Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A.W.: Phoenix Festa - Part 2 (PS VITA)

After having completed the story mode, and having checked out the additional modes of play I am ready to deliver unto you my verdict, and an explanation of what else "A.W.: Phoenix Festa" has for those thinking about buying it ...

As I mentioned in the first part of my two part review this game keeps things simple while tying into the "Asterisk War" light novel mythology on a very basic level. It is centered mostly around dating sim mechanics while using a simple combat system to further build upon said relationship building. Nothing is really complicated once you get past the tutorial phase, and after a while things do become repetitive, and kind of bland outside of the dialogue that is shown within each characters' interactions. You will be basically minding optional tasks to a calendar based schedule in three month-like intervals with the tutorial playthrough, and introductions being the first month's activity regiment. After that it's all about courting one of four available girls (Julis, Saya, Claudia, Kirin) while readying your partnership for the Phoenix Festa event, and ultimately engaging in said event with your won over partner. The other modes of play include a "Battle" mode with three additional in-menu options including "VS CPU", "AD HOC BATTLE", and "SURVIVAL". Upon completing the "Story" with the already named protagonist you will also unlock an extra "Gallery" mode in which you can view all character interactions from previous playthroughs in all of their former glory.

When it comes to the "Battle" portion of the game the three available sub-mode selections come with their own unique offers based around the provided combat mechanics. In the "VS CPU", for example you will be picking a team of two characters which are each unlocked through an initial "Story" playthrough. The roster from which you select said characters includes 23 different individuals with their own unique Lux weapons, and Meteor Arts. Some of which have to be unlocked before they can be selected. You'll find the four love interests in that selection as well as two different versions of the main male protagonist. The rest of the roster is made up of characters you meet, and battle in the story mode. Once into the character select menu you'll begin by selecting the leading character, and their costume (dress, swimsuit, night clothing ...) if said costume applies. After this you'll choose a partner which will accompany you in battle. Following the character select screen you will be prompted via pop-up menu to also select a stage, BGM, and difficulty setting. Once into the fight you will do as you did in the combat portion of your story mode playthrough. The "AD HOC" battle which is also available plays out in a very similar manner, but with local wi-fi based human to human gameplay. This includes only players who own the same version of the same game, and who are in the same location as you are. This is not an online netplay kind of mode, but a local play mode that feeds off of the PS Vita's wi-fi connectivity.

Lastly, the "Survival" mode which is made available in the "Battle" menu as well incorporates the same character select options as the previous two modes, but pits you and your chosen character up against 100 character inclusive matches in an all out fight for survival. The survival mode itself is broken up into 10 match intervals that are each 2 minutes in length, and are limited by your life. By that I mean as long as you have your life meter partially or fully filled you can continue fighting. Should you go get KO'd though it is "Game Over". To an extent your health will refill after a win, but only slightly so. I was personally able to make it close to match 40, but succumbed to cheesy AI attacks in three oddly similar matches against the same teams. One thing you have to understand when opting to play this mode is that past each 10 match interval things become more difficult, or at least they are supposed to. You go from battling a single character at a time to battling multiple, and stronger characters as you progress. What I found interesting was that the AI before the match 30 interval were ignorant, and clueless. A character with a gun type Lux could stand, and spam any characters up to that point without any issues. Once I got past 30 though the AI got super aggressive, and rather abusive. It's definitely got a balancing issue, even in the game's story mode battles.

The Verdict ...

I'm kind of glad I stuck with my playthrough as long as I did before giving this final verdict. At first I was drawn into the romantic aspects of the dating sim mechanics including the characters, and their quirky interactions. I was also slightly impressed with the simple combat system at first, but the more I played the more I realized how poorly some aspects of the game was designed. A lot of what you'll be doing with the combat portion of the game is so repetitive, and so easy to cheese that it makes said combat a joke. The AI enemies in particular can easily be fooled, and the only time they ever really pose a threat are when you are in the "Survival" part of the "Battle" mode. Even then the AI is completely unbalanced in an entirely different way. 

I think "A.W.:  Phoenix Festa" had a lot of potential that was never really realized. The fact that plot material was mostly character centered outside of the game's quizzes which quizzed you about the games hints at the lore left the player so unknowing of the Asterisk War" light novel goings on that it failed to be the deeper story it could have been. It felt more like a mobile app spin-off, or a series of casual mini games instead of the more inclusive JRPGs that genre fans are accustom to. There's so much I wanted to know, but never found out during my playthrough. Things like the main protagonists' sister's whereabouts remained a mystery in my initial playthrough. While those details may be locked away in follow-up playthroughs I felt less attachment to the characters involved because of the story bits that were vague, and missing. Of course character personality was there, but beyond that character background was not really built upon. Before I forget I need to mention that you can use your finished saved playthroughs to start a new game while keeping intact your skills, and leaving out the girl you first won over from the courting choices. 

Weighing everything, and taking everything into account I cannot really recommend this game. Especially, if you are looking for story substance. It is a dating sim with simple combat mechanics. That's all it really is. On top of that the combat fails due to poorly crafted AI while the dating sim portion of the same game fails due to repetitive content that is only slightly improved upon by well crafted character to character conversations. If you don't mind that type of experience then you might like the game. If not then I'd say pass.
 That is my verdict.

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