired combat. In both single and tag-team matches, fights are unbalanced by your own character’s stats, allowing you to destroy the completely oblivious and dumb A.I. opponents. Over the course of the game, you can purchase different equipment and items to use in a fight, but they wind up being completely useless. I never switched out my default weapon for another simply because I was already overpowered against the terrible A.I. Funny enough, you A.I. partner in tag battles is smarter than your opponents and can defeat enemies on their own without any help.
All of this would be only moderately bad if there was at least a good story to follow. However, Phoenix Festa doesn’t deliver on that either. The plot follows an original storyline set apart from the light novels and anime, which sounds like a great idea for newcomers like myself. But unfortunately, none of the characters are interesting or provide anything beyond being one-dimensional anime tropes.
Since this is partially a dating sim, much of the subplots involve you playing the focal point of a harem of anime girls, each with their own stereotypical personality traits. Despite this being most of the game, it hardly contributes to the story at all and isn’t even that interesting to see through. It feels as if the creators really wanted to make a full dating sim with these characters, but were made to include an action game as well.
Outside of the story, you do have a Battle Mode that focuses only on the combat. You can fight against CPU opponents or a friend via ad-hoc on the PlayStation Vita. Survival Mission has you facing against 100 opponents with limited health, but it’s incredibly easy and boring to go through because of how dumb the A.I. can be during matches.
Playing through each of the game modes opens up the Gallery, where you can view every cutscene of the game, most of which unlocks after multiple playthroughs of the story. It would have been a good idea to have character profiles that gave more details on everyone in the gallery, which could have given more background and context to everything that happens in the story.
Unlike other games with a similar mixture of gameplay styles, A.W: Phoenix Festa just isn’t that fun or interesting. Its story is bland and its combat is terrible, leaving almost no reason to play through it multiple times. Being stuck in menus and experiencing such a boring story felt like a massive waste of time better spent elsewhere. If you’ve read the light novels or seen the anime and know who these characters are, then there’s something for you here. Everyone else would be better off picking up a different game for their PlayStation Vita.
This review was based on a digital review code for A.W: Phoenix Festa for the PlayStation Vita, provided by Bandai Namco.